Lab Canada

Ontario’s liquor board reports its testing and research activities

Toronto, ON – July 30, 2004 – The LCBO Quality Assurance laboratory conducted almost 368,000 tests on 15,700 different beverage alcohol samples prior to their sale in fiscal 2003-04, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) has reported. Eight percent of products tested were rejected for failing to comply with federal health guidelines or LCBO quality standards, or for improper labelling.

“We have doubled the number of beverage alcohol tests we conduct in a year compared to a decade ago,” says Dr George Soleas, vice president, LCBO quality assurance.

Wine and beer samples are subjected to 28 different tests, while spirit samples undergo seven separate tests. Products are tested for alcohol content, trace metals such as lead and arsenic, sulphites, artificial dyes, methyl alcohol, potential carcinogens such as ethyl carbamate and nitrates, and pesticide and herbicide residues, among other substances. All new products are tested before being released for sale. Random testing of products is also conducted throughout the year to ensure ongoing compliance with health and quality standards. The most common reasons for rejection were labelling infractions and alcohol content deviation.

During the year, LCBO Quality Assurance sensory evaluation panels also carried out 5,000 tastings of products to ensure they met high quality standards and were free of common defects, such as cork taint, vegetal odours and oxidation.

“Our tasting panels are trained to identify defects in products so that only those of the highest quality go on the shelf,” notes Dr Soleas. “The sense of smell and taste are powerful detection tools that can identify quality faults that might not even be evident in lab testing.”

During fiscal 2003-04, the LCBO Quality Assurance laboratory was also active on the research front. In collaboration with the beverage alcohol industry and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), LCBO Quality Assurance personnel continued to build a database on potential allergens in beverage alcohol products. Ongoing research was also carried out on the potential health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption, compounds that cause cork taint, and pesticide and herbicide residues in grapes and wine. The LCBO Quality Assurance department also worked closely with Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticultural Institute and the University of Toronto’s clinical biochemistry department on specific research projects.