The chairman of the US House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, has raised the question of possible sanctions being imposed on French wine and mineral water imports to the US.

This would be in retaliation to France's policy on US agricultural imports and its stance on the Iraq crisis.

Hasert, who is an influential member of the Republican majority in the House, is consulting his party colleagues to gauge feeling on whether to adopt a Bill sanctioning these products.

He is said to have proposed the idea of placing a bright orange sticker on French wine bottles which would draw attention to the possibility that the contents could have been treated with oxblood powder.

The blood, traditionally dried bull's blood, was used as a fining agent to clear wine as it ferments but its use was banned in 1997 as a precaution in the wake of the "mad cow disease" crisis.

In 1999, French authorities seized 100,000 suspect bottles thought to contain the blood after a swoop on 14 vineyards in the Cotes du Rhone area.

According to a spokesman for the US' Wine Institute," a trade group representing Californian wine growers, there is a little chance that the sanctions will be imposed.

"Clearly we are opposed to such a move as it could have a negative impact on the consumption of US wines," adding that the sanctions proposals were motivated out of "purely political" reasons.

The spokesman said the brother-in-law of president George W. Bush, Robert Koch, is set to take up the chairmanship of the Wine Institute in June.