Determination of ethyl carbamate concentrations in South African wine and factors affecting these concentrations

Project Number
WW 08-20

Project title
Determination of ethyl carbamate concentrations in South African wine and factors affecting these concentrations

Project leader
Minnaar, P P

Team members
Zietsman, A
Viljoen, M
Van Vuuren, H

Project description
Ethyl carbamate is a potential human carcinogen and appears naturally in most fermented beverages and foods. It is primarily formed by precursors generated by microbial action. In wines, it has been determined that urea reacting with ethanol is the major cause of ethyl carbamate formation.

The concern about ethyl carbamate has led the Canadian government to impose regulatory limits on the amount of ethyl carbamate allowed in table wines (30 parts per billion (ppb)), fortified wines (100 ppb), distilled spirits (150 ppb) and fruit brandies (400 ppb). In response to the Canadian actions, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established a voluntary target for ethyl carbamate of 15 ppb or less in table wines and less than 60 ppb in fortified wines. Additionally, the FDA has notified all countries exporting wines to the United States that they must develop programs to meet these targeted levels established by the American wine industry. These voluntary limits may become law, which may pose a serious threat to South African wine exports as a large percentage of South African wines contain in the region of 15 ppb ethyl carbamate. Not only will high ethyl carbamate levels jeopardise wine exports, but it will also seriously harm the product’s image on the local market.

Thus the aim of this project is to determine the general ethyl carbamate status in local wines, identify problem areas and devise economically sound solutions to the problem.

Article
Zietsman, A J J, Viljoen, M, Van Vuuren, H J J. 2000. Preventing ethyl carbamate formation in wine, WineLand, Mnth Dec (137) (p. 83-85)

Waldner, M, Augustyn, O P H. 2005. Ethyl carbamate in South African wine, WineLand, Mnth Nov (195) (p. 98-101)

Note
Confidential Final Report

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