Baby Taken: Bagel-Eating Mom Fails Drug Test Because Of Poppy Seeds, Loses Child To Authorities

By iScienceTimes Staff on July 3, 2013 1:36 PM EDT

bagel
After a poppy seed bagel led to a false positive for opiates for Elizabeth Mort of New Castle, Pa., her baby was taken away from her. (Photo: Flickr: adactio)

Elizabeth Mort, a mother of a baby taken away all because of a bagel, has received a $143,500 settlement. The bizarre but not unheard-of situation occurred when a poppy seed bagel that the mother ate resulted in a false positive for opiates.

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In April 2010, Elizabeth Mort, 24, of New Castle, Pa., ate a poppy seed bagel shortly before going to Jameson Hospital for a pre-delivery screening. The poppy seeds in the bagel caused Mort to test positive for opiates, and three days after giving birth, police and social workers came to her home and took her baby Isabella away. After five days away from Isabella, authorities returned the child to Mort, deciding there wasn't enough evidence that Mort had taken opiates.

Lawrence County has a policy of automatically taking newborns from mothers who test positive for opiates at delivery. Opiates are found in heroin, opium and morphine, among other drugs.

In her lawsuit, Mort claimed that she was never told that she failed a drug test. Mort also claims she wasn't asked if anything she'd eaten might have affected the test results.  

In 2004, the federal government raised the threshold level for opiate testing to 2,000 nanograms a milliliter, from its previous level of 300. Eating a poppy seed bagel right before a drug test could result in a false positive at the 300 level, but almost definitely wouldn't at the 2,000 level. Jameson Hospital, where Mort received the false positive, was still going by the 300 level for its testing.

Jameson Hospital has agreed to change its policies as a result of the lawsuit, and will now talk to parents about their drug test results before contacting the county.

"As a result of the Mort case, the county agreed to evaluate its procedures to ensure that families had an opportunity to discuss any reason for the test results that come out of Jameson," said Marie Jones, a lawyer with the county's Children and Youth Services agency.

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