Arsenic found in German beers: Report

Washington, April 8 (IANS) High levels of arsenic have been detected in some German beers and are believed to come from a filtering material widely used in food production, said a report.

The report did not name specific brands, but said the arsenic levels in 140 samples of beers sold in Germany are above the 10 microgram per liter threshold for drinking water, reported Xinhua.

The element entered the beverage during the filtration process, said authors of the report, released here Sunday at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

“When arsenic level in beer is higher than in the water used during brewing, this excess arsenic must come from other sources,” said Mehmet Coelhan from the Munich Technical University. “We analyzed all materials, including the malt and the hops used during brewing for the presence of arsenic.”

The researchers found that the arsenic came from a filtering material called kieselguhr, or diatomaceous earth, used to remove yeast, hops and other particles and give the beer a crystal clear appearance.

Kieselguhr consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae that lived millions of years ago. It finds wide use in filtering beer and is an ingredient in other products.

“We concluded that kieselguhr may be a significant source of arsenic contamination in beer,” Coelhan said. “This conclusion was supported by analysis of kieselguhr samples. These tests revealed that some kieselguhr samples release arsenic.”

However, the resulting arsenic levels were “only slightly elevated” and were unlikely to cause illness, the expert said.

“The risk of alcohol poisoning is a far more realistic concern, as stated in previous studies on the topic,” said Coelhan.

He said that breweries, wineries and other food processors that use kieselguhr should be aware that the substance can release arsenic.

Substitutes for kieselguhr are available, and simple measures like washing kieselguhr with water before use can remove the arsenic, he noted.

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