The Food and Drug Administration and U.S. wine producers have reached a voluntary agreement to limit the level of urethane in table and dessert wines.
According to FDA documents made available late Monday, the agreement calls for average urethane levels of fewer than 15 parts per billion (ppb) for table wines produced from the 1988 harvest.
Beginning with the 1989 harvest, dessert wines would have an average of no more than 60 ppb.
The agreement also says that, starting in 1995, no more than 1 percent of table wines would have urethane levels above 25 ppb and no more than 1 percent of dessert wines would exceed 90 ppb.
Studies have shown that urethane, which occurs naturally in some distilling and fermenting processes, causes cancer in some animals.
The agreement was signed by the Wine Institute, a San Francisco-based group representing 530 California wineries, and the Association of American Vintners, based in Rochester, N.Y., which represents wine producers in 29 states.
The FDA announced a similar voluntary agreement in December with distillers of whiskeys and spirits.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer health advocacy group based here, said it is dissatisfied with the agreement. Staff attorney Charles Mitchell said the agreement "creates only the appearance of consumer protection."