Cited for DUI at four times the legal limit — but he hadn't drunk a drop

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How many glasses of beer need one driver consume before he can be accused of being legally drunk?

In Belgium, none … if he’s suffering from auto-brewery syndrome.

It’s an odd case, though in actuality ABS as it’s known is not particularly rare, and it’s worth explaining, as it was recently in The New York Times.

As told, the brewery worker in Belgium — who asked not to be identified — was stopped by authorities who suspected that he was driving under the influence. Police administered a breathalyzer test, which found that his blood alcohol level was more than four times the legal limit.

The reason was not that he’d been quaffing brew, it was later found out in court, but that his body was making its own.

The disorder occurs, the Times noted, when a person with the so-called “auto-brewery” syndrome ingests carbohydrates, and then the fungi in his or her gastrointestinal tract converts it into ethanol. (The story does not say, but presumably the fungi it references is yeast he was exposed to in his brewery work.)

The process begets all the normal effects of inebriation — lack of coordination, memory loss, aggressive behavior — without the alcohol consumption, the story said.

“I think he was somehow relieved that he finally knew what was up,” said the man’s lawyer. The most recent incident marked the third time he’d been cited for DUI; subsequent tests by three doctors confirmed that he had the condition and validated his claim in court. He was acquitted.

The attorney said that her client is now following a strict diet and receiving medical treatment.

Apparently the condition can, in some instances, provoke very serious concerns. One woman, who was pulled over in New York and breathalyzed after having a flat tire, measured 0.40, a level that is considered to be potentially fatal. The Times reported that only a few dozen people across the world have been formally diagnosed with the condition, but that recent studies suggest that the condition is probably overlooked in others.

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