The idea that a person could cause a false positive on a drug test by eating a poppy seed bagel used to be the stuff of lore. Hardly anyone really believed it, but it got whispered around among people who were looking to pass drug tests as a condition of pre-employment or for probation. If you tested positive, tell them you ate a poppyseed bagel. They’ll have to retest you, and it’ll buy you time to go buy a “cleaner” to get you through the test.
The supposed urban legend became fodder for a Seinfeld episode where Elaine tests falsely positive for opiate use due to eating a poppy seed bagel.
Then came a 2003 episode of MythBusters, where Jamie and Adam consumed various poppyseed items and then took a drug test to see if they would indeed get a false positive. They did.
According to the Forensic Science International journal, eating two poppy seed rolls caused positive test results for up to six hours in one test subject.
And now Elizabeth Mort of Pennsylvania has settled a lawsuit against her hospital. The hospital reported her to child protective services because it appeared she was using heroin but had a newborn baby. A county child welfare case worker arrived at Mort’s home with a warrant in April of 2010 and took her three-day-old daughter, Isabella, from the home. The baby was placed in foster care. She was returned five days later when police found no other evidence to support the idea that Mort used any illegal drugs.
Mort sued. She says the hospital never asked her what she had eaten, and in fact she had eaten a poppy seed bagel before going to the hospital. She also said that the hospital never told her of any results of a drug test. They simply called CPS.
Now the hospital has settled Mort’s lawsuit for $143,500.