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Heavy metals in wine could pose health risk

Heavy metals in wine could pose potential health problems to regular drinkers, claims a scientific report published today.

The report, which appeared in the online journal Chemistry Central, claims that a daily 250ml glass of red wine could expose wine drinkers to hazardous levels of metal ions linked to Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

According to the study, wines from Portugal, Hungary, France and Austria are among those to have dangerous levels of metal ions. Argentinian, Brazilian and Italian wines registered very small levels of the so-called ‘heavy metals’.

Using a formula developed in the US to estimate health risks, boffins at Kingston University in London analysed the wines against a Target Health Quotient (THQ). A THQ of one is considered safe. Looking at a range of elements including vanadium, manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, nickel and lead, the researchers found that THQ levels in red wine were around 110.

Professor Declan Naughton, co-author of the report, called for consumers to be made aware of the risks.

‘Levels of metal ions should appear on wine labels,’ he said, ‘along with the introduction of further steps to remove key hazardous metal ions during wine production.’

Naughton, who told decanter.com he still enjoyed drinking red wine, stressed he was calling for a ‘regulatory push’ – not an end to wine drinking.

He said he could only speculate as to how metal ions get into wine, but that soil types, vineyard sprays and yeasts were the likely culprits. The study added that ‘processing and packaging may add to the metal’.

Although it contains some of the highest levels of metal ions, wine is not alone is posing a risk. Apple juice and stout was also found to have a THQ above one.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has tried to reassure consumers, saying it has yet to review the findings in full. A spokesperson for the FSA said the scientists’ methods were ‘not widely used in Europe’.

Written by Emmanuel Kenning and Oliver Styles

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