Lawsuit targets arsenic in many popular, inexpensive wines

LOS ANGELES, March 19 (UPI) — A class-action lawsuit against some of the United States’ top-selling winemakers alleges those wines contain levels of arsenic up to five times higher than what’s allowed in drinking water.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in California by Kevin Hicks, who started BeverageGrades, a laboratory that analyzed the wine in question.

He tested 1,300 different types of wines and found nearly a quarter of them contained arsenic higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency allows for drinking water. Water is allowed to have 10 parts per billion of arsenic and some of the wines in question had two to five times that amount.

“The lower the price of wine on a per-liter basis, the higher the amount of arsenic,” Hicks told CBS News.

Franzia White Grenache had five times the EPA limit, Ménage a Trois Moscato had four times the limit and Trader Joe’s Two-Buck Chuck White Zinfandel had three times the limit, BeverageGrades testing found.

“These wineries have long known about the serious health risks their products pose to customers,” attorney Brian Kabateck said. “Yet instead of reducing the exposure to acceptable levels, the defendants recklessly engage in a pattern and practice of selling arsenic-tainted wine to California consumers.” 

The government doesn’t regulate wine like it does water, though, and a spokesman for The Wine Group, which is named in the lawsuit, told CBS it’s an unfair comparison because people don’t tend to drink was much wine as they do water.

“It would not be accurate or responsible to use the water standard as the baseline” the spokesman, whose name wasn’t reported, said.

He said the wine with the most amount of arsenic, five times the EPA regulation for water, is “only half of Canada’s standard for wine, of 100 parts per billion.”


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