Friday, December 4, 2009

Alcohol in energy drinks can affect breath alcohol testing

Potential effect of alcohol content in energy drinks on breath alcohol testing.

Since the advent of energy drinks in the U.S. marketplace, some defendants have claimed that positive breath alcohol test results have occurred due to the ingestion of non-alcoholic energy drinks.

A variety of energy drinks were tested by gas chromatography and some 88.9% (24 of 27) were found to contain low concentrations of ethanol (5-230 mg/dL).

Drinks were then consumed (24.6-32 oz) by volunteers to determine the extent of reaction that could be achieved on a portable breath-testing instrument. Eleven of 27 (40.7%) beverages gave positive results on a portable breath-testing instrument (0.006-0.015 g/210 L) when samples were taken within 1 min of the end of drinking.

All tests taken by portable breath test, DataMaster, and Intoximters Inc. EC/IR II at least 15 minutes after the end of drinking resulted in alcohol-free readings (0.000 g/210 L).

Affording subjects a minimum 15-minutes observation period prior to breath-alcohol testing (may) eliminate the possibility that a small false-positive alcohol reading will be obtained.


Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, State Public Health Laboratory, Breath Alcohol Program, 2875 James Blvd., Poplar Bluff, Missouri 63901, USA.

Resources: Lutmer B, Zurfluh C, Long C.