A Cook's Diary

About poppy seeds: a case of doing one’s homework or not

About poppy seeds: a case of doing one’s homework or not | casaveneracion.com

When Speedy told me the other night that someone was proposing some law to ban poppy seeds in the Philippines, I couldn’t believe my ears. Really? What the heck? I thought there was already a bill and I was preparing myself to dig up a copy. As it turns out, the controversy stems from a privilege speech.

SENATE Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III called on the Senate to investigate the Food and Drug Administration for allowing poppy seeds to proliferate in the country.

Sotto warned that poppy seeds used in pastries and other food products, as well as for cosmetics products, could germinate into plants that can be processed into heroin and cocaine.

He said the samples that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration had collected from restaurants that used poppy seeds were not inert as restaurant owners claimed.

So, it’s Senator Tito Sotto making the claim… Well, I was wary, to say the least. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already called for a temporary ban on the sale of poppy seeds pending investigation.

I have a jar of poppy seeds in the pantry. And, no, I didn’t buy it from a narcotics peddler. I bought it from a reputable supermarket. I’ve baked lemon and poppy seed cookies, and orange and poppy seed cupcakes, and I loved them both. So, I decided to do my own research and…

… got the surprise of my life. If you watch Mythbusters on TV (Speedy often does so I get to see the show too sometimes), see this video.

So, yes, ingesting poppy seeds in food can show the presence of “drugs” in your system although you may not feel anything at all.

Note, however, the nature of a FALSE POSITIVE TEST: “The test is true positive in that it indicates the presence of the drug correctly; it is false only in the sense that the drug was not taken in the typical manner of abuse.”

Meaning? Well, meaning you can be labeled a drug addict even if you’re not.

Snopes has an interesting list of cases where the results of the false positive test were used in obviously misguided ways.

A 2010 report in The Globe and Mail relates how a baby was taken by child welfare after the mother — who ate a poppy seed bagel — failed a drug test.

If all that isn’t mind-blowing enough, there’s a Fox News report about similar false positive tests involving marijuana.

Oh, my. OH. MY.

Now, the obvious questions.

1. After poppy seeds have been baked into a cake or cookie or bread, can you still pry the poppy seeds and plant them to grow opium poppy plants?

I don’t think so. After having been in a 350F oven for at least 10 minutes, anything living in the seeds — inert or not — would be dead.

2. What about unbaked poppy seeds in a jar? Ah, that I am researching still. They are dried, yes, but I buy dried flower, vegetable and herb seeds in packets and plant them and I’ve grown several varieties over the years — from cosmos to zinnia to parsley to dill to… so many others that I can’t remember anymore. In short, dried seeds do grow into plants.

Should I experiment with the jar of poppy seeds to see if they should indeed be totally banned?

I’m thinking… I may need to get a permit or something.

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