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Which beers contain formaldehyde?

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Quick Answer

As of April 2015, there is yet to be a formal survey or study that definitively identifies the particular brands of beer that contain formaldehyde. However, it has been shown in one study that it is possible to analyze a large number of samples of alcoholic beverages for traces of the substance. The study analyzed 508 different samples of beer, wine and unrecorded spirits, and published its findings in 2011 in the International Journal for Analytical Chemistry.

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In 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) upgraded the classification of formaldehyde as "carcinogenic to humans." The IARC further linked formaldehyde to leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes chronic oral exposure to formaldehyde to be at .02 mg/kg of bodyweight per day. On the other hand, the World Health Organization's International Programme on Chemical Safety (WHO IPCS) sets the tolerable concentration levels of formaldehyde in ingested products at 2.6 mg/L.

Among the 508 different types of alcoholic beverages analyzed in the study mentioned earlier, only 1.8 percent were found to have exceeded the WHO IPCS standards for tolerable formaldehyde concentrations. It was also determined in the study that it was extremely unlikely for any of the 508 different types of alcoholic beverages to exceed the U.S. EPA standards of chronic oral formaldehyde exposure.

It is worth noting that in the early days of canning in steel and aluminum cans, formaldehyde was among the components of the emulsion used in the process. The emulsion served to protect the lubricant in the cans from being attacked by bacteria. This resulted in the taste of canned products, including beer, to have a tinge of formaldehyde flavor. Formaldehyde, however, has been removed from the emulsions.

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