Black Fly pairs breathalyzers with beverages to curb drunk driving

The London company has become the first Canadian spirits company to attach a single-use breathalyzer device to packages of their mixed drinks.

With the May 2-4 weekend approaching, London-based Black Fly Beverage Co. is taking a bold step to curb drunk driving.

The London company has become the first Canadian spirits company to attach a single-use breathalyzer device to packages of their mixed drinks.

Black Fly co-founder Cathy Siskind-Kelly said it is a move toward social responsibility for the products the company produces.

“It opens an important discussion. Sometimes it takes very little consumption to be close to the legal limit,” she said.

The breathalyzer is called an Alcograd and was developed by a Quebec company.

It has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and endorsed by MADD Canada.

The consumer blows into the small tube-like device and their blood alcohol level is measured by the crystals inside in gradients of colour. A purple colour indicates a level of 0.8 that will result in an impaired driving charge in Ontario.

The device does not measure beyond the 0.8 legal limit so it can not be misused for binge drinking contests.

Siskind said about 30 million of the Alcograds have been sold and they are widely used by corporations and government agencies.

“They are a good way to convince a friend not to drive. People often claim they are fine to drive but this is a way to check,” said Siskind-Kelly.

The Alcograds sell for about $4 each but Siskind Black Fly paid a significantly lower price because of bulk buying.

MADD Canada says crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs are still a leading criminal cause of death in Canada. On average, about four people are killed each day in crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs.

Dawn Regan of MADD Canada cautions that the Alcograds are not a substitute for the police breathalyser but they can be a useful personal guide.

“ It gives people a sense about their level of intoxication that they may not realize.”

She said Black Fly is being socially responsible by putting a focus on the issue of drinking and driving.

“ They are giving an educational tool to people that will get them thinking about it,” she said.

Due to LCBO rules on promotions, the Alcograds will only be attached to specific Black Fly products in Ontario including Mixed Berry and Crushed Orange Vodka, and new Lemon Lime Vodka Soda Fizz and Grapefruit Gin Soda Fizz.

Siskind-Kelly said in some other Canadian provinces, and in the U.S. where the rules are less restrictive, the Alcograds will be included with a wider variety of Black Fly products.

The Alcograds are now available on Black Fly products and the promotion will run about a month.

The company may repeat the promotion in the future.

Black Fly was founded in 2005 by Siskind-Kelly and her husband Rob Kelly. It has about 35 employees producing 22 varieties of coolers and mixed drinks from a plant on Sovereign Road.

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