More than 600 wines found to contain lead

August 02, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

More than 600 domestic and imported wines tested by federal officials were found to contain lead, some at potentially dangerous levels for high-risk individuals, according to a report released by the U. S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The report pointed to lead foil capsules -- or the closures -- that cover table wine corks as a chief cause of the toxic metal found by the researchers. "Significant lead contamination can result [in wine] from contact with the corrosion products of the lead capsule," the bureau stated in its report.

The findings prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to announce Wednesday that it would soon propose a ban on all lead foil wine capsules.

Currently, the federal government has not defined what, if anything, constitutes a safe level of lead in food or beverages. However, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency permits only 15 parts per billion of lead in drinking water. The BATF study said that the lead levels ranged from zero to 1,980 parts per billion in the wines tested.

An FDA spokesman said that the agency, in addition to seeking a ban on the lead foil capsules, will establish a tolerance for lead in both wine and food.

"Lead is a toxic substance and there is no known benefit to man from lead and no known level that is deemed safe," said FDA's Chris Lecos in Washington.

Lecos said that the lead levels found in wine do not pose a short-term hazard to consumers. However, the potential health threat is a concern for pregnant women and possibly women in their child-bearing years, he said.

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