CONTACT:Andrew Rabbitt 


                  313 Pleasant Street

                        Watertown, MA 02472

                  (617) 926-7045 - Voice

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                  Andrew Beaudoin-Rabbitt


The European Union’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health Sets Maximum Levels of Ochratoxin A in Wine

WATERTOWN, MA (January 1, 2005) –– VICAM, a world leader in biotechnology and bioseparations, felt a duty to alert all sectors (industry, government, NGO’s) to the important European Union decision setting a maximum level of ochratoxin A (OTA) in wine and grape juice. Set to take effect on January 1, 2005, the new regulations limit the amount of OTA allowable in wine, grapes, and grape must products to 2 parts per billion (ppb). In a media release on the OTA legislation, David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection of the EU, commented, “By setting maximum levels for ochratoxin A, we are making sure that consumers can without worrying about possible contamination. The proposal also introduces maximum levels for grape juice, a drink frequently consumed by children. As a result this proposal will increase food safety for a group of vulnerable consumers.”

According to VICAM’s Executive Vice President, Marjorie Radlo, the company felt a duty to inform all interested parties about this significant change in trade requirements. “With the mid-September grape harvest in Europe and the United States, and February in South America, we wanted to alert grape growers and wine producers of the maximum OTA mandate prior to the start of their harvests. Successful compliance will depend on using an OTA test kit that is highly sensitive, delivers rapid quantitative results, and offers high throughput. With OchraTest™, VICAM offers a practical means of fulfilling the EU directives with a test kit approved by the Association of Official Analytical Communities (AOAC). A rapid and accurate method of OTA determination in wine, our OchraTest™ test kit offers the combined benefits of the most widely-preferred method of analysis—high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)—and VICAM’s patented immunoaffinity columns—the premier choice for HPLC sample cleanup.”

For Latin America and other exporting regions, the effect of the EU’s mandate will be to move OTA testing and minimization further upstream. As VICAM’s International Sales Manager for Latin America, Diego Montemayor, points out, “Exporters in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and other Latin American wine-producing countries now have to look into agricultural, production, and manufacturing processes to prevent OTA from showing up in the finished bottle. A rapid, sensitive, and specific method like OchraTest that can help determine where and when contamination is most likely to occur. This will be crucial to wine quality assurance programs in all countries that export to Europe.”

VICAM’s Klaus Ruttman, International Sales Manager for Europe, speaks on VICAM’s ability to mitigate any burden incurred by the wine and grape juice industry as a result of the new EU OTA mandates. “While the extended regulations will help raise awareness of food safety throughout Europe, the EU also impose a new level of responsibility on producers and exporters. It’s fortunate VICAM can support them with accurate, safe, and reliable test equipment at a cost that will help them maintain their profitability. The result is a win-win situation for wine consumers and all sectors of the wine industry.”

About Ochratoxin
A toxic byproduct of Aspergillus ochraceus and several species of Penicillium fungi, ochratoxin A can infect grapes in the field or during storage, as well as during winemaking. The push to minimize consumer’s exposure to OTA comes after long deliberation on the part of the EU, during which they carefully considered study data on the potential carcinogenic and nephrotoxic properties of this mycotoxin while balancing the impact on production costs and trade. For Europeans, wine is second only to grains as a source OTA found in their bloodstream. Red wines typically show greater contamination, and OTA levels as high as five times the recommended threshold have been reported in some vintages.

In addition to infecting grape products and cereal grains, OTA commonly occurs in coffee, dried fruits, and spices. A fuller understanding of OTA prevalence and the effects of growing conditions and processing on contamination, as well as OTA’s impact on human health, depends heavily on continued progress in detection and analytical methods. VICAM’s ultimate goal is to ensure the development of new strategies and technologies to assist the wine and grape industries with rapid, accurate, and economical solutions to meet their testing mandate, while reducing the incidence of OTA contaminants in the world’s food supply.

About OchraTest™ and OchraTest WB
OchraTest sample purification combined with HPLC analysis offers important advantages for winemakers operating in today’s exacting regulatory environment. Capable of detecting OTA at levels as low as 0.25 parts per billion, OchraTest uses monoclonal antibodies to isolate OTA from most of the impurities that increase the chance of false positives. In addition to providing superior specificity and sensitivity, this method saves time during sample preparation and cleanup with simpler, more efficient extraction procedures, while eliminating the need for hazardous chlorinated solvents. When performed with the newly developed wide-bore (3mL diameter) columns of OchraTest WB, the VICAM test method reduces analysis time as well. The wide-bore columns not only increase lab productivity, but also ensure the high recovery rates and resolution required to precisely determine trace amounts of OTA.

Availability and Pricing
Orders are currently being accepted for OchraTest and OchraTest WB. Pricing information may be obtained by contacting VICAM or your local VICAM distributor.

About AOAC®
The Association of Official Analytical Communities (AOAC INTERNATIONAL) is a hundred-year-old, independent organization of analytical scientists with members throughout the world. The association is dedicated to the development and validation of methods in analytical sciences and improving laboratory quality assurance procedures. AOAC INTERNATIONAL provides validated methods, proficiency test samples, accreditation criteria, and scientific information to industry, government agencies, and academic institutions. Currently, AOAC has member scientists from over 90 countries.

VICAM is a world leader in agricultural biotechnology and bioseparations. VICAM’s patented tests deliver improved reproductivity, increased agricultural productivity, and safeguarded food quality worldwide. Their products include detection, measurement, and separation technologies for veterinary reproductive applications, food-borne carcinogens, and living cells. To date, VICAM has applied its technologies to 20 products and 3 prototypes. VICAM supports a global scientific, and distribution presence to develop, market, sell, and service their products in 99 countries. For more information, contact Jennifer Smith at VICAM, 313 Pleasant Street, Watertown, MA 02472 USA. Tel.: +1.617.926.7045; Fax: +1.617.923.8055


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