Thujone And absinthe : testing and analysis

Independent data on the actual thujone level of many contemporary absinthes is often strikingly at variance with the levels claimed by the manufacturers. The tests below have all been carried out by accredited testing laboratories – they are presented here largely “as is”, in the original language, without further comment.

It’s worth bearing in mind that thujone testing is a complex process, requiring sophisticated equipment and considerably technical experience on the part of the operator. False or anomalous results are not unusual even from laboratories with a reputation for competence, and so all results should be treated with caution, at least until verified by multiple independent testing.

Permitted maximum thujone levels in foodstuffs and liquor are:

European Community (and many other countries, which have adopted the same de facto standards)
– 0.5 mg/kg in non alcoholic beverages.
– 10 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages except those produced from Artemisia species
– 35 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages produced from Artemisia species (all absinthes fall into this category)

United States
Foods or beverages that contain any Artemisia species, White Cedar, oak moss, tansy or Yarrow must be completely thujone free. Until recently there was no perrmitted legal level, however a change in the administrative regulations effective from 2007 defines “thujone free” as less than 10ppm. Effectively this opens the door for the first time to the legal sale of at least some absinthes in the USA.

Paradoxically, other herbs that contain thujone have no restrictions at all – for example, sage and sage oil (which can be more than 50% thujone) are on the Food and Drug Administration’s list of Substances Generally Recognized as Safe.

TTB Standard for Screening of Distilled Spirits for Thujone by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry

The following is a synopsis of TTB’s thujone screening method. The full screening method will be posted on TTB’s website in
December 2007.

Method:
Stock Solutions and Calibration Standards
500 ppm (-)- α-Thujone (≥96% pure) and 1000 ppm Menthol (≥99% pure) stock solutions are prepared in ethanol. Five calibrations standards are prepared in 40% ethanol to contain: 1 ppm a-Thujone and 10 ppm Menthol; 2 ppm a- Thujone, 10 ppm Menthol; 5 ppm a-Thujone, 10 ppm Menthol; 20 ppm a- Thujone, 10 ppm Menthol; 50 ppm a- Thujone, 10 ppm Menthol.

Sample Preparation and GCMS analysis:
5 mL of each calibration standard and 5 mL of testing sample(s) are transferred to separate glass test tubes. The testing samples are spiked additionally with menthol to 10 ppm. Upon the addition of 5 mL of saturated sodium chloride solution and 5 mL of methylene chloride, the solutions are extracted and the organic layer (bottom) is removed and placed into a GC vial for analysis.
N.B. If the alcohol content of the testing sample exceeds 45% ABV, the testing sample is diluted with DI water to 40% ABV and 5 mL of the resulting solution is extracted as described.
GCMS parameters: Scan acquisition mode; splitless injection; constant flow; DB-Wax or a similar 30 m capillary column.

Calculations and Reporting Data:
Using the alpha-Thujone/Menthol ratio calibration curve, determine the total amount of thujone in the sample as the sum of alpha- and beta-thujone in ppm. The beta-thujone value is based on the alpha-thujone calibration curve. If the testing sample was diluted prior to extraction, the dilution must be factored. The GCMS screening method has a limit of quantitation of approximately 1 ppm.

Chemical Composition of Vintage Preban Absinthe with Special Reference to Thujone, Fenchone, Pinocamphone, Methanol, Copper, and Antimony Concentrations

By Dirk W. Lachenmeier, David Nathan-Maister, Theodore A. Breaux, Eva-Maria Sohnius, Kerstin Schoeberl, and Thomas Kuballa
Published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, April 2008
View the pdf

Determination of α-/β-Thujone and Related Terpenes in Absinthe using Solid Phase Extraction and Gas Chromatography

By Joachim Emmert, Günter Sartor, Frank Sporer and Joachim Gummersbach
Published in Deutsche Lebensmittel-Rundschau, Vol 9 2004
View the pdf

Absinth – ein Getränk kommt wieder in Mode: toxikologisch-analytische und lebensmittelrechtliche Bewertungen

By Dirk W. Lachenmeier, W. Frank, C. Athanasakis, S.A. Padosch, B. Madea, M.A. Rothschild, L. Kröner
Published in Deutsche Lebensmittel-Rundschau, Vol 4 2004
View the pdf

These are CLAIMED thujone levels, not tested and verified levels. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

Bundesanstalt für Lebensmitteluntersuchung und –forschung
Prüf- und Überwachungsstelle akkreditiert vom Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Angelegenheiten unter der GZ:92714/642-IX/2/98
(Ident .-Nr. 173) Von der Staatlichen Akkreditierungsstelle Hannover für den im Register unter der Nummer AKS-P-13001-EU
beschriebenen Geltungsbereich akkreditiertes Prüflaboratorium.

Wien, 25.10.2002
1. Absinthe MATA HARI
Alpha thujon (GC) 2.2 mg/l
Beta thujon(GC) 31 mg/l

2. Serpis Dry
Alpha thujon (GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) 19.4 mg/l

3. Absinth Grüne Fee
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) 15.1 mg/l

4. Absinth Candela
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon (GC) 8.5 mg/l

5. Absinth Lasala
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) 8.0 mg/l

6. Absinth NS
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) 7.9 mg/l

7. Absinth Lehmann
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) 6.5 mg/l

8. Absinth 66 %
Alpha thujon(GC) 3.9 mg/l
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

9. Absenta (Montana)
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon (GC) 3.1 mg/l

10. La Fee Absinth
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) 2.7 mg/l

11. Amesinthe
Alpha thujon(GC) 2.8 mg/l
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

12. Absente
Alpha thujon(GC) 2.6 mg/l
Beta thujon(GC) 2.6 mg/l

13. Pernod Absinthe
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

14. Absinth Hill`s
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

15. Absenta MARI MAYANS
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

16. 55,5 Dr. Rauch Absinth
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

17. Fee Verte
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

18. Segarra Absinth
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

19. Versinthe
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

20. Absinth Manguin
Alpha thujon (GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon (GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

21. Absinth Oxygenee
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

22. Absenta Tunel
Alpha thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)
Beta thujon(GC) unter der Bestimmungsgrenze, BG: 0 (oder max. 1.9 mg/l)

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