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CC Foodie – Name Your Poison? Lawsuit Alleges Arsenic in Wine

wineIt’s an ideal controversy to discuss at Happy Hour; there are 83 popular, inexpensive brands of California wines that contain illegal and dangerously high levels of poisonous inorganic arsenic, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 in Los Angeles. The complete list is included below.

Plaintiffs Doris Charles, Alvin Jones, Jason Peltier and Jennifer Peltier allege in their proposed class-action Los Angeles Superior Court complaint that dozens of wineries are violating state law by knowingly producing, marketing and selling arsenic contaminated wine and failing to warn consumers about the potential danger. The suit seeks unspecified damages and a court order directing the wineries to correct the alleged poor practices.

CBS News reported last Thursday that “very high levels of arsenic” showed up in almost a quarter of 1,300 wines tested by independent Denver-based lab BeverageGrades. “Very high,” according to BeverageGrades founder and former wine distributor Kevin Hicks, meant four to five times more arsenic than the EPA standard for drinking water, which is 10 parts per billion (ppb), or 10 micrograms per liter (mcg/L).

Court documents allege three separate testing laboratories confirmed the 28 wineries are producing wines with high levels of the toxin.

“Three separate testing laboratories skilled in arsenic testing have now independently confirmed that several California wineries (including those named as Defendants in this action) instead produce and market wines that contain dangerously high levels of inorganic arsenic, in some cases up to 500% or more than what is considered the maximum acceptable safe daily intake limit,” the complaint states. “Put differently, just a glass or two of these arsenic-contaminated wines a day over time could result in dangerous arsenic toxicity to the consumer.”

The report reads as alarmist — though they mention at the end that their own independent testing of four wines yielded arsenic levels above 10 ppb but much lower than BeverageGrades’ results — and Hicks clearly finds these results concerning enough that he’s filing a class action suit against more than two dozen wine makers and sellers for their unsafe products.

However, it needs to be emphasized that Hicks is also offering to sell his companies testing services to wine makers who might be concerned about… arsenic in their wine. This news report and lawsuit could easily be seen as creating one’s own demand.

But assuming BeverageGrades’ results are correct — a big “if” since the results have not been independently confirmed, the company has not described its methods, and is simultaneously attempting to sell winemakers its services after creating a news story — how much should you be concerned if you’re a regular wine drinker?

The shortest answer, quoted in Forbes.com, from Kenneth Spaeth, MD, chief of occupational and environmental medicine at the North Shore-LIJ Health System is ‘we don’t know yet.’

These wineries have long known about the serious health risks their products pose to customers,” plaintiffs’ 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.”

Arsenic is an odorless, colorless and highly toxic poison known to cause illness and death when ingested. Some of the long-term health effects of arsenic exposure include various types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, medical experts say.

The lawsuit is just that: a lawsuit. And neither judge nor jury has weighed in on the allegations. Still, the story has gone viral on social media, with many posts wondering just which wines are included in the suit.

Well, here they are:

  1. Acronym’s GR8RW Red Blend 2011
  2. Almaden’s Heritage White Zinfandel
  3. Almaden’s Heritage Moscato
  4. Almaden’s Heritage White Zinfandel
  5. Almaden’s Heritage Chardonnay
  6. Almaden’s Mountain Burgundy
  7. Almaden’s Mountain Rhine
  8. Almaden’s Mountain Chablis
  9. Arrow Creek’s Coastal Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  10. Bandit’s Pinot Grigio
  11. Bandit’s Chardonnay
  12. Bandit’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  13. Bay Bridge’s Chardonnay
  14. Beringer’s White Merlot 2011
  15. Beringer’s White Zinfandel 2011
  16. Beringer’s Red Moscato
  17. Beringer’s Refreshingly Sweet Moscato
  18. Charles Shaw White Zinfandel 2012
  19. Colores del Sol’s Malbec 2010
  20. Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen REserve Pinot Grigio 2012
  21. Concannon’s Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011
  22. Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Merlot 2010
  23. Cook’s Spumante
  24. Corbett Canyon’s Pinot Grigio
  25. Corbett Canyon’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  26. Cupcake’s Malbec 2011
  27. Fetzer’s Moscato 2010
  28. Fetzer’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  29. Fisheye Pinot Grigio 2012
  30. Flipflop’s Pinot Grigio 2012
  31. Flipflop’s Moscato
  32. Flipflop’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  33. Foxhorn’s White Zinfandel
  34. Franzia’s Vintner Select White Grenache
  35. Franzia’s Vintner Select White Zinfandel
  36. Franzia’s Vintner Select White Merlot
  37. Franzia’s Vintner Select Burgundy
  38. Hawkstone’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  39. HRM Rex Goliath’s Moscato
  40. Korbel’s Sweet Rose Sparkling Wine
  41. Korbel’s Extra Dry Sparkling Wine
  42. Menage a Trois’ Pinot Grigio 2011
  43. Menage a Trois’ Moscato 2010
  44. Menage a Trois’ White Blend 2011
  45. Menage a Trois’ Chardonnay 2011
  46. Menage a Trois’ Rose 2011
  47. Menage a Trois’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  48. Menage a Trois’ California Red Wine 2011
  49. Mogen David’s Concord
  50. Mogen David’s Blackberry Wine
  51. Oak Leaf’s White Zinfandel
  52. Pomelo’s Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  53. R Collection by Raymond’s Chardonnay 2012
  54. Richards Wild Irish Rose’s Red Wine
  55. Seaglass’s Sauvignon Blanc 2012
  56. Simply Naked’s Moscato 2011
  57. Smoking Loon’s Viognier 2011
  58. Sutter Home’s Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  59. Sutter Home’s Gewurztraminer 2011
  60. Sutter Home’s Pink Moscato
  61. Sutter Home’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  62. Sutter Home’s Moscato
  63. Sutter Home’s Chenin Blanc 2011
  64. Sutter Home’s Sweet Red 2010
  65. Sutter Home’s Riesling 2011
  66. Sutter Home’s White Merlot 2011
  67. Sutter Home’s Merlot 2011
  68. Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel 2011
  69. Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel 2012
  70. Sutter Home’s Zinfandel 2010
  71. Trapiche’s Malbec 2012
  72. Tribuno’s Sweet Vermouth
  73. Vendange’s Merlot
  74. Vendange’s White Zinfandel
  75. Wine Cube’s Moscato
  76. Wine Cube’s Pink Moscato 2011
  77. Wine Cube’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  78. Wine Cube’s Pinot Grigio
  79. Wine Cube’s Chardonnay 2011
  80. Wine Cube’s Chardonnay
  81. Wine Cube’s Red Sangria
  82. Wine Cube’s Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  83. Wine Cube’s Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2011

Note:, Any wines listed without specific years are non-vintage, meaning the grapes used did not come from a single year.

Best solution? Spring for the good stuff. Better wine (perhaps less wine-) can be in the budget and in your best interest.

A toast “to your very good health.”

City News Service,  Forbes.com, and Monrovia Patch area all cited in this post. 

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