Detecting Pesticides In Our Wine | Stories | PerkinElmer
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Detecting Pesticides In Our Wine

December 20, 2016

Detecting Pesticides In Our Wine

The Growing Popularity Of Wine

We do like our wine. Last year, global wine production topped 6.8 billion gallons (259 mhl) nearly a gallon of wine for every human on earth. 1

According to renowned wine expert Robert Parker, Jr., a big part of wine’s rising popularity has to do with all of the good news it is getting lately. “That wonderful antioxidant component found in red wine’s tannin, resveratrol, is getting more and more play in medical circles as a valuable source of good health,” he recently wrote in Food & Wine. 2

While the benefits of wine are undeniable, few of us realize how much and how many pesticides are used in wine cultivation. French growers, for example, use more than 60,000 metric tons of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in their vineyards every year. That amounts to 20% of all pesticide use in the country, which is applied to about 3% of the country’s total farmlands. 3 California wine growers, meanwhile, apply another 50,000 lbs. of pesticides to their vineyards annually. In both cases, some of those chemicals—which include glyphosate—are suspected to cause serious health issues ranging from miscarriages and birth defects to liver disease and breast cancer. 4

Regulating Pesticides In Wine

While maximum residue levels of pesticides on edible grapes are widely monitored around the world, the same is not always true for wine. Some countries, like the U.S., conduct periodic tests for pesticides in alcohol, including wine, to ensure that no unauthorized chemicals or excessive amounts of these agents are used. 5 Still, no country requires wineries to conduct full formulation safety testing or labeling for pesticide content. 6 The result is predictable. Independent laboratory analyses of wines from California and France show that over 90% of wine tested positive for traceable pesticide residue, including organic wine, likely due to the effects of airborne drift. 7 The good news is only two of the samples exceeded allowable limits. However, as in any supply and demand equation, the more popular wine becomes, the more pesticides will likely be used in vineyards to maximize yields to meet the growing demand. 8

Keeping Wine Safe

To help keep wine safe, the scientific community has worked with regulators, wineries, and independent testing laboratories to develop accurate testing equipment and methodologies to quantify and qualify pesticides in wine. Traditionally, that task was no easy one. Relying on standard chromatography and mass spectrometry techniques, the process required frequent sample cleanups to avoid contamination and false reads between runs. 9 In addition, testing for trace amounts of complex matrices such as wines and pesticides proved to be time-consuming and exacting work even for the most skilled laboratory scientists. 10

Recently, however, PerkinElmer introduced a newer, faster solution. Its QSight™ LC/MS/MS instrument features StayClean™ technology, which uses hot-surface-induced desolvation (HSID™) technology, a sampling interface that never needs cleaning, resulting in 15% more uptime than the conventional systems. In addition to making for a virtually maintenance-free instrument, the lack of contamination also significantly increases analytical sensitivity, which is critically important when detecting and measuring trace amounts of compounds in the parts per billion.

“The ‘no-dilute-just-shoot’ approach of the QSight LC/MS/MS demonstrates the advantages of the system’s HSID interface and a Laminar flow ion guide in protecting the instrument from contamination,” the PerkinElmer research team says, adding that it ran 200 continuous wine samples without any cleanup steps, and “the instrument performance remained consistent.” 11

What does that mean for your lab?  In testing for pesticides in wine, fruits, and other foods, the QSight system’s minimal cleanup is setting a new industry standard by allowing labs to run more samples, reduce costs, and increase productivity. It also adds something we can all appreciate as much a fine glass of wine – more time to literally enjoy the fruits of our labor knowing that what we eat and drink are safe. 12

We are PerkinElmer, leveraging science and the expertise of nearly 8,000 professionals to innovate for a healthier world.


  1. International Organization Of Vine And Wine, “2016 World Wine Production Estimated At 259 MHL,” OIV, October 20, 2016, accessed December 13, 2016.
  2. Robert Parker, Jr., “Robert Parker on Wine Trends: Wine Is Now Number One,” Food & Wine, accessed December 14, 2016.
  3. Andrew Wasley and Amanda Chaparro, “French Wine Industry's Love Affair With Pesticides Blamed For Worker Health Problems,” The Guardian, October 29, 2015, accessed December 12, 2016. See also, Carol Chuang, “What’s In Your Wine,”, 2013, accessed December 12, 2016.
  4. Zen Honeycut, “Widespread Contamination of Glyphosate Weedkiller in California Wine,” Moms Across America, March 24, 2016, accessed December 12, 2016.
  5. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, “Unauthorized Pesticide Verification and Enforcement Program for Wine,” Department Of The Treasury, Industry Circular Number: 2010-2, March 23, 2010, accessed December 15, 2016.
  6. Tom Natan and Dare Wenzler, “Finally, Some Real Data On Pesticides In Wine,” First Vine, April 15, 2015, accessed December 14, 2016. See also Honeycut, op. cit.
  7. Julie Fidler, “Glyphosate Found In 100% Of California Wines Tested,” Natural Society, April 9, 2016, accessed December 13, 2016. See also, Chaung, op. cit.
  8. Wasley and Chaparro, op. cit.
  9. Josh Ye, Feng Qin, Frank Kero, Craig Young, Jason Weisenseel, Jamie Foss, Matteo Maglioli, “ ‘No Dilute’ Just Shoot: Robustness of a QSight LC-ESI-MS/MS for Low Level Pesticide Residue Analysis in Wine,” Application Note, PerkinElmer, 2016, accessed December 15, 2016.
  10. Honeycut, op. cit.
  11. Ye, et. al., op. cit.
  12. PerkinElmer, “The Triple Quad That Knows The Value Of Time,” PerkinElmer Product Brochure, 2016, accessed December 15, 2016.

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