A Novel Way to Detect Beer Consumption

A new technique, developed as part of a PhD thesis, may allow toxicologists  and law enforcement the ability to detect whether a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading is because of beer or some other beverage.

Dr Luke Rodda, who has been working at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) since 2006, developed the technique as part of his PhD thesis on “Alcohol Congener Analysis in a Forensic Context”.

One paper to come out of the thesis developed a technique to detect ‘iso-α-acids’ (‘IAAs’) in in blood samples to compare with BAC readings. IAAs are the bitter by-product of adding hops to sugars as part of the beer-making process, and their presence in specimens is a key marker of beer consumption.

The technique has recently been used successfully to detect beer consumption in live volunteers, as well as postmortem specimens at VIFM, with the hope of becoming a standard forensic tool.

As was noted in a recent media release by VIFM, the technique may prove useful in curbing against the so-called ‘hip flask defence’  where drunk drivers who flee the scene of an accident claim that any BAC reading taken at their home was because of a recent swig whiskey or other alcohol.

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