Late last month, Angela Rippon, a veteran 72-year-old British journalist, decided to partake in an experiment: She'd eat a loaf of poppy seed bread along with a poppy seed bagel for three days straight. Rippon had been tipped off by a man who claimed he’d been fired from his job due to a false positive for opiates that registered on a workplace drug test due to his casual consumption of poppy seed bread.
Rippon's dalliance with poppy seeds resulted in testing positive for opiates, proving what others have learned the hard way—a tooth for poppy seeds can land you in trouble if you're subjected to drug tests by employers, schools, or any other governing body. There have been a few workarounds for this persistent problem, but they haven't really stuck. In the States, for example, some federal agencies have raised cut-off thresholds for positives, yet this hasn't become standardized.
Fuerst Day Lawson (FDL), a London-based company dedicated to creating specialty ingredients for the food and beverage industry (offerings in its portfolio include sweeteners and juice blends), may have solved this issue with its Low Morphine Poppy Blend, announced earlier this month. FDL has sourced lower-morphine poppy seeds from Eastern Europe and mixed them with more traditional ones found in Britain. Its resultant blend has morphine levels that are fewer than 20 parts-per-million, compared to the 900 parts-per-million found in most poppy seed strains on the market.
This blend was created in response to the increasing stigmatization of poppy seeds in British bakeries, who were growing more concerned about selling goods with poppy seeds for fear that they'd attract negative press. With this, FDL’s encouraging other companies to follow suit and become more innovative about their poppy seed blends.
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FDL has reportedly partnered with a local bread company to roll out the product, though it's unfortunately kept mum about when exactly that's set to happen. (As of writing, they haven’t yet said when the product will make its transatlantic landing, though we’ve reached out for comment.) A bummer, to be sure, but consider this: If you’ve leaned on the poppy seed defense before, you’ve got some time to think of another excuse.
Has your poppy seed love ever landed you in hot water? Let us know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.