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Auto-brewing man acquitted in drink driving case

A Belgian man with a rare metabolic condition that means his body produces its own alcohol has been acquitted of a drink driving charge.

The unnamed man, who also happened to work at a brewery, was acquitted by a court in Brudge after he was pulled over by police in April 2022 and then May 2022 for suspected drink driving. Breathalyser tests found him to be over the alcohol limit, though on the first instance he claimed that he had only had two beers the previous day.

He had also previously been convicted of drink driving in 2019.

Examination from three doctors confirmed that he had a condition which meant that his body produces its own alcohol, creating symptoms of drunkenness, like the loss of motor functions and slurred speech.

Known as auto-brewery syndrome (ABS) or gut fermentation syndrome (GFS), the condition results in increased blood alcohol content, even if no alcohol has been consumed. Some scientists suggests that it is the result of an imbalance of gut microbes that leads to ingested carbohydrates being fermented into alcohol – it may also be linked to other health conditions, with there reportedly being more cases among individuals with conditions such as diabetes and Crohn’s disease.

The man’s lawyer suggested that it was an “unfortunate coincidence” that he happens to work in a brewery.

While he has not been banned from driving, as the case was ruled as a force majeure, the man has been instructed to take measures when driving, such as avoiding carb-heavy foods before getting behind the wheel, or installing an alcolock, which means that the car can only be started if a breathalyser test is passed.

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