Is PMBS an issue?

From time to time growers ask the question: why can’t we have a better system of adding PMBS to bins and tippers? For the un-initiated, Potassium metabisulfite (PMBS) is often added to freshly harvested grapes to help control bacteria and indigenous yeast that may be on the fruit or in the bins or tippers. Most growers have had the experience of inadvertently inhaling the dust or irritating eyes and or skin through contact.

 The amount generally used during harvest and transport is enough to inhibit most of the unwanted organisms but not enough to interfere with the winemaking. It is also used as an additive by winemakers at various stages of making wine to help control the spoilage bacteria. The challenge is firstly to know how much to add to a load of grapes but also how to mix it safely.

Riverland Wine has recently been notified that a complaint that has been lodged with Safework SA by a worker who was given PMBS in plastic bags and asked to add it to grapes in bins. The worker was not provided with adequate instructions, nor warned of the risks. Apparently dust was inhaled and some of the fine powder came into contact with the workers hands and caused irritation.

RW is advised that Safework SA will formulate a ‘Hazard Alert’ notice in the near future. This will be distributed through the State Council together with a Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

The question must be asked though; why is it so?

PMBS has been used for decades. The harmful effects are well known. At least one major wine company has trialled ‘better, safer methods’ but as at 2018 vintage, the same customs and practices are commonplace.

If you will support better, safer methods of adding PMBS to loads email and let us know.

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