Poppy Seed Bagel Case Leads to Drug Policy Changes

By May Wilkerson 07/02/13

Elizabeth Mort, whose newborn was taken after a poppy seed bagel set off a positive drug test, settles her lawsuit.

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A poppyseed bagel set off a false positive.
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A Pennsylvania woman who lost custody of her newborn baby when a poppy seed bagel set off a positive test for opiates has settled her lawsuit. Elizabeth Mort was given a routine drug test at Jameson Hospital when she was admitted to give birth in 2010. When she tested positive, Lawrence County Children and Youth Services (LCCYS) took away her baby for five days, until they had determined that there was no other evidence of drug use by the mother. Mort argued that that the trace opiates in her system were from a poppy seed bagel she had eaten the day before giving birth, and says that she was never consulted before her baby was taken from her home.

The American Civil Liberties Union, who filed her case, announced today that Jameson Hospital and Lawrence County Children and Youth Services will pay $143,500 in the settlements and will enact policy changes to prevent future mothers from losing their children over false positives. The hospital will no longer report positive maternal drug tests unless the child also tests positive. ACLU attorney Sara Rose pointed out that the hospital's limit for flagging a drug sample as positive is extremely low at 300 nanogram/mL—compared to the federal screening standard of 2,000 nanogram/mL. “Its pretty clear that 300 (n/mL) is low enough that if you’ve ingested food containing poppy seeds that you could have a positive test result,” said Rose. In accordance with the settlement, LCCYS has also changed its policies and will now only seek a court order for custody of a child after the discussing the situation with the parents. “I am happy that the changes made by CYS and the hospital will prevent similar situations to others in the future,” said Mort. Her daughter, Isabella, is now three years old.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.