Claim: The consumption of poppy seeds used on bagels and muffins can produce positive results on drug screening tests.
Origins: Drug testing has become more and more prevalent in our society, and while urine and blood analysis are the most common methods employed to that end, the tests themselves are not infallible and can sometimes produce skewed results. Indeed, something as innocuous as the poppy seeds on a bagel or muffin or in a slice of cake can make the drug-free look like heroin users.
Opiates (morphine and codeine) can be detected in urine for at least
In 1990, a veteran St. Louis police officer was suspended for four months because his drug test showed positive for morphine after he'd eaten four poppy seed bagels the day before the urine sample was taken. He was reinstated with back pay after it was determined that poppy seeds and not drug use had produced those results. His case was especially puzzling to the department because the officer in question had a steady work record and demonstrated no indications of any problems before this incident was flagged during a random drug screen. The department performed an experiment by having
In 1999, a New Jersey prison guard was fired for the same reason: a poppy seed bagel he'd had produced a positive drug test. His case was subjected to further examination, and he was reinstated seven months later.
In 1994, a Baltimore woman lost her chance for a job with an inner-city community health center because of her failed drug test, which was once again the result of the nefarious poppy seeds. In that case, the woman's fondness for lean corned beef and provolone on a poppy seed bagel cost her the job she wanted, because this prospective employer would not allow her a second urinalysis nor believe that her morning nosh had caused those suspicious test results.
In 1997, a woman in Florida was awarded $859,000 in her lawsuit against Bankers Insurance Group because it had withdrawn a lucrative job offer to her on the basis of her poppy seed-influenced drug screen results.
Because of the possibility of poppy seeds' skewing drug test results, federal prison rules prohibit inmates from eating this ingestible. Moreover, inmates on furlough are enjoined from eating baked goods that incorporate poppy seeds because of the effect it has on their drug tests. (Without the poppy seed prohibition, anyone using opium derivatives recreationally could attribute his positive drug test results to a fondness for these seeds. The prohibition removes that possibility.)
The Federal Bureau of Prison's Form
Because the drug screen for the presence of opiates is so sensitive, the federal guidelines for agencies that rely on it have since raised the
Lawrence County's child welfare agency and Jameson Hospital have paid $143,500 to settle the suit filed on behalf of Elizabeth Mort by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
Mort sued in October 2010, alleging that a poppy seed bagel she ate shortly before arriving at the hospital spurred a positive test for opiates in April 2010 that prompted the seizure of her 3-day-old daughter, Isabella Rodriguez.
Mort said she was home with her baby when a county child welfare caseworker arrived with an emergency protective custody order and took Isabella.
The lawsuit alleged Mort was never told in the hospital that she had failed a drug test, nor was she asked if she had eaten anything that could have affected the test results.
The infant was returned five days later, after local officials agreed there was no evidence the mother had used illegal drugs.
The suit argued that Jameson Hospital used a much lower threshold for drug screening than federal guidelines, resulting in more false positives from common foods and medicines. The federal standard is 2,000 nanograms per milliliter, but Jameson Hospital used a reading of 300 nanograms, according to the lawsuit.
Last updated: 15 January 2015
Dougherty, Larry. "Woman Awarded $859,000 in Bagel Case." St. Petersburg Times. 9 December 1997 (Pasco Times, p. 3). Graedon, Joe and Teresa Graedon. "The Perils of Eating Poppy Seeds." The Buffalo News. 7 July 1998 (p. C3). Little, Joan. "Bagel, Not Morphine, Culprit in Drug Test." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 1 September 1990 (p. A3). Rodricks, Dan. "For the Love of a Poppy Seed Bagel, She May Have Lost a New Job." The Baltimore Sun. 19 October 1994 (p. B1). Associated Press. "Guard Fired Over Drug Test Reinstated." 7 June 2000. Associated Press. "New Jersey Prison Guard Blames Bagel Seeds in Drug Test Firing." 25 March 2000. Associated Press. "Prisons Ban Poppy Seeds in N.Y. Drug Test Move." Los Angeles Times. 5 January 1988 (p. A10). Associated Press. "Pa. Mom Settles Suit Over Poppy Seed Drug Test." 2 July 2013. The Washington Post. "Bond Refused." 22 September 1987 (p. A10).