Urine Test Concerns: EtG, the Little Enzyme That Couldn't

We’ve previously blogged about the serious problems that arise when the government tries to enforce its DWI laws with urine testing. Despite these known problems, Minnesota continues to use discredited urine tests. Now, they are starting to take things one step further - using a new, error-prone method of analyzing urine samples to “prove” that someone recently consumed alcohol.

The science behind this post is a little complicated, but the results are easy to explain: scientists are claiming that they can test a urine sample for the presence of ethyl glucuronide (EtG), which is basically a “byproduct” of alcohol consumption - a byproduct that can be detected days after someone consumed any alcohol.

Probation officers and prosecutors alike love this new type of urine test- most people on probation are specifically ordered to abstain from alcohol, and any consumed alcohol has usually left the system before someone can be brought in for a random urinalysis test. With these new tests for EtG, the government can find out if someone drank alcohol three days ago, instead of only three hours ago.

Sounds fair, right? WRONG. We’ve noticed more and more EtG tests being used and spent a great deal of time studying the science behind the testing. We have discovered just how unreliable these tests are. If someone “fails” a test for EtG, it may mean that they consumed alcohol sometime in the previous few days . . . but it can also mean that they used a common hand-sanitizer sometime in the previous few days. Non-alcoholic beer and mouthwash can cause false positive results. So can consuming bananas. Even sauerkraut can generate EtG in a urine sample.

The message is clear: if you’re prohibited from consuming alcohol as a condition of probation, be sure to avoid sauerkraut and bananas. The State has a new test they may ask you to perform, and your craving for fruit and cabbage may end up putting you behind bars.

While a negative Etg test is conclusive proof that a person did not recently consume alcohol, it does not follow that a positive is conclusive proof that a person did recently consume alcohol.

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