PESTICIDE residue in wine is below the country's limits, the Ministry of Health said yesterday, after a report that some Chinese red wine on the market contained excessive levels of harmful chemicals.

Yan Weixing, a researcher with the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, said pesticide residue, which he believed was unavoidable in a modernized world, would pose no threat to humans if it was controlled and its risks fully assessed before use.

"A certain amount of pesticide within the limits set by national standards will not pose a threat to health because pesticide residue is unavoidable in food," Yan said yesterday.

Last week, Securities Market Weekly said 10 samples of red wine from three domestic wine makers, including China's leading Changyu winery, contained excessive levels of two pesticide residues, carbendazim and metalaxyl.

The Beijing-based magazine said high doses of carbendazim, a widely used fungicide, could cause infertility and possibly lead to liver cancer.

Shares in Changyu dropped by 9.83 percentage points last Friday.

The next day, its board of directors issued a statement on its website saying all its products were up to national standards, Xinhua news agency reported.

It insisted its wine was safe and said the report was suspicious, adding that foul play could be involved.

Some stores started pulling Changyu's red wines off shelves, while a number of quality watchdogs asked for Changyu's quality check reports, said Zhou Hongjiang, general manager of Changyu.

Zhou said Changyu's wine sales had been severely affected up to the point of being paralyzed because of the report.

Whether large amounts of carbendazim and metalaxyl cause cancer is still being researched, experts have said.

China's standard for carbendazim is 3 milligrams per kilogram, compared with 0.5mg/kg under European Union standards. Japan and Australia have the same standard as China.

The highest content of carbendazim among the samples was 0.01942mg/kg, while the highest content of metalaxyl was 0.01414mg/kg, also below China's standard of 1mg/kg.

Song Quanhou, deputy head of the China National Research Institute of Food & Fermentation Industries, who signed the sample test report, said later that the samples with the highest content of chemicals could not be identified as Changyu products and no past record had shown that the company's products were contaminated by pesticides.

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