A top Pentagon official released a memo last Friday urging service members to be aware of poppy seed consumption after new research suggested some varieties may contain higher levels of morphine and codeine contamination.
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gil Cisneros said in the memo that recent data suggests some varieties of poppy seed may contain higher levels of contamination than previously thought. Codeine levels, the memo said, could be higher in some varieties of the seed and cause a positive urinalysis test.
“Concerns with poppy seeds and drug testing are not new,” Cisneros wrote in the memo. “The Military Departments are hereby directed to notify service members to avoid consumption of all poppy seeds to include food products and baked goods.”
Poppy seeds are harvested from the poppy plant, cultivated by food and pharmaceutical industries. During harvesting, seeds may become contaminated with morphine or codeine. The Pentagon’s drug testing regime, however, differentiated between morphine and codeine use from poppy seed consumption, according to the memo.
But as new data came to light, Cisneros decided to issue the memo to help prevent possible positive tests from service members who may have consumed contaminated poppy seed products. Cisneros said in the memo that he would update the guidance as more information becomes available.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I find protecting service members and the integrity of the drug testing program requires a warning to avoid poppy seeds,” Cisneros wrote.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.