Nutritionist cold on warnings that hot cross buns produce false breathalyser reading
A leading nutritionist has questioned claims that hot cross buns can cause false breathalyser readings after a video of a truck driver who blew 0.018 after eating the Easter snack went viral.
In the video posted on social media, Heather Jones, from West Australian trucking group Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls, blew into a hand-held breathalyser and showed a zero blood alcohol level (BAL) reading as a control test.
Ms Jones then took a bite of a hot cross bun and blew again, with the machine returning a reading of 0.018.
In WA the legal limit for anyone operating a vehicle over 22.5 tonnes is zero.
But Dr Rosemary Stanton from the University of New South Wales’ School of Medicinal Sciences is not convinced by the video evidence.
The nutritionist said the research shows false readings are usually more about the breath-testing instrument rather than the food.
“The medical journals were silent on the whole issue but there was quite a lot of information that different kinds of breathalysers — particularly the ones that the police use — can be different from the ones that people buy,” Dr Stanton said.
What’s in the buns?
Dr Stanton said some foods — including breath fresheners — and medications can impact breathalyser readings, but she is not aware of yeast having that effect.
“The whole idea that it’s somehow the yeast in the bun or it’s the fruit, really doesn’t seem to hold water,” she said.
What can cause alcohol false positives
- Medications, including cold and flu mixtures and some prescription drugs
- Medical conditions, including the high concentration of acetone found in diabetic breath
- Certain types of foods where alcohol is produced from the food or is already present in it
- Some vinegars
- Confectionary including some cough drops (often containing menthol) and some mints and chewing gums
- Some energy drinks, protein bars and liqueur chocolates
*Source: Alcolizer Technology
“If you’re eating anything, many things, particularly if you still had some of the food in your mouth then you are going to get a false reading.”
The company which manufactures the breathalyser seen in the video, Alcolizer Technology, has produced a whitepaper about what can impact a breath test.
It said the technology used by police is more accurate but there are substances which can still create false positives.
WA Police have confirmed that the instrument used in the video is different to the one used by officers.
A WA police spokesman said the breath testers they use generate a message on the device indicating when an interferent is detected.
The driver is then placed under observation for 15 minutes without any food or drink before being re-tested.
Hot cross buns are ‘no excuse’
WA Police say drivers should not be concerned about eating hot cross buns and driving. (ABC News)
Sergeant Grant Rosman from Pilbara Traffic Police said there is very little reason for drivers to worry if they eat a hot cross bun before driving.
“We know that there are lots of things that can give us positive readings, but it’s the quality of our equipment, and the policies and procedures in place, that negate the effects of those other factors,” Sergeant Rosman said.
Despite the popularity of the video he said “I’ve just eaten a hot cross bun” is not an excuse for blowing over the limit.
Heather Jones from Heavy Haulage Girls wants truckies to be vigilant about what they consume before driving. (Supplied: Trasko Industrial Photographics)
“There are plenty of excuses we already hear, from ‘I’ve just had one mouthful’ through to ‘I’ve polished off the last of the Christmas liqueur chocolates’, but our processes and the testing we do eliminates all of those,” he said.
Heather Jones said she did not know why the reading was so high, but posted the video to warn other drivers.
“We did it to show that foods do contribute to alcohol readings and since then lots of people have shared their stories of foods that give them positive readings,” she said.
Ms Jones said her drivers tend to stay away from mouth washes, some toothpastes, juices, and some chocolate bars in case they impact their alcohol reading test.