Wineries Failed to Notify Patrons of Arsenic Tainted Wine

Red and white wine in bottlesA lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges that 28 wineries, including the widely popular Sutter Home, Charles Shaw, and Beringer wineries knowingly marketed, sold and permitted patrons to drink wine that was contaminated with arsenic without properly notifying them of the health hazards.

Three of the plaintiffs allege in their claims that the contaminated wine contained a level of arsenic that was up to 500% past the safe consumption amount.

Why is Arsenic in Wine?

Arsenic is a plentiful chemical element. It’s found in many minerals in the Earth’s crust, so it’s not uncommon for it to be found in non-toxic amounts in soil. This means it can be absorbed during cultivation, ending up in many different agricultural products–including in the grapes wineries cultivate for wine production. According to the Wine Institute, farms around the world produce juices, vegetables, grains and alcohols containing small traces of arsenic.

Is a Lawsuit Worth It?

The high levels of arsenic in wines in from California might be dangerous, but they also might not be explicitly unlawful: the United States doesn’t set a limit level for arsenic in wine. The Environmental Protection Agency permits a measurement of 10 parts per billion, or ppb in drinking water. About 75% of the 1,300 bottles involved in litigation tested below that legal limit for water, 10 ppb.

Meanwhile, France permits 200 ppb of arsenic in their wines, and Canada permits 100 ppb. The remainder of the contaminated California wine tested below both of these limits, at 50 ppb. While many news articles would paint this as a sensationalist, clearly wrong issue, it isn’t necessarily so, and a lawsuit may not necessarily be worth it. Nonetheless, because of the effects of regularly imbibing potentially harmful levels of arsenic, such as cancer, and damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, it’s perhaps not a bad idea to avoid certain wines for a while.

Wines to Look Out For

Allegedly, not all varieties of wine were affected. The lawsuits filed so far only name inexpensive white and blue wines, including (but unfortunately not limited to) Pinot Grigio, White Zinfadel, Moscato, and Sauvignon Blanc. The other brands named in the lawsuit include, but are not limited to Menage à Trois, Wine Cube, Glen Ellen, Cupcake, and Vendage. However, if you are actually being poisoned by arsenic, you will begin to show symptoms, such as bluish brown spots on your body, as well as others.


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