Life imitates Seinfeld, again: A NYC correction officer has been reinstated after successfully arguing that he tested positive for codeine and morphine because of his poppy seed bagel habit.
The NY Post reports that Officer Eleazar Paz was given a drug test in January, and the results showed "522 nanograms per milliliter of morphine and 358 of codeine" in his system. The Correction Department fired him, but toxicology expert Dr. William Sawyer explained at an administrative hearing that those amounts "were not only inconsistent with drug abuse, but well under the federal threshold of 2,000 NPM... The feds raised their standard in 1997 precisely because unwashed poppy seeds in food were producing false positives, but the city’s jail system still uses the much more stringent 300 NPM," the Post reports.
Poppy seeds come from the opium plant, which, according to Live Science, "produces a milky fluid from which morphine and other opiates are derived. As a result, poppy seeds can contain traces of morphine."
A 1991 study notes, "Poppy seed cake, bagels, muffins, and rolls did not contain sufficient quantities of poppy seeds to give rise to opiate positive specimens by U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) GC-MS cutoff levels (morphine = 4000 ng/mL, codeine = 2000 ng/mL), although a number of specimens were positive by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) cutoff levels (morphine and codeine = 300 ng/mL). However, ingestion of poppy seed streusel or Danish pastry led to confirmed morphine and codeine positive specimens, irrespective of the use of DOD or NIDA confirmation cutoff values. In addition, significant amounts of codeine were observed in a number of these specimens."
"I wanted to cry when I heard they would take me back," Paz told the Post. "It was unbelievable what happened to me, because I didn’t do anything wrong."
His lawyer is trying to fight for his back pay. In the meantime, Paz and his wife make sure he doesn't eat any food with poppy seeds.