Issue Date: June 20, 2016
Canada declares chemical in wine a cancer risk
Ethyl carbamate, which forms when urea reacts with ethanol in wine, poses a risk of carcinogenicity, an assessment by Canadian regulatory agencies concludes. The best way to minimize the formation of ethyl carbamate, also known as urethane, in fermented beverages is to decrease the amount of urea in them, the agencies say. The Canadian government has amended the country’s Food & Drugs Act to allow the enzyme urease in the production of wine, including sake, for that purpose. Drinking wine is thought to be the primary source of exposure to ethyl carbamate. Environmental releases of the chemical are expected to be low and environmental exposures are considered negligible because of the small amount of ethyl carbamate in commerce and its limited uses, Canada’s environmental agency says. “Ethyl carbamate has low toxicity to aquatic organisms; however, some genetic and biochemical effects have been observed in worms and frogs,” it adds.
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