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can poppy seeds show in a drug test as marijuana

Mythbusters: Poppy Seeds

Y ou scoff a few poppy seed bagels and then take a routine workplace drug test later in the afternoon. The result comes back positive for opiates, and you realise your choice of lunch has put you under suspicion of having a heroin habit. Sounds far-fetched? Mythbusters investigates the surprisingly potent poppy seed effect.

It might seem unlikely that eating a few slices of poppy seed cake or a couple of bagels with a poppy seed topping could be enough to make a non-drug user get red flagged in a drug test. But in fact it’s well documented that eating poppy seeds, which are commonly used in muffins, bread and bagels, can be enough to trigger a positive reading for the opiate morphine.

It’s not an urban myth; it’s a scientific fact. On its website, the government-owned Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) confirms that morphine can be present in a urine sample when poppy seeds have been consumed, but it says they would usually have to be eaten within 12 to 24 hours of the sample being collected.

Because poppy seeds come from the seed pods of opium plants, they can be contaminated with opium milk, which contains morphine. Before they’re used as an ingredient in baking, the seeds are cleaned and processed but are still likely to contain traces of opiate residue. It’s not a high enough concentration for someone to feel any morphine-like effects, but it can be enough to cause a positive result on a sensitive test.

Workplace drug testing is becoming commonplace, particularly for people who operate heavy machinery such as large diggers or work in professions where their performance has a bearing on public safety, such as airline pilots or bus drivers.

Someone who eats a bagel or bread containing poppy seeds in the morning and is tested later in the day will have lower levels of morphine in their urine than someone who is abusing opiate drugs. To prevent ‘false’ positive screening results caused by poppy seed ingestion the United States Federal Government has raised the workplace testing threshold for opiates from 0.3 micrograms per millilitre to 2 micrograms per millilitre, and the US military has even higher levels. But in New Zealand and Australia, the current workplace testing standard is still set at the 0.3 microgram level.

With this threshold, someone who eats a couple of poppy seed muffins in the morning would probably test positive a few hours later. Toxicologist Grant Moore, who works for Canterbury Health Laboratories (CHL), which carries out workplace drug tests for organisations around the country, says an internal project he was involved with showed even eating one slice of a poppy seed cake (which contained three-quarters of a cup of poppy seeds) could cause a positive urine test result for opiates. Other food sources such as poppy seed crackers and poppy seed bread led to similar results.

There are reports of cases internationally where workers have lost their jobs after failing a workplace drug test because of their penchant for poppy seed cakes or bagels. In 1990, an American Police officer from St Louis was suspended after a random drug test came back positive for opiate use. He had eaten four poppy seed bagels the day before. He successfully argued the result was caused by diet, not drugs, and was later reinstated. Moore can’t imagine that scenario happening here and says the lower threshold hasn’t been a real problem.

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“Cases of false positives caused by poppy seed ingestion shouldn’t happen if full testing is carried out properly.”

Before they provide a urine sample for testing, people are asked to fill out a form that asks whether they have eaten poppy seeds or taken any medication such as Panadeine, which is codeine based. Because of the known effect of poppy seeds on morphine levels, a note will be made on a test report that a positive result could be linked to dietary exposure. If this happens, further confirmation testing is carried out to help distinguish between illicit heroin use and innocent poppy seed consumption. This is done by testing for the presence of a unique heroin metabolite called monoacetylmorphine (MAM).

“If you do have a workplace screen and it is not negative, it must go on for further confirmation,” Moore says.

Mythbusters’ advice to poppy seed fans is clear – it’s safest to avoid eating them before taking a drug test if you want to keep things simple.

Not Taking Drugs But Failed a Drug Test? What You Should Avoid!

Modern drug tests are quite accurate and effective, but nothing is 100%. The truth is, several substances can result in a positive test for drug use when you haven’t exposed yourself to drugs at all. This is what’s known as a “false positive.”

It is common for hiring managers to utilize background checks and drug abuse tests when considering you for employment. Knowing this, it’s best that you avoid the following extensive list of substances for at least a few days before the test occurs, just to be safe.

Poppy Seeds

This is probably the best known “don’t eat that before a drug test” substance on this list. Poppy seed bagels are notorious for causing an incorrect reading of opium in your system. If you insist on eating a bagel before a test, make it anything but poppy seed.

Cold Medicine

There are certain types of decongestants that are restricted for purchase by those under 18 years of age because of the pseudoephedrine they contain, which is the primary ingredient in making meth. If you feel stuffed-up before your drug test, it’s worth it to suffer just a little bit longer so you don’t test positive.


Taking too much ibuprofen can cause your drug test to come back with a positive indication of marijuana usage. If you have a headache on the day of your test, take aspirin or any other substance that doesn’t contain ibuprofen.

Tonic Water

Most people are probably not aware that tonic water contains quinine, which is used to treat malaria. This is all fine and dandy, but unfortunately, this substance is also sometimes mixed with street drugs and can cause a false positive on a drug test. Stick with regular water for a day or two.

Baby Soap

If you’re an adult who uses baby soap because you have sensitive skin or for any other reason, don’t use it a for day or two before any drug test. Like ibuprofen, there’s a chance that you’ll test positive for marijuana.

