If you eat a hot cross bun, can it show up on a breathalyser and land you in jail?
The short answer is, yes. Or maybe.
The long answer is, maybe. Or no.
Breathalyser tests are notoriously inaccurate. It has one job: to detect ethanol, however, it can often accomplish more than it sets out to achieve.
Drinking and driving remain a huge problem in South Africa. And amendments to the National Road Traffic Act are currently being considered in parliament to change the legal blood alcohol content for drivers from 0.05grm/100ml to 0.00g/100ml, and breath alcohol concentration from 0.24g/1,000ml to zero.
In a presentation to parliament, the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) has criticised the government’s zero tolerance plans and said that many of South Africa’s problems with drunk driving relate to enforcement, and not to the regulations. In addition to that, the AA also raised concerns over false positives.
Food, cigarettes, medicine and health conditions can cause false positives under South Africa’s zero tolerance law
There are several substances that can affect a breath test – and if you’re thinking that the brandy in your chocolate truffle might be the root cause, think again because even something as simple as bread can cause false positives.
And while these substances can go from hero to zero in a matter of minutes (and hopefully keep you and your beloved Woolies hot cross buns out of jail), a few things should be considered.
Medical conditions: Someone with diabetes of hypoglycaemia often has acetone on their breath, and breathalysers can’t differentiate between acetone and alcohol. Other conditions that can trigger a false positive are Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), and auto-brewery syndrome.
Medicines: Some medicines taken orally could contain alcohol for example cold or flu liquids, allergy pills, prescription drugs, and even asthma inhalers.
Aftershave & Mouthwash: While you may want to woo your date with your aftershave or keep things minty fresh, it is important to note that alcohol lodges in the lining of your mouth and can also lead to an exaggerated reading.
Food: When wine is used in cooking, the alcohol burns off. But adding liqueur to a truffle, Tiramisu, or your Christmas trifle it is a different story. Where yeast is involved in baked goods – such as pizza, bread, and Hot Cross Buns – it can react with other ingredients leading to fermentation and forming trace amounts of alcohol in the mouth. Even mints, pecans, macadamia nuts, ripe fruits, protein bars, and energy drinks can possibly show a false positive.
Cigarettes: While the fuel sensor detects ethanol, hydrogen is present and accounts for 1% of the composition of cigarette smoke.
Can you have your liqueur cake and eat it?
Drunk driving (and drunk walking; an issue not considered by new regulations) remains a problem in South Africa.
And the fact of the matter is that more than likely you won’t Listerine your pearly whites or have a hot cross bun and be pulled over immediately and get a false positive.
Above and beyond not taking medical conditions or something like sacramental wine, communion wine, altar wine into consideration, the AA is adamant that these new regulations won’t solve the problem, and that law enforcement doesn’t have the ability to cope with these new changes.
They said, “You cannot solve a problem with a problem, and that’s exactly what this legislation will do.”