KUALA LUMPUR, 19 May 2019:
An unnamed man was pulled over by police in Rudong County in the eastern Jiangsu province of China on April 17 for suspected drunk driving. Upon being pulled over, the man protested his innocence by claiming that he had just eaten durian.
Durian, also known as the king of fruits, can be widely found in the Southeast Asian country of Malaysia. Durian is infamous among westerners for its strong smell but according to Malaysians, once you get hold of the taste, it’s hard to resist more and more of it.
The fruit has become a craze in China leading to an import deal with Malaysia a couple of years back.
The man who was pulled over, although he’s provided a skeptical excuse, was nonetheless adamant about his claim. This led to the officer, Yu Pengxiang, to proceed with a blood test to see if there was any connection between durian and breathalyser test.
To his surprise, the unnamed driver’s blood test proved his innocence, despite having tested over China’s strict 0.02% (20 mg per 100ml) blood alcohol limit (for comparison, in the US, for over-21s it’s 0.08%) on the breathalyser.
This of course left the officer puzzled and intrigued, which then led him carry out the test himself – fortunately, on camera – to see if eating durian fruit really does raise your blood alcohol level. As expected, he tested positive with a reading of 0.36!.
So, what’s going on? Does eating durian cause you to be drunk?
No. As it turns out, there are a lot of things that we regularly consume that can lead to the false positive reading on a breathalyser test.
These are items that contain trace alcohol amounts, including hot cross buns and white bread (thanks to the fermenting yeast), pecans, macadamias, ripe fruit, protein bars, mouth wash, and cough syrup.
In this case, the methyl group from the compound ethyl (2S)-2-methylbutanoate, is the likely culprit that landed this man in hot water.
However, don’t be hopeful that you could use this excuse anytime soon because this would only make blood test part of the screening process.