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  5. Ethyl Carbamate
  1. Process Contaminants in Food

Ethyl Carbamate

Ethyl carbamate is a process contaminant that is sometimes found in fermented foods and alcoholic beverages. Ethyl carbamate (also called urethane) can form during the fermentation and storage of foods and beverages that naturally contain nitrogen-rich compounds such as urea, citrulline, and cyanate. Low levels of ethyl carbamate can be found in breads, soy sauce, beer, and wine. In the case of beer, wine, and bread, ethyl carbamate can form when there is a reaction between ethanol and nitrogen-rich compounds produced by yeast during brewing and fermenting. Higher levels of ethyl carbamate can occur in distilled alcoholic spirits, especially those made from sugar cane and stone fruits, due to the presence of ethyl carbamate precursors in the raw materials and the high temperatures used during distillation. Industry practices can reduce the levels of ethyl carbamate in finished products.

The FDA has worked with domestic manufacturers and other government agencies to set voluntary limits for ethyl carbamate in wines and distilled spirits and to share information on reducing ethyl carbamate exposure.

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