New research has found that 59% of tested French wines contain at least one form of phthalate, most likely as a result of plastics used in wineries.
Phthalates are toxic compounds that are prevalent in plastics and household products, and research has suggested that certain types are capable of disrupting human hormones, as well as being linked to conditions such as obesity and allergies. There are limits to how much is allowed to be present in human food, and some phthalates, such as Di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP), are banned by many regulatory agencies from any contact with food.
The new study, conducted by Laboratoire Excell, in France and published in Food Additives and Contaminants: Part A looked at the concentration of three phthalates in French wine and spirits, and found that 59% of wines contained significant quantities of one particular type, dibutyl phthalate.
And only 17% of wines did not contain any detectable quantity of at least one of the reprotoxic phthalates, which are phthalates that have an affect on the human reproductive system.
Worryingly, the researchers also found that 11% of the wines analysed had higher phthalate content than the European Union allows for materials in contact with food.
The grape-based spirits tested didn't do much better, with two types of phthalates being detected in 90% of samples. And 25% of the spirits tested contained DiBP, which is not permitted in contact with food at all.
So where are these chemicals coming from? "A study of various materials frequently present in wineries revealed that a relatively large number of polymers sometimes contained high concentrations of phthalates," the authors wrote in the paper.
But the main source of contamination, they concluded, was epoxy resin coatings used on vats.
Hopefully the research will result in stricter guidelines for winemakers, so people can enjoy a glass of wine without having to worry too much about the hormone-altering chemicals that might have contaminated it.