Wine Worry

With the South Beach Wine and Food Festival taking over South Florida this weekend, people definitely drank a lot of wine. But what if the wine we’re drinking contains a potential cancer-causing toxin? 7’s Diana Diaz shows us how a local school is working to tackle a “Wine Worry.”

WSVN — Sniffing. Swirling. Sipping. Students at FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, have a beautiful new space to learn about wine.

Mike Hampton, the dean of the FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management: “We are repositioning the school strategically to be worlds ahead in a whole new direction of what we have ever taken before.”

Professor Aaron Welch: “For the hospitality school, that now means groundbreaking research in their new biology lab, and a few students are working to make wine safer to drink. I wanted to do something that could make wine healthier.”

Their wine worries come from something called Ochratoxin A.

Professor Aaron Welch: “Ochratoxin is a toxin produced by a mold. The mold grows on the grapes, and when the grapes are crushed, the toxins get in contact with the juice.”

Welch says the toxin can potentially cause cancer.

Professor Aaron Welch: “There is evidence in animal studies that it can cause cancer. In humans, we don’t know yet.”

Thanks to global warming, researchers believe vineyards will soon see even more of this potentially harmful mold, so the USDA has just awarded a grant to Welch and his team to come up with a solution.

Professor Aaron Welch: “We’re developing strains of yeast that will be able to remove the toxins from the wine. We would patent it and then sell it to yeast manufacturers, and the yeast manufacturers would distribute it worldwide.”

Welch is hopeful they’ll get rid of this wine worry in the next two years and put FIU on the map globally.

Professor Aaron Welch: “We want to be leaders and innovators of the hospitality industry.”

Something we can all drink to!

Unlike Europe, right now, the U.S. does not monitor levels of Ochratoxin A. Welch hopes more research and studies on how Ochratoxin affects humans will be done.

FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management