If you are going to an interview where a drug test is mandatory, you might think twice before reaching for a poppy seed bagel at breakfast. Seinfeld fans will recall how Elaine, played by Julia Louis Dreyfus, failed a drug test after eating a poppy seed muffin back in the 1996 episode "The Shower Head".
While we might have considered this another Hollywood fabrication at the time, it turns out that eating a poppy seed bagel or muffin can make a person fail a drug test. Poppy seeds are derived from opium poppies and may contain traces of morphine. While a poppy seed bagel is not enough to get you high, it can register as positive on a highly sensitive drug test.
This is exactly what happened to Elizabeth Eden, a Maryland mom, who almost lost custody of her child because she failed a drug test the day her daughter was born. In her account to WBAL-TV, the new mother explained how eating a poppy seed bagel resulted in a positive opiate test.
“I was in labor. I was sitting in the bed. I was having contractions. I was on a Pitocin drip, and the doctor came in and said, ‘You’ve tested positive for opiates,’”
She asked to be retested and explained that she had had a poppy seed bagel for breakfast, but the doctor told the traumatized mother that she had already been reported to the state.
As heartbreaking as it may sound, Eden had to leave her newborn daughter, Beatrice, at the St. Joseph Medical Centre for five days while a social worker investigated. When it was determined that Eden’s was “a legitimate case of the poppy seed defense,” as reported by WBAL-TV, the file was closed, and she was permitted to take baby Beatrice home.
In 1998, the US Department of Health and Human Services raised the limit to test positive for opiates to 2,000 nanograms per milliliter, but according to The Washington Post, St. Joseph Medical Center still goes by the old limit of 300 nanograms per millimeter. One teaspoon of poppy seeds can raise the level of opiates to 1,200 nanograms per millimeter. Dr. Judith Rossiter-Pratt, the head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at St. Joseph, explained to WBAL that they prefer the lower number since some individuals who had used drugs might test negative otherwise.
It is known that poppy seeds can be detected in urine up to 48 hours after consumption and may persist even longer. If you are expecting a toxicology test, it is best to avoid poppy seeds for at least several days beforehand. Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious alternatives out there! A sesame bagel perhaps?