Toxic chemicals linked asthma, cancer found in Italian wines

Toxic chemicals linked to asthma, cancer found in Italian wines

11:47 AM, 3rd December 2016
A glass of sparkling wine, Prosecco. (File photo)
A glass of sparkling wine, Prosecco. (File photo)

VENETO, UK: The arrival of the Christmas season these days is marked by the gentle ‘pop’ of a prosecco cork (an Italian white wine). The pale gold fizz is Britain’s celebratory glass of choice.

Cheaper than champagne, with fewer calories than white wine (just 80 per glass, compared with 120) and an alcohol content of just 11 percent, it’s on offer everywhere, including in hairdressers, beauty salons and department stores.

Be sure that your Christmas glass of bubbly is highly likely to contain traces of toxic pesticides.

Veneto is the only area where prosecco can legally be produced — locals say a cocktail of pesticides is being sprayed on the vines to help keep up with demand.

They say this is taking a dire toll on them, with many claiming the chemicals cause severe and even life-threatening conditions, from asthma to cancer.

When tested some of the best-selling supermarket proseccos in a laboratory, scientists found these noxious ingredients in every glass.

Proseccos from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl and Marks & Spencer (all multinational supermarkets in Britain) to be tested for pesticide residues.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco fared worst, containing traces of four chemicals, while bottles from Tesco and Lidl contained three, including one that — if consumed in high doses — is a ‘possible liver, kidney and spleen toxicant’.

Although all the pesticides, which are used to combat disease and make grapes grow faster, were far below the maximum legal limit set by European standards, and in small quantities deemed harmless by the Health and Safety Executive, some experts said this doesn’t necessarily mean they are harmless in the long term.

Pesticide traces have been found in other wines, too. In a 2013 study, 40 bottles of French red and white wines sold in the EU were found to contain at least one pesticide.

‘Many of the pesticides that appear as residues are linked to health issues,’ said Nick Mole, of the Pesticide Action Network UK. ‘The problem is, we simply don’t know what the long-term effects are of consuming even the most minute quantities. The only safe level is zero.’

Certainly, some families who live in and around the Veneto vineyards said the prosecco boom has ruined their health. They have the support of local doctors and campaigners, although health officials deny there is any regional problem.

Prosecco Valley is a beautiful place. Rows of vines cascade down the hills where each year 400 million bottles of what locals call ‘liquid gold’ are produced.

Almost a quarter — 86 million — are shipped to Britain, the biggest prosecco market outside Italy, worth £356 million a year.

Since 2009, production has tripled to keep pace with demand, and the vines now cover 50,000 acres.

Locals complain of respiratory problems, thyroid disorders and even tumours. Three children, one resident claims, have developed leukaemia, two women have died of ovarian cancer and one has contracted Parkinson’s disease.

Scientific studies have linked both cell mutation and Parkinson’s to prolonged pesticide exposure.

Prosecco — named after a village near Trieste — has been produced in this region since the 16th century and was first praised by a visiting Englishman in 1593.

It is made from the sweet, aromatic glera grape, which was originally pressed and fermented just once, producing a still wine, until in 1868, a chemist, Antonio Carpene, decided to experiment and add bubbles.

The Carpene Malvolti winery, which produces five million bottles of prosecco a year, was the first to ferment the grapes a second time, to make the drink we know and love today.

‘The old method was to crush the grapes and leave the liquid in the bottle to ferment,’ said the winery’s Roberta Agnoli.

‘Now the grape juice is placed in huge stainless steel containers with sugar and yeast. The yeast eats the sugar, releasing carbon dioxide, which creates the bubbles. After about a month, we put the wine in a centrifuge to separate the yeast, then filter it.’

Villa Sandi, for example, a prestigious winery that supplies Waitrose, Majestic and several London restaurants, is one of only a few in the Veneto region that adheres to a biodiversity scheme.

For two years, it has made its prosecco from a 250-acre plot on which chemical use is minimised. Organic pesticides are sprayed from a specially adapted tractor fitted with large shields to prevent the chemicals spreading in the air.

‘When you drink prosecco, you are drinking poison. I beg you, stop before it is too late, said Fabio, a businessman who lived near the Veneto vineyards with his family.

© Daily Mail News 

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