In November 2019, we received multiple inquiries from readers about the authenticity of a video that went viral in late October and early November, and that appeared to show "paralysis" pills hidden inside a Turkish-made snack bar.
One widely shared iteration of the video was accompanied by the following caption:
"ALERT! These packets of snack are dangerous! Made in Turkey and exported to USA & Israel ... inside each cake are tablets that cause paralysis!!! DO NOT EAT, DO NOT BUY! PLZ FWD..."
In Mexico, the video was shared largely on WhatsApp, along with a message that specifically warned that the "tablets" cause "permanent cerebral palsy."
In reality, it's unclear exactly what the footage showed or at what stage or by whom the "tablets" were added to the bar in question. However, no evidence exists to indicate that the objects were inserted by the snack's Turkish manufacturer, nor that such "tablets" induced paralysis. (Medically, it is not possible for a drug to induce cerebral palsy in an otherwise healthy child or adult, so this specific claim, shared widely in Mexico, was false.)
Furthermore, the Luppo coconut cream bars are sold only in Iraq, and not in the U.S. or Israel, as the viral social media warning falsely claimed. Documents provided to Snopes by the company that makes the snack show that its production processes, contamination safeguards, and safety certifications mean it is effectively impossible for a foreign object such as the "tablets" shown in the viral footage to be inserted at source.
As a result, we are satisfied to conclude that the video is either an orchestrated effort to mislead millions of viewers about the contents of the snack bar, or it shows an isolated instance where an individual has, for whatever reason, contaminated a Luppo bar on a local level. It might show objects that have been inserted into a coconut cream bar, but those objects were not inserted by the manufacturer and do not pose a threat to consumers in various countries, including the United States.
The Turkish fact-checking website Teyit conducted a thorough investigation of the viral footage, tracing its spread to an original video posted to YouTube on Oct. 28.
Teyit came to the conclusion that the footage was most likely filmed in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, because the language heard towards the end of the clip is Sorani, a Kurdish language, and because the brand of chicken seen in the refrigerator in the background ("As Piliç") is widely sold in that region.
A spokesperson for Sölen, the Turkish company that makes the Luppo coconut cream bar, confirmed that that particular product is only sold in Iraq. This disproves the claim, contained in the widely shared warning message, that the snack is "Made in Turkey and exported to USA & Israel." It is made in Turkey, but it is only sold in Iraq.
Journalists based in the region told Teyit that the contamination of the coconut cream bar shown in the video could plausibly be part of a politically motivated effort to discredit popular Turkish brands, as part of ongoing Kurdish-Turkish tensions.
Teyit correctly noted that the surface of the bar shown in the video shows signs of having been punctured. Although not definitive evidence, this would be consistent with someone opening a bar, inserting the "tablets" by pushing them into the interior of the cake, and then repackaging the bar.
For its part, Sölen emphatically rejected the authenticity of the viral video. In a detailed and lengthy email statement sent to Snopes, a spokesperson for the company called the footage "delusive, groundless and false" and said it was "produced entirely with the object of defamation." The spokesperson said the company was already seeking to take legal action against those responsible.
Sölen provided multiple documents showing the safety certifications of the plants where Sölen products, including the Luppo coconut cream bar, are manufactured. Those inspections were conducted by the Swiss company SGS.
Crucially, the spokesperson also pointed out that among the several filtration systems used in producing and processing the batter, cream, chocolate and filling components of various Luppo bars was one that blocks any particle greater than 700 microns (0.7 millimeters) in height or width.
The "tablets" shown in the viral video footage are clearly larger than those dimensions, and so could not have been added to the cake bar while it was being made. The spokesperson also noted that the production process is entirely automated, meaning the components of each snack are "untouched by human hands" until each product is already in its packaging.
It's unclear exactly what objects the viral video shows embedded in the Luppo coconut cream bar or how they got there. It's possible they could have been inserted by the person who filmed the video, in a deliberate effort to mislead viewers, potentially as part of a politically motivated campaign of smearing Turkish brands.
They could also have been inserted by someone else on a local level, before the individual who made the video inadvertently created the scare by sharing what was found, in a sincere attempt to warn others.
However, no evidence exists to indicate that the objects were tablets, or that they could induce paralysis. Furthermore, Luppo coconut cream bars are not sold anywhere other than Iraq, contrary to viral claims they were sold in the U.S. and Israel.
Finally, the production processes, safety certifications, and contamination safeguards in place at factories that manufacture the Luppo bars mean it is effectively impossible for any object such as the "tablets" shown in the video to be added to bar at source.