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J Food Prot. 2012 Mar;75(3):591-6. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-11-311.

Biogenic amines and ethyl carbamate in primitivo wine: survey of their concentrations in commercial products and relationship with the use of malolactic starter.

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Department of Food Science, University of Bologna, Piazza Goidanich 60, 47521 Cesena, Italy.


This research was conducted to determine the biogenic amine (BA) and ethyl carbamate (EC) concentrations in commercial Primitivo wine samples and the influence of the use of malolactic starter culture on concentrations of these potentially hazardous compounds in this wine. One hundred sixty bottles of wine from eight producers in the Apulia region of southern Italy were purchased at retail and analyzed. The most common BAs were histamine, 2-phenylethylamine, tyramine, cadaverine, putrescine, spermine, and spermidine. Putrescine (derived from ornithine) was the most abundant BA in all commercial Primitivo wines (5.41 to 9.51 mg/liter), 2-phenylethylamine was detected in only two commercial wines (at less than 2.12 mg/liter), and histamine was found at concentrations of 1.49 to 16.34 mg/liter. The concentration of EC in commercial Primitivo wine was 6.81 to 15.62 ppb, which is not considered dangerous for human health. Malolactic fermentation (MLF) affected the concentrations of BAs and EC differently. For EC, no significant differences were detected between samples of wine produced by spontaneous fermentation and wine that was inoculated malolactic starter. Mean EC concentrations were 12 and 14 ppb in two batches tested (always 18 ppb or less), regardless of whether the malolactic starter was added. Although present at trace levels in wine before the MLF, histamine accumulated during the MLF process, regardless of whether the malolactic starter was added. However, the increase in histamine was higher in wines without the malolactic starter. The concentrations of putrescine and cadaverine increased after MLF, especially in the wine that spontaneously fermented. The use of a selected malolactic starter resulted in reductions in BA concentrations in wine produced by this guided MLF compared with wine produced by spontaneous MLF.

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