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Campden Tablets: What They Can And Can't Do.

Posted on October 24, 2011 by Ed Kraus There have been 57 comment(s)

Campden TabletsOne of the most commonly used ingredients in home wine making are Campden Tablets. You will find them in almost any of the wine making recipes you will use; talked about in almost any of the wine making books you will read; and called into action by just about any of the homemade wine instructions you will follow.

What Do Campden Tablets Do?
The original reason these tablets were used in wine making was to keep the wine from spoiling after it had been bottled. By adding these tablets at bottling time, you could virtually eliminate any chance of your wine falling victim to mold, bacteria and other foreign enemies.

Since their introduction into wine making, they have also become routinely used for sterilizing the juice prior to fermentation. By adding Campden Tablets a day before adding your wine yeast, you can start your fermentation with a clean slate, so to speak. All the unwanted micro organisms will be gone.

Some home winemakers also use Campden Tablets with water to create a sanitizing solution. This solution will safely sanitize fermenters, air-lock, stirring spoons, hoses and all the other pieces of equipment that may come into contact with the wine must.

What Campden Tablets Don't Do?
Many beginning winemakers believe that Campden Tablets are a magic pill of sorts. One that can instantaneously stop a wine fermentation dead in its tracks. While it is true that Campden Tablets can bring a fermentation to its knees for a period of time, it is also true that these fermentations will usually gather themselves back up and eventually overcome the effects of the tablets. The result is a continued fermentation --  sometimes after the wine has been bottled.

Shop FermentersTruth is, Campden Tablets are not designed to stop a fermentation and never have been. Using them for that purpose can get you into all kinds of trouble. There is really no ingredient that can be safely used by itself to assuredly stop a fermentation.

What Are Campden Tablets?
Simply put, Campden Tablets are metabisulfite. When you add a tablet to the wine you are adding sulfites to the wine. Most Campden Tablets consist of potassium metabisulfite, but some are made with sodium metabisulfite.

How Are Campden Tablets Used?
Their use is fairly straight-forward. You add one tablet to each gallon of wine must 24 hour prior to adding the wine yeast -- before the fermentation. Then you add one table per gallon just before bottling.

The Campden Tablets must first be crushed and dissolved in a small amount of the wine or water. This mix is then stirred thoroughly into the rest of the batch.

You can use the Campden Tablets to create a sanitizing solution by crushing up 4 tablets into a quart of water. This can be used as a sanitizing rinse, or you can pour it into a fermentation container and allow the fumes to sanitize the entire insides.

As An Alternative To The Campden Tablet...
You can use Potassium Metabisulfite or Sodium Metabisulfite in the form of a granulated powder. The advantages are: you don't have to crush it up; and it is cheaper. The disadvantage is you have to measure out the dosage, which is 1/16 teaspoon per tablet.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.


This post was posted in Wine Making Blog

57 Responses to Campden Tablets: What They Can And Can't Do.

  • thomas
    thomas says:

    i am making blackberry wine and rinsed my gallon jug out with hot water added the juice then sugar used hydrometer was9.4 is that allright for red wine its fermenting steady

    Posted on March 9, 2012 at 6:55 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    I assume you are ask is it going to be okay because you did not use Campden Tablets. The good news is you have a fermentation successfully started. This is important in protecting the wine. So you are okay... so far. However, I would strongly recommend you get some Campden Tablets to add to the wine right before bottling and to use with future batches.

    Posted on March 9, 2012 at 7:07 am

  • John Maule
    John Maule says:

    I drop one campden tablet into to one gallon of wine and it dissolves it self, is there any need to crush it

    Posted on April 12, 2012 at 11:53 pm

  • Gene Loehrer
    Gene Loehrer says:

    Sure do enjoy your tips on wine making...U R giving me the "itch" to get back at it again Thanks Gene

    Posted on May 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm

  • elmer
    elmer says:

    If Campden Tablets are so essential to add just prior to bottling, why doesn't the manufacturers of high end wine kits (RJ Spagnol. Vineco Showcase etc.) specify that in their instructions?

