UK food company develops low-morphine poppy seed that won't show up on drug tests

Poppy seeds, popular in baked goods such as bagels and this lemon poppy seed bread (above), can cause some consumers to test positive for drug consumption. PHOTO: DEB LINDSEY
Poppy seeds, popular in baked goods such as bagels and this lemon poppy seed bread (above), can cause some consumers to test positive for drug consumption. PHOTO: DEB LINDSEY

(WASHINGTON POST) - FDL, a UK food specialty company that supplies the food service industry with specialised ingredients, has created a low-morphine poppy seed that will not influence the results of a drug test.

Believe it or not, it is no urban legend: Eating a poppy seed bagel before a drug test can get you fired. Testing can rule out heroin, but not other opiates, according to the New York Times. This gave rise to the "poppy seed defense" as a way of explaining away a drug test result - whether that excuse was honest or not.

In 1998, the limit for morphine was raised to 2,000 nanograms per milliliter to ward off some of these false positives (previously, it was 300 nanograms per milliliter). But if you eat a lot of poppy seed cake and other baked goods, you could still test in that range.

Baking companies have been "concerned about this for a while because it has the potential to have a negative impact on their brand image," Mr Gareth Elwin, FDL divisional director, told Food Navigator.

FDL was inspired to make the poppy seeds after a number of high-profile incidents that resulted in positive drug tests, including one from a 72-year-old British TV reporter. Most poppy seeds have morphine levels at 900 parts per million. But FDL's seeds have morphine levels at fewer than 20 parts per million - far less than what would show up on a drug test, according to Food Navigator.

Elwin also told Food Navigator that the company has already signed a deal with a bread company. FDL did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Post about when and where the poppy seeds will be available.

In the meantime, maybe lay off the everything-bagels (and the "everything" everything else, since the spice mix has become increasingly popular lately), if your workplace does regular drug testing.