Anthrax hoax letters sent to Irish government

Envelopes containing a white, flake like substance, later determined to be flour, were delivered to seven Irish ministers and ex-prime minister Bertie Ahern, leading to a full scale Irish police investigation into the letters' origin.

The envelopes, which contained messages ranging from "Have a Happy Christmas" to "beware," included the white powder and were sent to several ministers, including transport minister Noel Dempsey, health minister Mary Harney and tourism minister Mary Hanafin, Irish Central reports.

For the most part, the envelopes with the unidentified substance were opened by ministerial staff. After a detailed analysis, the substance was found to be flour and was determined to be completely harmless.

Police made a statement to the press that even though the substance was not anthrax or another biological toxin, the experience was still unnerving for everyone associated with the crude attempt to intimidate the officials, according to Irish Central.

Since the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States that led to the death of five people, there have been many anthrax powder scares through the mail throughout the world. Precautions that have been taken in the United States include screening all mail to government buildings and setting aside well-ventilated rooms for mail to be opened, according to the Washington Post.