clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

California Winemakers Sued Over High Levels of Arsenic in Wines

Might want to rethink buying that box of Franzia.

kubina/Flickr

Some studies say that a glass of wine is good for your health, but according to a new lawsuit, it just may kill you. CBS reports that a class action lawsuit was filed today in California against some of the country's top winemakers over the high levels of arsenic in wine. The lawsuit claims that some of the most popular wines have "up to four and five times the maximum amount of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows for drinking water."

Many are upset that there are basically no federal requirements to tell customers what's really in wine. In fact, the wine lobby has been fighting government action to require alcohol companies to label what's in their wine. Biz Journal notes that a Denver laboratory called BeverageGrades started running tests last fall to uncover the calorie counts in bottles of wine. Kevin Hicks — who owns the company — says that he ran tests on 1,300 bottles and was shocked at what results showed. Nearly a quarter of the bottles had levels of arsenic higher than the EPA's maximum for drinking water. When scanning through the results, Hicks noticed a pattern: The lower the price of the wine, the higher the levels of arsenic were. Trader Joe's famous Two-Buck Chuck White Zinfandel had three times the EPA's limit, while Franzia Blush had five times the limit.

Arsenic is linked to many forms of cancer.

Hicks says that when he tried to bring this information to the winemakers, they basically "hung up the phone." So, he filed a lawsuit accusing more than 24 California winemakers and sellers "of misrepresenting their wine as safe." Trader Joe's tells CBS that "they're investigating the matter" with many of their wine suppliers. A spokesperson for the Wine Group — another company named in the lawsuit — adds that the largest level of arsenic cited in the lawsuit is "only half of Canada's standard for wine, of 100 parts per billion."

Epidemiologist Allan Smith tells CBS news that arsenic can be fatal over time: "Arsenic is highly toxic," even at a parts per billion level. Smith adds, "[Arsenic] has many effects inside the body as cigarette smoking does" and that it is linked to many forms of cancer.

These new findings could have a negative impact on America's burgeoning wine industry: Last year, America officially dethroned France as the "number-one largest market for wine in the world." The news affects wine drinkers in other countries too. A report released in February shows that the U.S. is one of the largest exporters of wine in the world: In 2015, America exported just under $1.5 billion worth of wine.

Eater Video archive: The proper glassware for wine (2014)