Too much sun and light can introduce carcinogens into America’s favorite beverage, so GC
technology must step up to ensure safety and health.
with GC Keeps
» by Andrew James, Marketing Director, Ellutia
Gas chromatography (GC) is a core technique for separating and analyzing compounds, and is commonly used by sci- entists and laboratory managers across multiple industries. The principle of GC was first conceived in 1941 by A.J.P
Martin and RLM Synge. The process involves adsorption of gases
and low boiling hydrocarbons. In industrial processes, chromatography is used to purify chemicals, test for trace amounts of
substances, separate chiral compounds and test products for quality control.
In beer analysis and brewing, alcoholic beverages are uniquely
characterized by complex mixes of compounds, thus creating the
individual aromas and flavors that consumers enjoy. While most
added compounds augment the desired aroma and flavor aspects
of a beverage, trace components can contribute off-flavors and
Therefore, gas chromatography is a powerful tool in the analysis of alcoholic beverage products. Typically, minimal sample
preparation is required, since the samples are in the liquid state in
an alcohol or alcohol/water matrix. The flavor compounds have
a tendency to be volatile in nature, which fulfils one of the main
requirements of GC. Additionally, the ability to automate the
analysis makes GC a very practical tool in quality control.
GC is used widely in the brewing industry, particularly since
the craft brewing sector has been experiencing significant growth
thanks to soaring consumer demand around the world. There is a
particular focus on higher quality products in Western Europe.
Ethyl carbamate testing
Ethyl carbamate (Urethane C2H5OCONH2) is a naturally
occurring ester that is common in many fermented foods and
alcoholic beverages as it can be generated during the fermenta-tion/distillation process. Ethyl carbamate has been detected in
various alcoholic beverages that have been fermented, as well as
other products including bread, yogurt, cheese, soy sauce and
vinegar. The ester can be formed from various substances derived
from food and beverages, including hydrogen cyanide, urea,
citrulline, and other N-carbamyl compounds. Primary produc-
tion of ethyl carbamate arises when cyanate reacts with ethanol to
form the carbamate ester.
Ethyl carbamate has been shown to cause cancer when injected
into animals and is considered to be probably carcinogenic in man.
This resulted in the compound being re-classified in 2007 as a
Group 2A genotoxic carcinogen by the IARC (International Agency
for Research on Cancer), and it is now regulated in many countries.
Levels found within food are thought to have comparably little
effect of increasing chances of developing cancer, although, when
partnered with distilled alcoholic beverage consumption, the
risk is predicted to significantly increase. There are currently no
standardized limits for maximum levels of ethyl carbamate in the
European Union (EU). Recommended maximum levels in other
countries for ethyl carbamate in alcoholic beverages are contained
in Table 1. EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) noted that
these levels need to be monitored and reduced by manufacturers.
They also suggest steps to minimize formation of ethyl carbamate, such as minimizing exposure to heat and light and limiting
storage time of the finished product.
Country Wine Fortified
U.S. 15 60
Canada 30 100 150 200 400
CzechRepublic 30 100* 150 200 400
France 150 1000
A variety of alcoholic beverages within the UK were analyzed
for the presence of ethyl carbamate using an Ellutia 200 series GC
interfaced to an 800 series TEA working in nitrogen detection mode.
Nitrogen mode utilizes the catalytic pyrolyzer tube, oxygen reactor
and higher temperatures to detect nitrogen compounds. The results
for the analyzed alcoholic beverages are shown in Table 2.
Table 1: Maximum permissible levels for ethyl carbamate in alcoholic