    Posted on May 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Elmer, Thanks for the great question. I can't speak RJ Spagnol because we do not carry that brand, but all the juice kits we do carry have you add packet #3 of potassium metabisulfite after degassing the wine. In addition to this, they state that if you plan on storing your wine for longer than 6 months to add another 1/4 teaspoon of your own potassium metabisulfite before bottling. This last part is not listed within the steps themselves, but as additional information on the directions sheet. This is true for all the juice kits we offer. Personally we always recommend to our customers that they add the sulfites before bottling. There's just no reason not to.

    Posted on May 31, 2012 at 6:18 am

  • Julia
    Julia says:

    HELP!! We bottled our homemade grape wine 3 months ago. Opened a bottle and it foamed in the glass. We can't remember if we added potassium metabisulfite before bottling. Can I empty bottles in primary fermenter stir back and forth and rebottle. Should I add a camden tablet or potassium metabisulfite. Thanks

    Posted on July 6, 2012 at 9:22 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Julia, at this point you need to put the wine back into a fermenter and let it finish fermenting. Once the fermentation has completed (you can verify this with a hydrometer), then you can add potassium metabisulfite to the wine and bottle. It is important that you understand that sulfites of any kind will not consistently stop a fermentation. For this reason we do not recommend that you rely on it to do so.

    Posted on July 6, 2012 at 11:33 am

  • Bert SALISBURY
    Bert SALISBURY says:

    My home made grape wine was ruby red and beautifully clear. Just before leaving on vacation I noticed a very small amount of mold. As a precaution, I added 5 crushed and dissolved camden tablets to the 5 galllon carboy. That was in February and to date it is still cloudy. Will it clear by itself or is there something else I can do?

    Posted on August 15, 2012 at 5:08 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Bert, I do not believe the addition of the Campden Tablets and cloudiness are related. There is nothing about Campden Tablets that cause cloudiness. It is more likely that the wine has started to ferment again as warmer weather came upon us. I would suggest that you take a hydrometer reading to confirm all the all the sugars have fermented and your fermentation is complete. If you find that renewed fermentation is the cause, your only choice is to be patient.

    Posted on August 15, 2012 at 6:41 am

  • jojo
    jojo says:

    I have read on other wine making sites that you should add camden tablets before fermentation and again on the first, third and fifth racking, and so on and again just before bottling. Is this necessary? I have been making wine for a year and have always done this.

    Posted on October 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Jojo, if you are making wine from fresh fruits you want to add Campden tablets before fermentation. You will want to add Campden tablets, again, after the fermentation. And then finally, once more, right before bottling.

    Posted on October 31, 2012 at 6:37 am

  • ttobin
    ttobin says:

    What if sulfites are a problem? I find I am sensitive to lots of things and sulfites are one of them. Is there an option for sulfite free homemade wines?

    Posted on December 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    ttobin, unfortunately sulfites play a significant role in keeping the wine from spoiling. While it is possible to make wine without any sulfites added, your risk for spoilage is dramatically increased. So much so, that it would be best stored under refrigeration. It is important to note that the fermentation, itself, produces significant sulfites... up to 25% of what is required to keep a wine stable. Because of this a truely "sulfite free" wine is impossible.

    Posted on December 11, 2012 at 6:09 am

  • JL
    JL says:

    My wine (Red) comes in a 6 gal pail. I run a small hose through a 1/4 hole in the top of the pail to a glass jug of water. It's not long and the water starts bubbling. After a month of this bubbling (burpping), I rack the wine into a glass car boy. It continues to burp for as much as a year, is this normal? When should I add campden tablets, how many for 5 gal and do I crush and mix with the wine to make a solution and then pour it into the wine? What does adding the tablets do for my wine? Thanks, John