Hemp Products

If you ingest anything that contains hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, or hemp seed milk, then there’s a good chance you’re going to test positive for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Yes, these products are perfectly legal, but even the most sophisticated drug test cannot differentiate between the use of marijuana and the innocent ingestion of hemp seed.

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Vitamin B Supplements

Yet another item on our list that can cause you to test positive for weed. That’s because some vitamin B supplements contain riboflavin, which, in turn, may be made from hemp seed oil. This can cause traces of THC to show up on a drug test.

Coca Tea

As you might have guessed, coca tea is made from the leaves of coca plants, which is basically where cocaine comes from. To be on the safe side, make sure you wait at least a few days between your ingestion of coca tea and any drug test.

Secondhand Marijuana Smoke

While the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke are generally unknown, there is a small chance that you may test positive for the substance itself. So, if any of your friends smoke marijuana, steer clear when they do.


Although it’s rare for antibiotics to cause you to test positive for drugs, it has happened in the past. If you’re taking any kind of antibiotics, inform the company providing the test so that they’re aware of the possible issue.
While drug tests aren’t 100% foolproof, you definitely want to make them a part of your company’s hiring process. If you’re a potential employee who has tested positive for a substance and you use anything on this list, be sure to tell the employer right away. And if your company is looking for the best background and criminal checks available, reach out to NationSearch today.

Will Your Poppy Seed Muffin Show up on an Employee Drug Test? 24 Jan 2019

In 2016, a New York City corrections officer was fired after failing a random drug test. The test found traces of morphine and codeine in the guard’s system.

The guard was genuinely bewildered. He hadn’t taken any illicit substances or even prescription medication. So, how did those drugs get into his system? Why did the drug test turn up positive?

The culprit was a poppy seed bagel. The corrections officer had eaten a bagel sprinkled with poppy seeds for breakfast. Those poppy seeds caused his test result to show a false positive. Because of a handful of poppy seeds, he lost his job.

You’ve probably heard stories of people failing drug tests because of poppy seeds, but does this still happen? Thankfully, advancements in technology have improved drug testing in the past couple of years. So, can poppy seeds still show up on a drug test? Let’s discover the answer.

Do Poppy Seeds Show up on Drug Tests?

Yes. Unless it’s a hair follicle test, poppy seeds will show up. Why is this?

The plant that produces poppy seeds for those tasty bagels, muffins, and cakes also makes opium extract. Opium extract is the source of many controlled drugs, like codeine and morphine. If this liquid contaminates the poppy seeds during harvesting, they can test positive for morphine, codeine, or heroin. But, not all drug tests detect poppy seeds.

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Unlike urine- or saliva-based drug tests, hair follicle tests don’t detect poppy seeds. This is because the seeds don’t stay in your system long enough and in high enough quantities to show up in your hair follicles. So, unless it’s a hair follicle test, poppy seeds can show up in a drug test.

Does that mean poppy seeds can make you fail a drug test?

Will Poppy Seeds Cause You to Fail an Employee Drug Test?

Not usually, but it depends on the type of drug test. If the drug test is urine- or saliva-based and it reports a positive after a low level of the drug is found, poppy seeds can cause you to fail. However, most drug tests have measures in place that stop a false positive from poppy seeds. What are these measures?

One is that the amount needed for a positive reading is higher than the amount found in poppy seeds. In fact, the United States raised the limit for a positive employment-based drug test from 300 nanograms a milliliter to 2,000 nanograms. This means contaminated poppy seeds don’t contain enough opium extract to cause a positive result.

Many employers also use a questionnaire before the drug test. This questionnaire usually checks for poppy seed ingestion and prescription drug use. The drug test technician can then adjust the test results to compensate.

The third measure is that drug tests can distinguish between poppy seeds and heroin. Heroin contains a distinct metabolite called 6-0-monoacetylmorphine. So, if a test comes back positive for heroin but doesn’t contain this metabolite, the test is a false positive.

These measures sound like reliable ways to distinguish drugs from poppy seeds. Does that mean it’s harmless to eat poppy seeds before a drug test?

Should You Eat Poppy Seeds Before a Drug Test?

Pick up that bagel and go wild. While eating too many poppy seeds can make a drug test give a false positive, most employment drug tests confirm the results using a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC or MS) test. This test is specifically used to rule out interfering substances like poppy seeds.

After weighing the facts, poppy seeds are a safe food choice for anyone taking a drug test.

Your Breakfast (and Job) Is Safe

The corrections officer fired over a bagel managed to get his job back after two years. But, he won’t be eating poppy seeds anytime soon.

As we’ve discovered, it is possible for poppy seeds to show up on drug tests. With drug tests being able to distinguish between poppy seeds and opiates though, the possibility of a false positive hurting your job prospects is pretty low. But, drug tests are only one part of the employee background check process. How can you ensure all your background checks come back clean?

At Trusted Employees, we can help you run a background check on yourself. We’ll help you dispute anything incorrect and show you what your potential employer will see. Contact us to learn more about running a background check on yourself.

Robyn Kunz is the Chief Compliance Officer at Trusted Employees. She has worked in the background screening industry for over 15 years and holds Advanced Certification in the Fair Credit Reporting Act from the National Association of Professional Background.