Beware of the poppy seed bagel


A Pennsylvania woman had her baby taken away only three days after giving birth. She tested positive for opiates on a drug test mandated by the hospital for all new moms. A few days later, her newborn was placed in foster care for five days. And it was all because of a poppy seed bagel.

The mother, who’s since regained custody of her child after proving her results were due to poppy seeds, has filed a civil suit. Considering a single bagel eaten the night before labor can result in losing a child, drug testing accuracy needs reconsidering.  But so does our choice at the bagel store.

Is the poppy seed bagel really that delicious? More so than a sesame or pumpernickel? And can’t the ‘everything’ use one less thing anyway? In this age of rampant drug-testing, is it worth all the trouble? The seeded breakfast food has been responsible for parent-child rifts, job losses and jail-time, for starters. Not to mention a Seinfeld episode. The seeds contain small traces of opium alkaloids, like morphine and codeine, that can show up on some drug tests if consumed 24 hours prior. It’s been proven by drug testing experts and even by the guys on Mythbusters, even a single poppy seed bagel can result in a false positive on some tests. One study by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that 29 percent of tests with a positive opiate result are, in fact, false. As a result, the amount of opiate ingestion needed to prove positive has been raised form 300 ml to 2000 ml, but only in federal workplace policy. Other drug test results, like the one given at the Pennsylvania hospital, don’t apply the same rule. All it took was 300ml of opiates for that mother’s baby to be taken away.

For parents and even schools, who use home kits, the likelihood of a poppy seed positive is much higher since the DIY results doesn’t always differentiate trace amounts. A few other victims of the averagely delicious seed include Brian Darcy, who lost his job as a corrections officer for 16 months after eating a poppy seed roll. Anthony Carizio was sent back to prison for getting caught with a few seeds scattered on a salt bagel at a family dinner while serving time at a halfway house.  And even if you don’t plan to be drug-tested anytime soon, you’re still not in the clear. If you’re traveling to the United Arab Emirates, you could be taken to jail for eating the bagel on your flight. One traveler was detained in the airport after poppy seeds were found on his jacket, thanks to the country’s strict drug laws.

Plus there’s a 99 percent chance at least one of the 30 billion poppy seeds on a given bagel will get caught in your teeth. Policies on hemp production for food has been subject to legal battles. But poppy seeds? Not so much. Maybe just the elimination of the bagel topping would save us all a lot of hardship. When you really think about it, what do poppy seeds even taste like?

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