Federal officials put a ban yesterday on the sale of 10 imported wines contaminated with an ingredient in antifreeze barely a week after authorities ordered the testing of Italian wines for contamination with a different substance.
Traces of diethylene glycol, an agent used in antifreeze, have been found in 10 vintage brands of Austrian, German and Italian wines, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said yesterday. Wine distributors in the United States were ordered to "get rid of the wine," a spokesman said.
A total of 95 wines, including the 10 added to the list yesterday, have been found to contain hazardous levels of diethylene glycol since the first bottles of adulterated Austrian wines were discovered last summer.
The potentially lethal substance is used to add sweetness and body to poor quality wines. Some vintners have added more than acceptable levels of the substance to their wines, officials said.
The low contamination in the wines listed yesterday probably pose only a slight health hazard, officials said, but the effect of consumption over a long time is uncertain. Diethylene glycol can cause nausea, as well as kidney stones if consumed in large amounts for long periods.
The contamination is not linked to the problem of methanol-laced wines that has resulted in at least 22 deaths in Italy, according to ATF spokeswoman Dot Koester.
Federal officials stopped the importation last week of all Italian wines that failed to be certified as safe by Italian authorities, and ordered all U.S. distributors to test their Italian wine stocks. As a result, many merchants halted sales of the wines. The vintages still are widely available, officials said.
In Maryland, the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control approved the sale of three wines, basing its decision on findings by the Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Board, which is testing Italian wines. The sale of other Italian wines was banned at government-operated liquor stores, but the wines are available at grocery and retail stores elsewhere in the state.
Safeway stores continued to keep the Italian wines off its shelves yesterday, awaiting approval of specific labels from federal authorities.
Koester said the agency's laboratories in Rockville and San Francisco have found no traces of methanol, or wood alcohol, among the 250 Italian vintages tested so far.
The Austrian wines banned yesterday are 1976 Edelstaler Trockenbeerenauslese, and Ruster Red WPG Rust-Neusiedlersee. The banned German wines are 1983 Gau-Kongerheimer Vogelsang and 1978 St. Martiner Schlos Ludwigshohe. The banned Italian wines are 1983 Tenuta Di Pomino DOC, 1978 Barra Gattinara, 1983 Fattoria Paradiso, 1971 Kiola Barolo DOC, 1983 Valenti Dolcetto d'Alba DOC and 1984 Valenti Chardonnay.