    Posted on January 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    JL, the time table of your wine making process is somewhat off. The bulk of the fermentation should be done in about 5 to 7 days. This is also when your first racking should be done in to the carboy. If the fermentation was healthy it should be complete in two week or less. Once the fermentation has completed it is time to rack again then add Campden Tablets — one per gallon. This will help to protect the wine from oxidation and spoilage. Once the wine has had plenty of time to clear, usually 1 to 2 months, the wine should be racked again. Another dose of Campden Tablets should be added and you can bottle the wine. The fact that your fermentations are going on for months indicates that the environment is not correct for the wine yeast to perform the fermentation. I would suggest that you take a look at the article, "The Top Ten Reasons For Fermenation Failure" that is listed on our website: http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

    Posted on January 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm

  • Amy
    Amy says:

    I am a first time wine maker and really appreciate your site! I started my first attempt last night with a blackberry fruit wine base and followed the wine making process on the can. One of the steps is to add 1 Campden Tablet for each gallon of water which I did to later re-read to see I was supposed to wait until week 3 or 4. I have read on some sites the high level of sodium will stop the fermentation process. I have not added my yeast yet. Is there something I can do to save my wine and make sure it ferments?

    Posted on January 13, 2013 at 7:46 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Amy, the amount of sodium that are in the Campden Tablets is not of any concern to the fermentation. The amount is much too small the affect a fermentation in any way. The issue at hand is the sulfite, the active ingredient of the Campden Tablet. One tablet per gallon will kill a portion of the wine yeast and hinder the fermentation if action is not taken. Fortunately, the solution is simple. All you need to do is allow the sulfite to dissipate from the wine. Simply leave the fermenter uncovered for a 24 hour period. After this, it will be safe to add the wine yeast. You will still want to add more Campden Tablets in the future as directed.

    Posted on January 14, 2013 at 6:17 am

  • Rita Effler
    Rita Effler says:

    I want to "preserve" fresh squeezed orange, grapefruit and lemon juice without freezing and was told campden tablets would act as a preservative without refrigeration. However, the person who told me this said her orange juice turned to wine but she thought it was because her bottles were plastic. Can I preserve fresh juice by simply adding campden tablets or is that a myth?

    Posted on February 7, 2013 at 8:11 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Rita, yes you can use Campden tablets to preserve your juices. Add one crushed Campden tablet per gallon of juice. Then seal the container up in a timely manner. The suflite from the Campden tablets will dissipate into the air if given enough time. Secondly, make sure the containers are full, with no head-space. And third, if you do not plan on making wine with the juice, you can also add Potassium Sorbate. This will keep any microbes that the Campden misses from multiplying and causing spoilage.

    Posted on February 8, 2013 at 6:19 am

  • Stephen Gutner
    Stephen Gutner says:

    All of this hold true for mead, I wonder?

    Posted on February 12, 2013 at 2:23 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Stephen, everything you've read above does apply to Mead as well.

    Posted on February 13, 2013 at 6:25 am

  • Diego
    Diego says:

    If you use 1 Campden tablet per gallon how much potassium sorbate would be required to mix with the Campden per gallon.

    Posted on March 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Diego, it is important to understand that Campden tablets are completely independent of potassium sorbate, so regardless if you Campden tablets or not, you will want to add 1/4 teaspoon of potassium sorbate to each gallon of wine. If you add sugar at bottling time to sweeten the wine, then you will want to use 1/2 teaspoon of potassium sorbate per gallon.

    Posted on March 18, 2013 at 7:19 am

  • jimmy D
    jimmy D says:

    how long ? can you leave wine in a carboy after fermentation .

    Posted on March 23, 2013 at 3:50 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Jimmy, I would not leave the wine more than two or three days after the fermentation completes. You usually want to get the wine off the sediment reasonably quick. This is because the wine can develop off-flavors if left on the sediment for longer periods of time.

    Posted on March 25, 2013 at 8:01 am

  • Ed
    Ed says:

    I have been making homemade wine for more than 50 years, and I have not yet used Campden tablets or any other form of sulfite.

