Asda hit the headlines last month after it was revealed staff members insisted shoppers prove they were over the age of 18 before they were allowed to sample their own-brand mince pies.
But just how boozy are the Christmas staple, and how many would it take to put you over the drink-drive limit?
I set out to find out. I didn’t have the Asda pies to hand, so for the purposes of the test, I actually used Tesco mince pies, sampling the Tesco Finest All Butter Pastry Deep Filled Mince Pies with Courvoisier VS Cognac.
The pack doesn’t specify an alcoholic content level, but the list of ingredients shows that 1.5 per cent of the mincemeat mix is made up of Cognac. I’m using an Alcosense Pro Breathalyser, which contains the same fuel cell sensor used in police breathalysers. You can change the setting of the Alcosense Pro to any drink-drive limit in the world. Different limits
Drink-drive limits in the UK vary and for the purposes of the test I’ve set the breathalyser to match the Scottish limit of 22 Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath – as it’s the lowest in the UK.
The limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 35 Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath. If your alcohol level is less than 0.09 Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath, the breathalyser classes you as having ‘low or zero’ alcohol.
Any more than that and it returns a reading and an estimate on how long until you are completely sober. I took a reading before starting the test as a starting point and registered less than 0.09, low or zero alcohol. The pies were eaten approximately 15 minutes apart, with about two to three minutes in between finishing each pie and the subsequent breath test.
Pie 1 This is great. I love mince pies. Reading: Less than 0.09 mg/l. Low or zero alcohol.
Pie 2 Feeling pretty festive. Getting some pretty jealous looks from colleagues on the features desk. Reading: Less than 0.09 mg/l. Low or zero alcohol.
Pie 3 I should have brought my toothbrush to work. Reading: Less than 0.09 mg/l. Low or zero alcohol.
Pie 4 I’m starting to feel ill now. It’s not even lunch time and I’m on to my fourth mince pie. Reading: Less than 0.09 mg/l. Low or zero alcohol.
Pie 5 I can’t eat another pie. I’ve resorted to taking the top off this one and eating the filling with a spoon. At last though, a change. Reading: 0.09 mg/l on the nose, estimate one hour and 50 minutes until I am completely sober.
Pie 6 Again, I’m tackling pie six with a spoon. My 19-year-old self would be disgusted at my lack of commitment, but I’m stopping here regardless. One full box of mince pies is enough for science. Reading: 0.13 mg/l of breath. I’m advised I’ll be completely sober in two hours and 39 minutes.
Conclusion Will eating a full box of supermarket mince pies send you over the drink drive limit? No, not even in Scotland. It took five pies before the breathalyser registered more than 0.09 mg/l, but by pie six it had jumped to 0.13 – so it’s definitely not an exact science, but by that measure two boxes could possibly see you on the wrong side of the law North of the border.
Within half an hour of pie six the reading had dropped back down to 0.09 mg/l on the nose and after another 30 minutes I was lower still. It does have some effect though, so If you’re planning to have one down the pub of a festive eve be careful that two or three mince pies on the side don’t nudge you over.
But if someone down the pub tells you they failed a police breathalyser test and all they had consumed was a few mince pies – they are either really, really full of pie, or full of something else.