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International Journal of Analytical Chemistry
Volume 2011, Article ID 797604, 11 pages
Research Article

Formaldehyde in Alcoholic Beverages: Large Chemical Survey Using Purpald Screening Followed by Chromotropic Acid Spectrophotometry with Multivariate Curve Resolution

1Chemisches und Veterinäruntersuchungsamt (CVUA) Karlsruhe, Weissenburger Straße 3, 76187 Karlsruhe, Germany
2Department of Chemistry, Saratov State University, Astrakhanskaya Street 83, Saratov 410012, Russia

Received 11 January 2011; Revised 8 March 2011; Accepted 30 March 2011

Academic Editor: Jan Åke Jönsson

Copyright © 2011 Julien A. Jendral et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A strategy for analyzing formaldehyde in beer, wine, spirits, and unrecorded alcohol was developed, and 508 samples from worldwide origin were analyzed. In the first step, samples are qualitatively screened using a simple colorimetric test with the purpald reagent, which is extremely sensitive for formaldehyde (detection limit 0.1 mg/L). 210 samples (41%) gave a positive purpald reaction. In the second step, formaldehyde in positive samples is confirmed by quantitative spectrophotometry of the chromotropic acid-formaldehyde derivative combined with Multivariate Curve Resolution-Alternating Least Squares (MCR-ALS). Calculation of UV-VIS and 13C NMR spectra confirmed the monocationic dibenzoxanthylium structure as the product of the reaction and disproved the widely cited para,para-quinoidal structure. Method validation for the spectrophotometric procedure showed a detection limit of 0.09 mg/L and a precision of 4.2–8.2% CV. In total, 132 samples (26%) contained formaldehyde with an average of 0.27 mg/L (range 0–14.4 mg/L). The highest incidence occurred in tequila (83%), Asian spirits (59%), grape marc (54%), and brandy (50%). Our survey showed that only 9 samples (1.8%) had formaldehyde levels above the WHO IPCS tolerable concentration of 2.6 mg/L.