ABSTRACT

Ethyl carbamate (EC) is a process contaminant that can be formed as a by-product during fermentation and processing of foods and beverages. Elevated EC concentrations are primarily associated with distilled spirits, but this compound has also been found at lower concentrations in foods and beverages, including breads, soy sauce, and wine. Evidence from animal studies suggests that EC is a probable human carcinogen. Consequently, several governmental institutions have established allowable limits for EC in the food supply. This review includes EC formation mechanisms, occurrence of EC in the food supply, and EC dietary exposure assessments. Current analytical methods used to detect EC will be covered, in addition to emerging technologies, such as nanosensors and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. Various mitigation methods have been used to maintain EC concentrations below allowable limits, including distillation, enzymatic treatments, and genetic engineering of yeast. More research in this field is needed to refine mitigation strategies and develop methods to rapidly detect EC in the food supply.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • EC is a probable human carcinogen formed during food processing.

  • In the food supply, distilled spirits typically contain the highest concentrations of EC.

  • Current analytical techniques for EC commonly include gas or liquid chromatography.

  • Mitigation strategies can reduce EC concentrations in foods and beverages.

  • Future research should focus on monitoring products with potential to form EC.

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