“I hope I don’t fail a drug test!” is one of those stupid comments that everyone makes when they buy a poppyseed muffin, a dumb reflex that’s right up there with telling a supermarket cashier “That means it’s free!” when your bag of mini Takis won’t scan. No matter how many times you joke about free stuff, you’re never getting complimentary chips. But that poppy seed thing? That’s real—just ask Jamie Silakowski.
According to WROC, one of the last things that Silakowski had before giving birth to her son was a slice of lemon poppyseed bread from Tim Horton’s. Unfortunately, what should’ve been an otherwise forgettable breakfast turned into a failed drug test, a call to Child Protective Services, and two months of drug counseling, home visits, and all-around unpleasantness.
Silakowski was still in a hospital bed at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo in New York, when a doctor came in to inform her that she’d failed her drug test. “[I told the doctor] I did have lemon poppyseed bread, just throwing that out there,” she said. “And he laughed and said, 'That's from Seinfeld, that can't be,' and I said, 'That's where I heard it, that's why I'm just bringing it up.” She says that she volunteered to take an additional urine test, or to provide hair or blood samples, but the hospital said, no, sorry. (It’s worth noting that Silakowski’s newborn did not test positive for any drugs.)
Instead, hospital staffers called Child Protective Services (CPS), which opened a child abuse investigation. For the next eight weeks, representatives from CPS made visits to Silakowski’s home and to her daughters’ schools. She was also required to attend—and pay for—drug testing and drug counseling.
“HIPAA privacy laws prevent us from discussing specific patient cases, however, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo’s top priority is to protect the welfare and safety of all our patients,” the hospital said in a statement. “Without discriminatory judgment and applied uniformly, we have policies and procedures in place to report actual or suspected instances to appropriate authorities where vulnerable patients may be at risk. We have no involvement in determining if an investigation is warranted or the extent of the investigation.”
She’s not the only new mom who has had to endure a poppy-seed-induced nightmare scenario. Last August, Elizabeth Eden also tested positive for opiates when she went into labor. St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland, swiftly reported her to the authorities, an CPS investigation was opened, and the state required her newborn daughter to stay in the hospital for five additional days. “In general, the response from the hospital has been dismissive and insulting,” she wrote in an essay for Scary Mommy. “I have no faith that this won’t happen again to another new mom.”
Live Science explains that poppy seeds are, in fact, from the opium poppy—the same opium poppy that is used to produce morphine and other opiates—which explains why eating something studded with poppy seeds can occasionally produce a drug test that is positive for morphine. (The US Anti-Doping Agency even warns its athletes that poppy seeds can cause positive drug tests, and suggests that “the conservative approach” is to avoid them before competitions.)
New Zealand’s Institute of Environmental Science and Research says that morphine can potentially be detected by a drug test when someone eats poppy seeds within 12 to 24 hours of providing a urine sample. Or, you know, like when they have lemon poppyseed bread on the same morning that they go into labor.
“I now have a closed case file on record that I will need to contact a lawyer to have expunged,” Eden wrote. “It all seems an awfully high price to pay for half of an everything bagel with strawberry cream cheese.”
There’s not a bagel in the world that could be worth that kind of stress.