The risks of hidden alcohol in food

Most drivers in the UK are aware of the drink driving limits but are drivers fully aware of the hidden alcohol they could be consuming through food? By taking into account the alcohol in food, you could prevent yourself from committing a serious offence.

14 January 2021

group of friends sat around table

Why should I be concerned about hidden alcohol?

Drink driving in the UK remains a prominent issue with approximately 85,000 people convicted of drink driving related offences every year in England and Wales alone.

While people may be aware of how much alcohol they’ve consumed via drinks, there may also be hidden alcohol in your food which could put you over the limit, especially when consumed with alcoholic beverages.

What foods can put me over the drink driving limit?

An interesting study revealed a variety of different foods that contain hidden alcohol and how many servings it would take to cause drivers to be placed over the legal drink-drive limit.

Whilst it’s unlikely these foods would be consumed in such large quantities, the biggest danger for drivers is indulging in these foods alongside alcoholic drinks to exceed legal limit.

Examples of portions of food and drink that could place you over the limit are:

  • A whole tiramisu for 8-10 people
  • A whole cherry trifle
  • Five and a ½ servings of Christmas cake
  • One and a ½ bottles of hot sauce (containing alcohol such as Bourbon)
  • Four servings of peppercorn sauce (containing Brandy)
  • Nine portions of chicken marsala (containing Marsala wine)
  • 17 packets of alcohol infused cocktail olives
  • Two pints of a fermented orange juice
  • 850 alcohol-filled chocolates

To put this into perspective, if you choose to have a pint of beer alongside a meal where multiple ingredients and condiments contain hidden alcohol, finished with a slice of Christmas cake and alcohol-filled chocolates, this could result in an over the limit drink driving offence.

Many assume that the alcohol within food is burnt off in the cooking process, as evidenced by the impact it can have on your blood-alcohol level results, this isn’t always the case.

Another factor which is often overlooked is the effect of food on your alcohol absorption. The more foods you eat which are slower to digest, the slower your body can eliminate alcohol from your system. It’s also important to consider that there are many other components that affect alcohol absorption rate such as weight, age, gender and metabolism.

Why is this an issue in the UK?

The accumulation of units through alcohol and food consumption is particularly dangerous amongst young people, as 79% report they don’t know the legal drink drive limit, according to research by Red Driving School. A study by YouGov and in 2018 also revealed that almost 1 in 5 Brits think it’s acceptable to drink-drive as long as they feel unaffected. This could result in nearly 7 million drink-drivers on our roads.

What impact could hidden alcohol have on your life?

Regardless of whether you’re over the drink driving limit due to alcohol or food consumption, the penalties are the same. If charged you could face one of the following depending on your circumstances:

Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

  • three months’ imprisonment
  • up to £2,500 fine
  • 10 penalty points or a driving ban

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

  • six months’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a driving ban for at least one year (three years if convicted twice in 10 years)

Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis

  • six months’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a ban from driving for at least one year (three years if convicted twice in 10 years)

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink

  • five years’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a ban from driving for at least two years
  • an extended driving test before your licence is returned

What to do if you find yourself in this situation?

If you find yourself over the alcohol limit or think you might be, leave your vehicle behind and find other methods of transport to get yourself home safely.

If you’re charged with drink driving, speak to us to get expert legal representation from the outset. Our expert knowledge of drink driving offences enables us to assess the best strategy and represent your case in court with a view to successfully defend your offence or secure a reduced punishment.

Call us today on 0330 041 5869 for a free initial consultation or contact us online for support from our team of drink driving offence lawyers.

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