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LCBO lab conducts 368,000 tests to help ensure product quality and safety

TORONTO, July 29 /CNW/ - 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 LCBO reported today. Eight per cent 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," said Dr. George Soleas, Vice President, LCBO Quality Assurance. "At a time when many people are enjoying moderate consumption of beverage alcohol as part of their lifestyle, it's more important than ever to help ensure the products the LCBO sells meet the highest quality assurance and consumer protection standards."

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."

Some 1,200 tastings were also conducted to evaluate Ontario wines submitted for Vintners Quality Alliance Ontario (VQAO) designation.

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.

Editor's note: Video/interview opportunities and B-roll of LCBO Quality Assurance laboratory available





BACKGROUNDER: LCBO QUALITY ASSURANCE IN FISCAL 2003-04

- the LCBO Quality Assurance laboratory conducted almost 368,000 tests for
quality and safety on 15,700 different beverage alcohol samples
prior to their sale in LCBO stores, beer stores and Ontario winery stores

- of products tested, eight per cent or 1,034 products were rejected for
failing to comply with federal health guidelines or LCBO quality
standards, or for improper labelling

- LCBO Quality Assurance department issued one product recall in fiscal
2003-04, down from four in the previous fiscal year

- more than 5,000 products were also tasted to ensure they met LCBO
quality standards, and, where applicable, the Vintners Quality
Alliance Ontario (VQAO) requirements

- more than 2,100 labels and 500 cartons of new products were reviewed
to ensure compliance with federal labeling guidelines and LCBO
standards

- some 300 products were tested on behalf of enforcement agencies to
determine if they had been illegally manufactured or smuggled into
Ontario

- ongoing research was conducted into potential allergens in beverage
alcohol, the potential health benefits of alcohol, cork taint in wine
and pesticide and herbicide residues in grapes and wine

- more than 10,000 cartons of beverage alcohol were reviewed at LCBO
warehouses to ensure compliance with LCBO product packaging standards

- turnaround time for processing test samples decreased to 3.5 working
days in fiscal 2003-04 from 18 working days in fiscal 1996-97

- accredited under ISO-9001-2000 and under ISO/IEC-17025, a designation
specific to chemistry laboratories, the LCBO Quality Assurance
department's policies and procedures meet the highest standards set by
the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization

For further information: Chris Layton, LCBO Media Relations Co-ordinator, Tel. (416) 864-6772, Fax. (416) 864-6850, e-mail: chris.layton@lcbo.com

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