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French winemaker fined for smuggling illegal pesticides

A winemaker in southern France has narrowly escaped prison after being found guilty of smuggling banned pesticides into the country.

The winemaker, from the Aude region of Languedoc-Roussillon, was this week fined EUR1,000 and given a two-month suspended prison sentence.

During a routine check, customs officers found five litres of a pesticide called Cilotor Flow in the producer’s car.

The pesticide label was in Spanish and is believed to have been bought in Spain, reported local paper Midi Libre. Further investigation at the producer’s property found other pesticides banned in France, including 15 litres of Etizol TL and three kilos of Flint, the court heard.

The tribunal court, located in Beziers, refused to name the winemaker.

In France, the issue of pesticide residues in wine has grabbed headlines in 2013. Earlier this year, trace levels were found in 90% of 300 wines from across France, tested by Bordeaux-based Excell Lab. Some contained traces of the banned products carbendazim and procymidone.

Experts have stressed that the traces found were well below toxic levels and were not considered a health hazard.

However, in September, debate was reignited after consumer affairs magazine Que Choisir also found traces of illegal pesticide residues in all 92 wines tested. Anti-rot fungicide carbendazim was again present in some samples, as was bromopropylate, which is used against spider mites.

Asked why French wines might contain traces of carbendazim, Stéphane Boutou, analytical engineer with Excell, said there were three possibilities.

‘Either old stocks are being used, or, they might have used barrels contaminated with the chemical, or, they might have bought it in another country, like Spain.’

Written by Sophie Kevany

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