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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Your Tequila May Contain Methanol

By May 5, 2014

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Happy Cinco de Mayo! If your holiday celebration includes tequila, you may be interested to know the American Chemical Society (ACS) has found that some tequila contains methanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol and 2-phenylethanol. In case you're wondering... no, these are not good and desirable chemicals to drink. The 'alcohol' in alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol or ethanol (grain alcohol). Methanol (wood alcohol) and other alcohols are the types said to make you go blind and otherwise cause permanent neurological damage, not to mention giving you a nasty hangover. The ACS purposely timed the release of the results to coincide with Cinco de Mayo, to raise awareness of the quality control issue. Tequila made from 100% blue agave tended to have higher levels of the undesirable chemicals than other types of tequila (pure agave tequila is usually considered superior). Tequila is one of the best-regulated alcoholic beverages in the world, so in my opinion, the results not only point out a potential health hazard for this drink, but also indicate other beverages are probably adulterated with contaminants. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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May 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm
(1) sarah says:

As a college student I find this to be very troublesome and almost scary. I know too many friends who drink “cheap” alcohol and have never heard of there being possible contaminants. This is a very important study to keep up with and hopefully more regulations can be put in place to ensure better quality products across the board.

May 6, 2014 at 12:12 pm
(2) Raśl Alfaro says:

As a Tequila producer and Mexican, I find this to be really confusing for general Spirits’ drinkers, not only those who drink tequila. Methanol is as compound generated during fermentation, where the rest of tequila components are generated too. Usually, to eliminate completely the methanol in the spirit, a column still must be used, resulting in an spirit with poor organoleptical properties (I mean, flavor, smell & taste are not good); so, manufacturers produce spirits in pot stills for the best or high end products, where a % of the methanol still remains in the mix… but it contains ethanol too and in a much higher concentration, so as the human body prefers to metabolize ethanol and methanol level is negligible, it causes no damage.The same process and methanol content can be found in whiskey, rum, i.e. Furthermore, all the tequila legally sold in the USA is certified by the CRT (Tequila Regulatory Council), which certifies that any batch meets the tequila specification, including the % of ethanol, methanol, aldehydes, etc. In fact, methanol can be found too in wine (which is not distilled), beer and orange juice!!! It is matter of concentration and quantity.

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