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Can Non-Alcoholic Substances Affect Breath Tests?

Jan. 7, 2020

Officers may use breath tests when dealing with suspected DUI drivers. Breath tests are often a decent indication of someone’s intoxication levels. But it is not a perfect device and it can make mistakes. Today we will look at non-alcoholic items that can trigger false breath test results.

WebMD breaks down categories of things that can affect breath tests. This includes beverages, food, medication and inedible product. Foods with fermentation and high sugar levels can trigger false positives. This includes white bread, honey buns, and ripe fruit. Similar drinks can also have the same effect. Kombucha and energy drinks are popular examples. Being fermented, kombucha has trace amounts of alcohol. It is not enough to get a person drunk and grocery stores do not card for it. Still, breath tests are sensitive enough to pick up on these traces. Energy drinks often have high sugar levels or methyl compounds despite lacking alcohol.

Medication includes cold and cough syrups. Throat lozenges can also contain enough alcohol to trigger a positive. These medications do not contain much alcohol. However, even tiny amounts can manifest in a breath test after extended or recent use.

Finally there are inedible products. This includes sugar-free gum, mouthwash, or aftershave. Even cosmetics may sometimes trigger a positive breath test result. These devices are sensitive and do not differentiate between types of alcohol. They will pick up on any trace of methyl. Sometimes an officer is not aware of that and they do not perform a second test. This can lead to them relying on false results, which is harmful to everyone.