Thailand's justice minister is walking back claims of the country's largest ever ketamine bust as it turns out the substance seized was actually an everyday product, appropriately labeled. About 475 bags of a white, granular substance were seized from a warehouse in Bang Pakong district, Chachoengsao province, on Nov. 12 after testing kits turned purple, and officials with the Office of the Narcotics Control Board assumed the presence of ketamine, reports the Bangkok Post. The haul was estimated to be worth almost $1 billion, per the BBC. But subsequent tests on 66 bags showed they contained not ketamine but trisodium phosphate or TSP, a cleaning agent and food additive used, for instance, to remove discoloring in milk. Photos from the warehouse, shared by the Post, show the bags were clearly labeled as "TSP."
Officials hadn't realized TSP would also turn the testing kits purple, per the Post. Walking back claims that more than 12 tons of ketamine worth $950 million was seized, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin blamed a "technical error in the field" on Tuesday. "I accept the fact it might have been premature to hold a press conference to announce the seizure of a substance suspected to be a kind of drug. But in this case, the ONCB had been informed of the seizure of ketamine in Taiwan, investigated and found an undeniable link to it," he said. He added this had "happened two or three times in other countries" but "this was the first time in Thailand." The remaining bags are still to be tested. Regardless of the results, officials are seeking an arrest warrant for the man who rented the warehouse, linking him to the seizure in Taiwan. (Read more Thailand stories.)