    My wine does not spoil for at least 2 years - in y own opinion most of my wines have best taste when about 2 years old. My blackberry wine is still good up to 5 years. Why does everyone think that one MUST use sulfites to make good wine?

    Posted on August 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm

  • Fee
    Fee says:

    Hi.....I've made a batch of cider....its now in a large sealed bucket and is fermenting away BUT everywhere I've read it says you should add a campden tablet 24 hours before you add your yeast which I didn't do this time or the previous time - I added it at the end after I'd strained the cider and 24 hours before the cider was bottled - will my cider still be safe to drink? I left it 4 weeks to ferment and settle last time then I strained off the sediment 2/3 times before adding the tablet and bottling......the cider was then kept in the fridge.

    Posted on August 29, 2013 at 5:03 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Fee, the fact that you had a successful fermentation would indicate that everything is fine with the cider. A healthy fermentation will keep down any molds or bacteria from growing. You add Campden tablets after the fermentation and before bottling so it is being protected after the fermentation just fine.

    Posted on August 29, 2013 at 6:46 am

  • Leanna
    Leanna says:

    I am making my first ever batch of wine. I used a red muscadine grape added water and sugar as the recipe indicated. It then said to add 1 crushed campden tablet per gallon and yeast nutrient to the must. Befor I added the campden I had beautiful color to my juices after the campden was added the juice became clear. Is this normal?

    Posted on September 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Leanna, the true color of the wine is not going to become apparent until after the fermentation. The skin of the grapes is were the color lies. The color is extracted from the skins during the first 3 to 5 days of fermentation. If you noticed a drop out of color before the fermentation, it was not because of the Campden tablets — they have no ability to do such a thing — but rather from the loose tannins from the grapes dropping out. They and other sources of color pigmentation will be saturated into the wine once the fermentation gets started.

    Posted on September 16, 2013 at 6:42 am

  • Dave
    Dave says:

    I racked a grape wine after the first fermentation and let it set for a three weeks. I noticed a thin white film forming on top of the wine so I added two crushed campden tablets, it is a one gallon carboy. the top half of the wine in the carboy turned hazy. I have waited 24 hours and it has not cleared. What could be the problem.

    Posted on September 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Dave, I am fearful that the white film (bacteria) is what's causing the haze in the wine. It would have been better to rack the wine away from the film before adding the Campden tablets. At this point, your best option is to wait. My guess is that the haziness will rise to the top again, and then you can rack the wine into a clean jug.

    Posted on September 21, 2013 at 8:06 am

  • April
    April says:

    Just started my first ever batch of wine. Muscadine wine. It has just finished sitting for 24 hours. I went to add the yeast and there is brownish jelly looking floaties in it. I added pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient, and 5 camden tablets crushed before placing it in my wine making spot. 5 gallons of wine is what I am making. The smell of it is leaning towards sour grapes. I did sterilize all equipment prior to mixing. Is that brown jelly stuff normal?

    Posted on October 11, 2013 at 7:15 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    April, I would examine the jelly looking stuff more closely, but my guess is it is some of the inner flesh portion of the grapes. But, I can't rule out some foreign matter either that came with the grapes. It is up to you to investigate further because what you are saying is not normal.

    Posted on October 12, 2013 at 8:17 am

  • Molly
    Molly says:

    I'd like to use campden to sterilize a small amount of juice for topping up. I doubt that I will be able to accurately divide a tablet smaller than into quarters. Is it harmful to use a higher concentration than the usual one tab per gallon, for this purpose? Thanks!

    Posted on November 9, 2013 at 11:32 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Molly, for the portion of the entire batch we are talking about, it would not matter if you added a little more than what is standard. Just do the best you can.

