Mother Wins Lawsuit Over Poppy Seed Induced False Positive On Drug Test

| by Jonathan Wolfe
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Note to pregnant women: avoid poppy seed bagels.

Pennsylvania woman Elizabeth Mort just won a lawsuit  not to mention custody of her child — after investigators determined that a positive test for opiates on a hospital-issued drug screening was because she had eaten a poppy seed bagel.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the lawsuit was settled today after being filed in 2010. Mort was issued the drug test at Jameson Hospital when she arrived there to give birth to her child. Apparently, Jameson Hospital’s drug tests have a positive threshold much lower than the federally required level.

The federal standard for a positive result is 2,000 nanograms per milliliter, but Jameson was issuing tests with a 300 nanograms per milliliter threshold. The test was so sensitive that poppy seeds, which come from the same plant that opiate pain-killers are derived from, caused a positive result on the screening.

Days after Mort gave birth to her daughter  now 3-year-old Isabella Rodriguez  child welfare workers showed up at her house and took the child. The daughter was returned to Mort five days later when officials determined that there was no evidence that she had used illegal drugs.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mort. The lawsuit settled today when Jameson Hospital and Lawrence County’s child welfare services agreed to pay Mort a sum of $143,500.

Some good has come from Mort’s lawsuit. The ACLU said on Tuesday that the Lawrence County child welfare services department has updated policies so that children are not taken from mothers based on maternal drug screenings, which are, as this story shows, notoriously inaccurate. 

Source: Houston Chronicle