As you dig into your Christmas meal – enjoying your turkey with white wine gravy and booze-laden pudding slathered in brandy sauce – have you ever considered that you might be over the drink-drive limit? All the alcohol boils off when you cook food, right?
Well, as we found out, that certainly isn’t the case…
Last year, a CarTakeBack.com and YouGov survey revealed that almost 1 in 5 think it’s acceptable to drink-drive – as long as they feel unaffected. With 40 million driving licenses in Great Britain, that could be nearly 7 million drivers!
Many of us happily tuck into festive dishes without giving ‘drink-driving’ a second thought. So this year, we decided to conduct a study into whether alcoholic food can push you over the drink-drive limit.
We found a willing volunteer for our experiment in Jo (funnily enough, there were quite a few hands-up for this one!).
Here’s her recollection of events, as she tested whether you can unknowingly drink-drive as a result of alcoholic food:
According to my breathalyser, when I have one standard glass of wine on its own, I’m under the drink-drive limit with a reading of 0.15mg/L.
But we wanted to see if I can ‘eat myself’ OVER the limit with this 3-course meal, consisting of supermarket bought food:
(Please note: These were the products eaten for the experiment, but other branded alcoholic food would most likely have the same effect)
Armed with a breathalyser, I tucked into the whole meal to see if I would ‘eat myself’ over the UK drink-drive limit. (That’s 0.35mg/L).
Here’s what happened:
Even after the starter and main course I registered on the breathalyser. I wasn’t over the limit yet at this point, but I was on my way there.
After I hacked into a portion of Christmas pudding and brandy sauce, the reading changed to 0.25mg/L. Considering I’m at 0.15mg/L when I have one standard drink, I’d push myself OVER the drink-drive limit with this food.
‘There’s no alcohol in food, it all burns off when you cook it’
Myth busted! Our experiment has proved that’s certainly not the case.
In many recipes – and supermarket bought food – it’s proven that a lot of alcohol can remain, even after cooking.
The US Department of Agriculture/Food and Nutrition Service researched the percentage of alcohol remaining after a number of cooking methods. Their conclusion was as follows: ‘The assumption that all alcohol is evaporated when heat is applied is not valid. Six alcohol-containing recipes in this study retained from 4% to 85% of the alcohol”.
When cooking booze-filled food, the alcohol content may decrease, but this realistic CarTakeBack study clearly shows there is still alcohol in the foods we may all be enjoying over Christmas. Not only that, but this amount could actually put you OVER the UK legal driving limit when you have an accompanying alcoholic beverage with your meal.
Rebecca Ashton, IAM RoadSmart Head of Driver Behaviour, said:
“When enjoying a Christmas lunch, remember the alcohol content within your delicious meal. The brandy within that slice of Christmas cake along with everything else could just put you over the limit. Food containing alcohol needs to be carefully considered if you are planning to get behind the wheel. Ultimately, there is no safe level of alcohol in the blood if you intend to drive. The simplest message is none for the road. Plan your night out so you can enjoy yourself and not have any stress about the journey home by pre-booking a taxi. If you have consumed a large amount of alcohol remember you could still be over the limit in the morning so arrange your day carefully.”
Rebecca Currier, spokesperson for CarTakeBack.com, said:
“Following our shock survey that found 1 in 5 think it’s OK to drink-drive if they feel unaffected, we wanted to raise awareness about unknowingly drink-driving this Christmas. Most people think all the alcohol is burned off during cooking, but we found that’s clearly not the case. Stay safe over the festive period and pay attention to what you’re eating and drinking before you get behind the wheel.”
Be careful this Christmas period before you get behind the wheel. Driving over the limit in the UK can potentially gain you a huge fine, 3 months in prison, and a possible driving ban – and that’s not even the worst-case scenario. If there could be any alcohol in your system, the safest option is to leave your vehicle behind.