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Determination of ethyl carbamate in stone fruit spirits, fruit marc spirits and other spirit drinks - A method validation study

Carmen Breitling-Utzmann , Kerstin Zietemann, Simone Goetz, Chemisches und Veterinäruntersuchungsamt (CVUA) Stuttgart


Ethyl carbamate (EC) is a toxic substance which can occur naturally in significant amounts in stone fruit spirits and other spirit drinks. Commission recommendation (EU) 2016/22 states that a target level of 1 mg L-1 EC should be achieved in stone fruit spirits and stone fruit marc spirits. In order to control this target level, a GC-MS method for the determination of EC in spirits was successfully validated in an interlaboratory study to finally become a European standard.


Ethyl carbamate (EC) is a compound that occurs naturally in fermented foods and beverages like e. g. yoghurt, wine and beer. The highest levels, however, with amounts up to 18 mg L-1, have been found in stone fruit spirits. Since ethyl carbamate can be formed by reaction of cyanide with ethanol, cyanogenic plants such as stone fruits are prone to develop high levels of ethyl carbamate during processing.

EC is classified as toxic by the EU and is regarded as probably carcinogenic to humans (classified in group 2A by the IARC). Therefore, the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that ethyl carbamate in alcoholic beverages indicates a health concern, particularly with respect to stone fruit brandies. EFSA recommended taking mitigation measures to reduce the levels of ethyl carbamate in these beverages.

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