Driving Under the Influence of...Bread?
Information courtesy of Lawrence Taylor - DUIblog
Phil Price, a good friend and nationally known DUI attorney in Montgomery, Alabama, conducted an interesting series of tests with one of the most commonly used breath testing machines, an Intoxilyer 5000. Without consuming any alcoholic beverages, he submitted himself to repeated breath testing -- after eating various types of food. His findings were startling.
After consuming almost any type of bread product -- white loaf bread, donuts, pretzels, pastries, etc. -- Price consistently registered blood-alcohol readings on the machine. These levels were commonly around .03%, but rose as high as .05% (enough, in conjunction with a drink or two, to reach illegal levels). Further, the Intoxilyzer's slope detector (an electrical circuit designed to detect alcohol from the mouth rather than from the lungs) failed to indicate the presence of any "mouth alcohol". He reported this in an article entitled "Intoxilyzer: A Bread Testing Device?", 15(4) Drinking/Driving Law Letter 52 (1996).
Reacting to the use of this article by defense attorneys in their state, the Washington State Toxicology Laboratory conducted their own studies to refute the findings -- this time with the machine used in Washington, a DataMaster. Unfortunately, their research only confimed Price's experience. As reported in Logan and Distefano, "Ethanol Content of Various Foods and Soft Drinks and their Potential for Interference with a Breath-Alcohol Test", 22 Journal of Analytical Toxicology 18 (1998), a variety of breads and soft drinks were tested and found to contain no alcohol. Alcohol-free subjects then ingested these products and provided breath samples into a DataMaster. The researchers' conclusions:
We found that, particularly at low concentrations but as high as 0.046g/210L, mouth alcohol rather than expiratory breath alcohol may be reported as apparent true breath alcohol...
In other words, alcohol-free subjects who consumed bread or soft drinks were causing the machines to read