A New York mother was forcibly separated from her newborn baby after she ate a poppy seed bagel that caused her to fail a drug test earlier this month.
Elizabeth Dominguez, 29, of Tonawanda, ate the bagel just hours before she went into labor on May 1.
Arriving at the hospital to give birth, Dominguez was asked for a urine sample. But she was shocked to learn that it came back testing positive to opiates.
‘I called my husband freaking out saying “How is this possible? I don’t do drugs!'” Dominguez told WKBW.
Her husband, Mark Dominguez, then asked what she had to eat that day.
‘I told him a bagel and a sub,’ Dominguez recalled. ‘That’s all I had. He told me it must be from the bagel.’
Dominguez gave birth to her baby son Carter later that day, and hospital staff followed protocol by contacting Child Protective Services.
While Carter’s tests did not show any opiates in his system, the newborn was required to stay in the hospital so he could be observed for withdrawal.
Meanwhile, Dominguez was discharged and separated from her son.
Further follow-up reports showed she only acquired the positive reading because of the poppy seeds on her bagel.
One clinical pharmacist explained that the seeds are derived from the opium plant.
‘In some cases eating a large amount of poppy seed such as the kind found in a bagel has been shown to produce low levels of morphine and codeine in the urine,’ Michelle Rainka told WABC.
‘Potentially those seeds have not been washed and can contain that.’
Rainka revealed that anywhere from ‘one to three bagels with poppy seeds’ could produce a positive result on a urine test.
While Dominguez was swiftly reunited with her baby boy, she says the ordeal was terrifying.
‘I felt like a terrible mother leaving him,’ she said. ‘I just want everyone to know that this could happen.’
‘It’s such a terrible thing and I don’t want it to happen to anyone.’
Tests later confirmed that Dominguez was a false positive.
While it may sound like a story line straight out of a sitcom – more on that later – this has actually happened before.
Just last year Elizabeth Eden was separated from her newborn daughter for five days because she ate a poppy seed bagel on the morning she went into labor.
Eden, like Dominguez, then tested positive for opiates and was reported to state officials.
It was later determined that Eden was a ‘legitimate case of the poppy seed defense’.
The poppy seed defense was first seen on an episode of Seinfeld, in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character Elaine Benes failed a work drug test after eating a poppy seed muffin.
Two years after the episode aired, the recommended level needed to test positive for opiates was raised from 300 ng/ml to 2,000 ng/ml – the equivalent of three large poppy seed bagels – by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
But a number of hospitals to this day continue to use tests with the 300 ng/ml threshold.
It remains unclear just how many poppy seeds can light up a drug test. Even Olympic athletes are advised to avoid eating anything with poppy seeds a few days before their competitions.
Sometimes, it might just be safer to order that plain bagel instead.