If you're unlucky, eating a poppy seed bagel before a drug test could cost you a job, which is why a UK-based company is launching a poppy seed blend that contains a low morphine content.
FDL, a company that supplies specialist ingredients to the food, beverage, fragrance, and chemical industries, is intent on helping the increasing number of employees who have to take drug tests to get or keep their jobs. Their new low-morphine poppy seeds promise to keep residual morphine levels below 20 parts per million—far below the 900 parts per million found in traditional poppy seeds. Bring on the lox and onions!
This problem with poppy seeds is well known, but it was highlighted last month when veteran British TV presenter Angela Rippon tested positive for morphine after eating a loaf of poppy seed bread and a poppy seed bagel in the course of a three-day period. Rippon launched her experiment after a contributor to her show, Rip Off Britain: Food, told Rippon that he had been fired from his job for failing a routine drug test and had absolutely no idea why—until he realized it must have been his breakfast: some poppyseed bread.
Obviously, Rippon's contributor is not a Seinfeld fan, because as Elaine explained in an episode of the iconic show, the presence of morphine, a derivative of opium, can be found in the urine of those who indulge in poppy seeds, which are often added to breads and muffins.
Professor Atholl Johnston, a toxicology expert at Queen Mary University, told Rippon that eating traditional poppy seeds before a drug test is risky: "The amount of morphine in a poppy seed will vary quite considerably depending on when and where it was harvested. In fact, when tests have been done there's about a 600-fold variation in the amount of morphine in poppy seeds."
A spokesperson with the UK's Food Standards Agency told MUNCHIES UK, "Poppy seeds do not naturally contain opium alkaloids, but they can become contaminated with low levels of alkaloids as a result of damage during harvesting. There are very few reports of adverse effects arising from the traditional consumption of poppy seeds, but morphine-like effects have been observed in humans following consumption of food containing poppy seeds contaminated with high levels of opium alkaloids."
FDL wants to change all that by creating its controlled, low-morphine seeds. Gareth Elwin, a division director at FDL, told FoodNavigator that a recent rise in people testing positive for heroin after consuming poppy seeds is posing a problem for bread companies. "For the baking companies, they have been concerned about this for a while because it has the potential to have a negative impact on their brand image," Elwin explained. FDL says it has already signed a deal with one of the UK's big bread companies to start using its new poppy seed blend.
MUNCHIES reached out to FDL for comment, but has yet to hear back.
Rest easy, poppy seed lovers: It looks as though a day will come soon when hamantashen, germknödel, and kołacz can be enjoyed by both the unemployed and jobseekers alike.