    Posted on November 11, 2013 at 6:16 am

  • Tamra
    Tamra says:

    I am the owner of a small tea company,I make fruit tea and am searching for ways to preserve my product's shelf life for commercial purposes. Assuming that if camden is good for juices, it should also be good to use in tea as well, shouldn't it? If I choose to just use a combination of potassium sorbate and potassium

    metabisulfite, would that increase the shelf life. How much of each to use per gallon of tea and would there be a need to add more of each before bottling as you would with wine? How long will the tea last? In consuming these sulfites, are there any dangers or health risk? Are these sulfites considered one of the 7 or 8 allergens?

    Posted on December 26, 2013 at 11:25 pm

  • rajat sharma
    rajat sharma says:

    I have not added campden. Fermentation started 2 days ago. and I have around 40 days in my hand to add campden tablets. But I am not getting campden tablets , any alternatives of it? If i get it how much quantity should i add in 2 gallons

    Posted on January 11, 2014 at 8:23 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Rajat, if you do not have Campden tablets the only things you could use would be either potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. I you can not get either of these, the only thing I would suggest is to be very clean with all of your winemaking equipment and wait the 40 days before bottling so that you can add Campden tablets right before bottling. You only need to add 1 tablet per gallon of wine.

    Posted on January 11, 2014 at 8:46 am

  • David
    David says:

    Hi should campdem tablets be added when i rack my secondry for the first time, or can i add half of one every time i rack, the wine is made from abiu, cheers fro australia

    Posted on May 30, 2014 at 3:56 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    David, you should not add Campden tablets to your wine if it is still fermenting. If you are not sure, you can use a hydrometer to help you determine when the fermentation is complete or not. Some winemakers will add Campden tablets once the fermentation is complete, but most do not. It depends on if you plan on bottling the wine as soon as it is clear or if you plan on bulk aging the wine for a while. Here is another blog article that should help to clear this up a little more:



    Using Campden Tablets: The How, When & Why

    http://blog.eckraus.com/blog/wine-making-tricks-and-tips/using-campden-tablets

    Posted on May 30, 2014 at 7:34 am

  • mick
    mick says:

    I added 1 campden tablet by mistake to my gallon jar before pouring my still fermenting wine into it, will I need to throw the wine away or keep it in the jar for a longer period so the fermentation can restart..

    Posted on July 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Mick, there is no reason the throw the wine out. You just need to get the wine going again. If the fermentation has come to a complete stop, splash it around a bit so as to get rid of the SO2 gas from the Campden tablet; put it back in the gallon jug; and add a fresh packet of wine yeast. If the wine is still fermenting along, just be patient.

    Posted on July 3, 2014 at 6:24 am

  • Mabel
    Mabel says:

    put in our own blueberry wine in Jan, 2014.we have racked it once.Now it is July and the wine is still fermenting and very sweet.What can we do?

    Posted on July 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Mabel, the fermentation should have been done within 2 weeks time. It sounds like your wine never fermented, or fermented very little. I would suggest that you go over the following information. It is possible that the Campden tablets killed your yeast if you put them in at the same time.



    Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure

    http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

    Posted on July 8, 2014 at 6:20 am

  • TheWineBrewer
    TheWineBrewer says:

    Hey I got a great video on replacing Campden tablets with potassium metabisulfite solution here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CayBv64erfs

    Posted on August 25, 2014 at 11:01 pm

  • june
    june says:

    I wanted to o know if I put to much water in the yeast will it still work and I put the towel over it for 24 hour then the air lock will the grape still make or can I still add more yeast into the patch to get it going. Or should I just start all.over. Thank u

    Posted on September 27, 2014 at 2:56 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    June, the amount of water you put with the yeast will have no effect on it one way or the other. What will affect the yeast is the temperature of the water and the length of time it is allowed to sit at that temperature. It is important that the re-hydration directions of the yeast packet be followed precisely. Not doing so will result in killing too many yeast cells to properly start a fermentation. If you feel this may be the case, I would suggest adding another packet of wine yeast, only this time sprinkle it directly onto the wine must and stir it in.

