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Wine Testing: Arsenic Analysis and a Classic Movie

Team TFS
Team TFS
arsenic analysis in wine“For a gallon of elderberry wine, I take a teaspoon full of arsenic then add half a teaspoon of strychnine and then just a pinch of cyanide,” says one of the adorable maiden aunts in the classic movie Arsenic and Old Lace (link to brilliant youtube clip) starring Cary Grant. You could be forgiven for thinking the recent news stories on trace element arsenic in wine came straight from this 1940s dark comedy but unfortunately it did not; this is an extremely serious food safety testing matter that has resulted in a lawsuit being filed.

I have blogged in recent months on the hot topic of arsenic in rice (link to most recent blog post), citing key opinion leaders research and therefore decided to look into what is currently available for arsenic analysis in wine and beverages.

Whilst my search took me further back in time than the movie--the irony of a 1905 article, titled, On the Occurrence of Arsenic Wines, (link to article) in the Journal of the American Chemical Society where the researchers test for arsenic in 100 California wines was not lost on me, I focused on our methods using ion chromatography and trace elemental analysis.

Last year a new application note was published using the latest ion chromatography innovation, high pressure capillary ion chromatography. This time and eluent saving method demonstrates total arsenic and other ions in fruit juices (link to downloadable pdf) but could similarly be used for wine analysis.

Alternative analysis methods for total arsenic and other metals is a direct technique with ICP-OES and similarly a great application note is now available which has adapted the EN 1134 method to remove the digestion step to save time and money, titled: Analysis of Elemental Contaminants in Beverages (link to downloadable pdf). For those of you that are interested in the speciation of arsenic to ensure the toxic species is separated and measured, the ideal solution could be this method which uses IC-ICP-MS speciation analysis of As (link to downloadable pdf) and compliments the methodology in this well-written journal article: Inorganic arsenic in rice-based products for infants and young children (link to open access journal article in Food Chemistry) by a research group at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queens University Belfast.


Additional Resources

Do check out our Food Community which is a wonderful resource that is totally dedicated to our Food and Beverage customers and features the latest on-demand webinars, videos, application notes, and more.


Is arsenic analysis, trace elements or ion chromatography of interest to your laboratory? If so, I would like to hear your thoughts and experiences.