The Mystery of the Drunk-Driving Litchi


Internet rumours never cease to gain viral attention but none as strange as eating litchi leading to the risk of being misjudged as a drunk driver, which has attracted the dilligence of motorists as the revelation has spread quickly among the driving community.

The question remains, can eating litchi really cause a driv- er to fail a breathalyzer exam? Shockingly, this seems to be true! However, there’s no need to panic, as the alcohol concentration increases in such a short time after eating the fruits, you can ask to wait 5-10 minutes for a second test and the results should differ.

Definitions of Drunk Driving

In order to better understand the parameters of driving under the influence in the Peoples Republic of China it’s important to examine the legislation, according to the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Road Traffic Safety (Revised in 2011), in which Article 91 stipulates that, “Whoever drives a vehicle after drinking may be temporarily deprived of the vehicle driving license for a period of six months and imposed on a fine of between ¥1,000 and ¥2,000.

According to Threshold and Test of Blood and Exhalation Alcohol Content in Vehicle Drivers (GB/T 19522-2010), drivers whose blood alcohol content is over or equal to 20 mg/100ml and less than 80 mg/100ml shall be deemed as driving after drinking, while drivers whose blood alcohol content is equal to or over 80 mg/100ml shall be deemed as driving in drunken state.

Media Experiments with Litchi

Fort the Wuhan Evening News, three subjects ate three litchis very quickly, and then they were immediately tested via a breathalyzer. The results showed that the alcohol content of the three subjects reached 89.7mg/100ml, 100.5mg/100ml and 84.4mg/100ml respectively. However, 5 minutes later, only one of the three subjects had an alcohol concentration of over 6.1 mg/100ml, while the other two showed alcohol concentration lower than 5 mg/100ml.

For the Legal Evening News, the alcohol concentration of the subjects was again measured by a breathalyzer after the consumption of fresh litchi; the subject had an alcohol test results of 18.4mg/100ml but the scent of alcohol was not particularly strong from the participant. However, in cases where two or three litchis which are left to ripen for three days and then consumed before such tests, the scent of alcohol becomes obvious.

Cause & Counsel

Nutritionists have explained that fruits such as litchi and grapes which contain a high sugar content and are wrapped with peel outside the sharp decrease of photosynthesis soon after they are picked from the trees leads to the cells inside the fruit to become hypoxic and begin to increase the rate of anaerobic respiration, resulting in ethanol, commonly known as alcohol.

Additionally, as fruit is picked and stacked and as time goes on, it is easier for it to produce ethanol. Litchi wine is also brewed using this method. iIn addition, fruit rots and ferments, producing ethanol. Alert readers will find that after a long time, Litchi peel cracks and deteriorates gradually, emitting the odour of alcohol.

Traffic police usually take the alcohol content in the driver’s breath as the initial judgment criterion when deciding if there’s the need to conduct a blood alcohol test. After eating Litchi, the way to deal with this scenario is to request a second breathalyzer test 5-10 minutes later. If the alcohol concentration has dropped below 20mg/100ml at this time, the driver will be released.

Therefore, it would pay to explain the situation clearly to the traffic police and then conduct a second test. For eating fruits hardly deserves to be confused with drunk driving.

This article is intended solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Although the information in this article was obtained from reliable official sources, no guarantee is made with regard to its accuracy and completeness. For more information please visit or WeChat: dandreapartners

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Legal columnist Carlo D’Andrea is Chair of the Legal & Competition Working group of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China; Shanghai Chapter, Coordinator of the Nanjing Working Group of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China and has taught Chinese law (commercial and contractual) at Rome 3 University. 法律作家代开乐担任中国欧盟商会上海分会法律与竞争工作组主席,中国意大利商会劳动集团的协调员与曾经在罗马三大担任企业咨询课程中中国商法、合同法的课程教授。