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What proof is in your Christmas pudding? Is caring under the influence possible?

Daniel G Brieger, Amaleena B Amir, Gratian J Punch, Christopher S H Lim and James Toh
Med J Aust 2014; 201 (11): 702-704. || doi: 10.5694/mja14.01478

Summary

Objectives: To determine the ethanol concentration of commonly available Christmas puddings, and to extrapolate the blood alcohol content (BAC) of typical health care professionals after Christmas lunch at the hospital.

Design and setting: We conducted fractional distillation of Christmas puddings and analysed the distillate for ethanol content. We then applied standard pharmacological and physiological assumptions to assess predicted BAC in typical male and female health care professionals at our hospital.

Main outcome measures: Ethanol concentration of each pudding; estimated BAC of health care professionals after ingestion and at the end of a 30-minute lunch break.

Results: The concentration of ethanol in common Christmas puddings ranged from 0.260 to 1.685 g per 125 mg slice. The concentration of ethanol per pudding was not greater than the stipulated specifications on the packaging, where shown. After pudding ingestion, the theoretical BAC of a typical 70 kg male and 60 kg female health care professional ranged from 0.001 to 0.004 g/dL and from 0.001 to 0.006 g/dL, respectively. Neither male nor female staff had a predicted BAC > 0.000 g/dL by the end of the lunch break.

Conclusion: Christmas puddings contain ethanol that does not all evaporate during the cooking process. However, the rise in BAC after ingestion of a typical slice of Christmas pudding was negligible and unlikely to affect work performance or safety or impair a health care worker's ability to make complex decisions.

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  • Daniel G Brieger1
  • Amaleena B Amir1
  • Gratian J Punch2
  • Christopher S H Lim2
  • James Toh2

  • 1 School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Department of General Surgery, Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, NSW.

Correspondence: gratian.punch@gmail.com

Acknowledgements: 

We acknowledge Chris Mylecharane, Shane Griffin and Kumudu Perera from the School of Science and Health, University of Western Sydney, for assisting with analytical chemistry.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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