WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it has agreed to a voluntary plan with the liquor industry to limit urethane in whiskey products manufactured in 1989 and thereafter.
FDA officials said the agency accepted the plan from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States Inc. and that it is continuing discussions with the Wine Institute and the American Assn. of Vintners.
Urethane is formed as a byproduct through reactions that occur naturally in the production of some alcoholic beverages. Studies have shown that it can cause cancer in animals and thus poses a potential threat to humans.
However, the degree of risk to humans from the carcinogen is unknown, and FDA Commissioner Frank Young said that the agency has asked the National Toxicology Program--a research effort financed jointly by various federal agencies--to give top priority to studying the issue in 1988.
The agreement calls for no more than 125 parts of urethane per billion in whiskey products.
Among products tested, the highest concentrations are found in bourbons, which range up to several hundred parts per billion, and some brandies and dessert wines.