    Posted on September 29, 2014 at 6:40 am

  • Brandon
    Brandon says:

    Not sure if this question relates to Campden tablets or not but my wine is bubbling and I have not added the yeast yet. Should it be doing this and should I wait till it stops before adding the yeast?

    Posted on September 29, 2014 at 1:49 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Brandon, if you are making your wine from fresh fruit as opposed to a concentrate, etc., it is possible that it started fermenting with the natural yeast. There is also a smaller chance that a bacteria is starting to ferment. In either case, you want to add sulfites such as Campden tablets to stop this activity. Then wait 24 hours with the fermenter covered with nothing more than a thin towel. You want the sulfite gases to dissipate. After 24 hours add a wine yeast. This will help to insure that you have a healthy fermentation.

    Posted on September 30, 2014 at 6:30 am

  • Ryan
    Ryan says:

    I added my campden tabs right after I added my yeast. is this going to alter the outcome of my batch of wine. Should I pour it out and start over?

    Posted on October 1, 2014 at 7:07 am

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    Ryan, you did not ruin your wine by any means, but you probably kill most or all of the yeast you added. There is a simple remedy. Wait the 24 hours and add another pack of yeast. If you do not have another pack of yeast, seal the must up air-tight keeping the sulfites from the Campden tablets trapped. The must will keep fine this way for a week or better. Once you get the yeast, unseal the lid for 24 hours and then added it. If you added the Campden tablets 24 hours ago already but have no yeast, add another half-dose seal it up until you get the yeast. Wait the 24 hours, uncovered, and add it.

    Posted on October 1, 2014 at 9:45 am

  • BLU
    BLU says:

    These are the steps I followed:

    1. Crushed fresh grapes into a plastic barrel

    2. Allowed the must (or rather the grapes/peels/pulps) to rise from above the juices (about 6 days)

    3. Strained the juices from the barrel and placed into another plastic barrel. Pressed the peels/pulps and added that to the virgin juices removed earlier.

    4. Immediately added 1tablet per gal.

    5. Waited about 7 days and racked the "wine", adding another batch of campden tablets @1per gal.

    I have no idea if it finished fermenting.



    My original thought was that the "wild" yeasts from the grapes themselves would take care of the fermenting in that 1 weeks time.

    Then by adding the campden tablets, they would kill that yeast.

    After the first racking (in removing it from the sediment on the bottom) I added more tablets to ensure that any bad yeast would be dead. I did leave only a paper towel over the opening for 24 hrs after adding the tablets.

    I now have an airlock on the container..and it is still "burping". I imagine that it is still fermenting.

    What is going on? and what should I do to salvage any possible waste?

    Thank you ~

    Posted on October 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    BLU, I do not see where you have a problem. I am amazed that the wild yeast is still able to ferment at all with the sulfite additions that have been made. Normally, this would easily kill any wild yeast. To expect a fermentation to be done in 6 or 7 days is not realistic. It happens all the time, but there is no guaranteed that that's how a fermentation will go. At this point you need to do nothing. Let the fermentation continue on. Once the bubbling "completely" stop, you absolutely need to check it with a hydrometer to confirm that the fermentation has completed and not "stuck". From there you want to give the wine plenty of time to clear. Hope this information helps you out.

    Posted on October 11, 2014 at 8:05 am

  • nongothung
    nongothung says:

    i made my first batch of wine , and i have done secondary fermantation but i am not getting sodium or potassium metabisulphite. so if i don't put sodium or potassium metabisulphite and bottle the wine . is my wine will get spoil?

    Posted on October 17, 2014 at 7:18 pm

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service says:

    nongothung, not using sulfites in your wine is not a guarantee that a wine is going to spoil, although the chances will be much higher. What it does guarantee is that the wine will start loose it's color and freshness sooner than a wine that has had sulfites added. You may notice the wine starting to turn color some through oxidation, and eventually, you may notice the wine start to slowly spoil or turn to vinegar.

    Posted on October 18, 2014 at 7:41 am

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