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Ethyl carbamate

Organic compound (also carbamic acid ethyl ester, ethylurethane) as ester of carbamic acid. It is found in fermented foods and in alcoholic beverages. These are for example beer, bread, yoghurt, soy sauce, wine and above all spirits (especially in raw brandies). A number of precursor substances in foods and beverages, such as hydrogen cyanide, ethanol and urea, can lead to the formation of ethyl carbamate during food processing and storage. The substance is formed during fermentation of wine and distillation of spirits. The formation is initiated by the influence of light on the distillate. However, the main amount is only formed by reactive processes during storage. The substance has mutagenic and carcinogenic properties. Exact limit values, above which there is no risk, or a guideline value or limit value on a European level does not yet exist.

A content above 0.4 mg/l (technical guideline) is considered technically avoidable during production; from 0.8 mg/l, measures such as repeated firing must be taken. The highest values of 10 mg/l are found in stone fruit spirits (cherry, plum etc.), as their stones contain prussic acid. For wine this is 0.01 mg/l, for bread 0.003 mg/kg, for beer 0.001 mg/l and for dairy products 0.0001 mg/kg. The daily consumption of 20 cl of a contaminated stone fruit brandy increases the risk by a factor of 10,000, of 500 ml wine by a factor of 5. As a preventive measure in the distillation of spirits, the stones must not be broken during mashing. Other measures include avoiding the influence of light, using only healthy fruit if possible, using pure yeast, fermentation not below 10 °Celsius and not above 25 °Celsius, and bottling in dark-coloured bottles. See also under carbamates and a list of toxic substances under ADI.

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