A former American Airlines flight attendant says that a popular Keto diet is to blame for his “unfair” termination after he was unable to pass a breathalyzer test.
Andre Riley maintains his innocence, claiming that he “wasn’t drinking” but that a change in diet was responsible for the allegedly false negative. He had been with the airline since 2012 and was fired last year after the test was administered following a Las Vegas-to-Charlotte flight.
“I don’t want to be punished and take consequences for something that I didn’t do. That’s like admitting to a crime or going to jail even though I didn’t do it,” he said in an interview with Fox 13.
He is fighting the Department of Transportation and American Airlines, demanding his job back, but it may take a whole lot of time and effort.
“Once they forward it to the Department of Transportation you’re basically banned from being a flight attendant,” he said.
He claims the diet change is to blame for blowing a .05, and the science appears to be on his side as the diet reportedly changes the way food is broken down within the body and can alter test results.
“With acetone and it will get released as isopropyl alcohol and some devices aren’t able to differentiate between isopropyl and ethanol,” says Dr. Ryan Lowery with Ketogenics.com.
Lawyer Chris Adkins believes that the airline’s two-strike policy (which allows for one failed test before termination) may need to be revisited as new trends such as the keto diet emerge.
“The policies need to be revisited as things like the Keto diet come out which may lead to people having false-positive test results,” he stated.
Unfortunately, his record doesn’t necessarily support his side of the story.
In 2013, he failed his first breathalyzer in an incident that was determined to have been alcohol-related. Perhaps it is because of this that the airline is having a hard time believing him.
“I’m embarrassed but I’m also encouraged. I don’t know if someone else may be going through the Jared Disease Autobureau Syndrome,” he said. “Maybe they don’t have the means to fight or the drive to, but it’s my duty to put this out here and get results.”
Riley is also calling for a newer, more accurate test.
“I want them to use a more accurate test if someone is giving you a reason why this could possibly happen,” he advocated.
Given that the keto diet has become extremely popular, it’s entirely possible that employers are going to need to shift to a different way of determining intoxication levels.
According to Men’s Health, false-positives stemming from the diet – as well as certain medical conditions – are more common than you’d think.
From the article:
Here’s how that can happen: In ketosis, your liver breaks down fat for fuel, creating acetone as a byproduct. Some of that acetone is then released through your breath as isopropyl alcohol. The question is, can breathalyzers tell the difference between ethanol alcohol and isopropyl alcohol? It depends.
The inexpensive models that people buy for self-checking their BAC are probably not accurate if they’re on the keto diet, says Alan Wayne Jones, PhD, a professor in forensic technology at Sweden’s Linköping University. These devices rely on semiconductor technology. Inside the device there’s a metal film that measures the change in resistance depending on the number of molecules that hit that film, explains Keith Nothacker, the CEO of BACtrack, a California-based breathalyzer manufacturer.
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