Health Canada is implementing new food and beverage regulations to ensure that those with food allergies and sensitivities are fully informed when reading food labels and nutritional information. Shockingly, the industry most affected by these new regulations will be — wait for it — wine. Apparently, wine is manufactured with animal products, namely fish, eggs, and milk. It’s not often that health news shocks me, but I’m a vegetarian, and even I didn’t know this. I’d hazard a guess that I haven’t been the only vegetarian in-the-dark.
Globe And Mail reporter Beppi Crosariol writes:
..animal-derived products have long been used in wine-making as gentle clarifying agents after fermentation … A derivative of sturgeon bladders, egg whites and milk proteins are all part of the arsenal. So is bentonite, a form of clay, as well as gelatin, typically processed from the hide and connective tissue of livestock…
I don’t know about you, but I can feel a two-vegetarians-walk-into-a-bar joke coming on. Too bad the joke is on us.
There is some resistance and trepidation from wineries regarding these new regulations, since the animal derivatives are not actually ingredients of the wine, but rather used in the manufacturing and refining process. But that doesn’t negate the possibility that there are trace amounts of clay and hide and bladder in your favorite Merlot. And while they might not send a vegetarian to hell, trace amounts can be harmful, even lethal, to someone with severe food allergies.
Because nut allergies are so common, all food products prepared in a facility that also manufactures nuts must be labelled, even if their ingredients don’t include nuts of any kind. In many cases, the nuts don’t even touch the same surfaces as the foods in question, but the risk of cross-contamination is enough to make the labels worthwhile (in fact, the labels have arguably saved lives). Don’t wine drinkers deserve the same caution?
I don’t drink alcohol, but for all the vegetarians, vegans, allergy sufferers, and people with food intolerances, this news should answer some questions, and raise eyebrows and ire. I for one am excited about the new label enforcements, because there is too much confusion in labeling already. I learned the hard way that things like Jell-O and Oreo Cookies had animal products in them because of improper labeling, and something like this could have saved me the stress.
The wine industry should just step up to the mark, embrace transparency, and offer full disclosure. They don’t need to change their refining process or alter the content of their products. Just leave it up to their customers to make the choice for themselves. The worst that could happen is they lose a buyer or two.
And at the end of the day, it seems to me like wine is the last industry that will suffer a major blow. As Homer Simpson once toasted, “To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
(Photo: Best Wine Club)