Measurement results, alcoholic beverages and mulled wine


Biohit has measured the concentrations of carcinogenic acetaldehyde in foodstuff and alcoholic beverages. Acetaldehyde is a naturally occurring group-1 carcinogen with apple scent. It is widely used in foodstuff, and industry produces hundreds of thousands of tons it annually. Acetaldehyde is especially abundant in food prepared with a fermentation process such as alcohol beverages, vinegar and dairy products.


Measurements were analyzed by a gas chromatography method that is validated by Biohit. 


In this study, acetaldehyde concentrations were measured in foodstuff and industry prepared drinks, some of which included alcohol and some were non-alcoholic. The study included 119 different commercial products that are available in grocery and liquor stores. 


The acetaldehyde concentrations were generally high in the test samples that include alcohol. Acetaldehyde concentrations exceeded even 5 times the mutagenic limit, 100 µM (4,4 mg/l). In mild industrial alcoholic beverages (beers) the acetaldehyde concentration varied considerably within a category. The concentrations ranged strongly also within the mulled-wine type beverages.
Highest acetaldehyde concentrations were found within spirits, and in white wines, where concentrations of up to 700 µmoles/litre µM (30,8 mg/l) were found.
It is notable that in concentrations over 100 µM (4,4 mg/l) the mutagenic DNA changes are exponentially increasing. This limit was exceeded even 7 times over the safety limit.
High acetaldehyde is also commonly found average beers, peaking above 200 μM  (8,8 mg/l), as well as sparkling 151μM (6,6 mg/l).
Table 1: Acetaldehyde concentration in some beverage analyzed by a gas chromatography

 Number of analyzed samplesMinimun conc. of acetaldehyde in analyzed samples, µMMaximum conc. of acetaldehyde in analyzed samples, µM
White wine1523 (1)547  (24,1)
Spirit120 (0)722 (31,8)
Beer410 (0)208 (9,2)
Sparkling wine154 (0,4)151 (6,6)
Mulled wine (non-alcohol)190 (0)41 (1,8)
Mulled wine with alcohol176 (0,3)532  (23,4)


Public health is also worth noticing that the official classification of alcoholic beverage requires a 2.8 vol.-% alcohol content. Many of the home-made drinks, such as home-brewed ale, also contains alcohol resulting from the fermentation and in that way are remarkable sources of acetaldehyde.

CEO Semi Korpela, Biohit Oyj: “The food and alcohol industry as well as the food industry monitoring agency admit the existence of acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde and harmfulness of the exposure should be in general awareness. Consumers should be aware of risks caused by everyday products that are known “safe”.


Methods and Equipment:

Head-space gaschromatography adopted from Pikkarainen et al. (1979) and Jokelainen et al. (1994), as well as NIOSH ((National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety) (1994) menetelmiä.

Clarus 500 Gaschromatoraph, BAC-2 capillary column, TurboMatrix HS-110 sampler (PerkinElmer Finland, Turku).

Calibrators and Controls:

Acetaldehyde, CAS 75-07-0 (Supelco, Bellefonte, PA, USA, cat# 506788), purity 99,9%. The samples were prepared by weighing.

Method Validation:

According to Biohit’s quality system (ISO 9001:2008, ISO13485:2003).

The validation was performed, when applicable, according to following standards and directives (the method is not accreditated):

  • Guidance for Industry. Q2B Validation of Analytical Procedures: Methodology. ICH November 1996.
  • 2002/657/EC Commission Decision of 12 August 2002, implementing Council Directive 96/23/EC concerning the performance of analytical methods and the interpretation of results (Text with EEA relevance).


Jokelainen K, Roine RP, Väänänen H, Färkkilä M, Salaspuro M. In vitro acetaldehyde formation by human colonic bacteria. Gut 1994; 35: 1271-4.

NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods (NMAM), Fourth Edition. ALDEHYDES, SCREENING: METHOD 2539, Issue 2, dated 15 August 1994 – 10 pages.

Pikkarainen PH, Salaspuro MP, Lieber CS.A method for the determination of “free” acetaldehyde in plasma. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1979 Jul;3(3):259-61.

Read more: Specify the acetaldehyde concentrate in foodstuff with Biohit laboratory – reveals acetaldehyde exposure

Acetaldehyde Group I human carcinogen

In October 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which forms part of the World Health Organization, classified acetaldehyde included in and generated endogenously from alcoholic beverages as a Group I human carcinogen. Acetaldehyde belongs to the same risk class as, for example, asbestos and tobacco.

Specific microbes (bacteria and yeasts) in the gastrointestinal tract are the most important source of acetaldehyde exposure to the human body. These microbes produce acetaldehyde from alcohol and, in certain circumstances, from sugar. Unlike the liver, the microbes and the intestinal mucosa cannot remove the acetaldehyde, and due to the effect of alcohol, an abundance of acetaldehyde accumulates in the saliva and elsewhere in the gastrointestinal tract. Acetaldehyde is a substance that accumulates in the body from several sources, continuous exposure to it thereby severely increasing the risk of cancer to various organs.