Cachaça Production in Brazil and its Main Contaminant (Ethyl Carbamate)
Keywords:sugarcane, spirits, quality, beverage, public health
This review aims to demonstrate the possible formation of Ethyl carbamate (EC) in different production stages of cachaça. EC is a carcinogen confirmed in animal experiments and possibly carcinogenic to humans. EC incidence below relevant health limits naturally affects many fermented foods and beverages. Concentrations above 1 mg L–1 are often detected in certain spirits derived from cyanogenic plants. In Brazil, cachaça is widely consumed and therefore consumers are at health risk if they drink EC beverages at high concentrations, since the amount of EC in cachaça (sugar cane brandy) constantly exceeds the threshold 0.21 mg L–1, damaging the health of consumers and hindering exportation to North America and Europe. Many studies have reported on EC formation at different stages of the cachaça production process. Most studies refer to EC formation during fermentation and distillation. In fermentation, reaction occurs between ethanol and nitrogen precursors, such as urea (H2NCONH2) and cyanide (CN– ) to form EC. In distillation, cupric ions catalyze cyanide conversion from EC; however, in discontinuous distillation, the bottling fraction of cachaça reduced EC concentration. Although this review describes the possible routes of EC formation at different production stages of cachaça, it presents some studies on EC reduction in alcoholic beverages.