Lawsuit Claims California Wines Have Unsafe Amounts of Arsenic – Truth! & Misleading!

Lawsuit Claims California Wines Have Unsafe Amounts of Arsenic – Truth! Misleading!

Summary of eRumor: 

A lawsuit claims that some brands of California wine have dangerously high levels of arsenic.

The Truth: 

It’s true that a number of California wineries were sued for high levels of arsenic in their wines, but the lawsuit is misleading.

The class action lawsuit claims that 28 California wineries bottled wine that had unsafe levels of inorganic arsenic. It said there was 500% more arsenic in some wine samples than is allowed in drinking water:

“Defendants produce, manufacture and/or distribute wine in California that contains inorganic arsenic in amounts far in excess of what is allowed in drinking water. Defendants do not warn that their products contain unsafe amounts of inorganic arsenic, nor do they disclose even the existence of inorganic arsenic in the wine.”

The problem is that it’s misleading to compare the allowable arsenic levels of drinking water and wine. The EPA allows arsenic levels to reach 10 parts per billion (ppb) in drinking water — but there aren’t any specific limits on allowable arsenic levels in wine.

Even so, that doesn’t mean that arsenic levels in California wines are unsafe or toxic. Other countries allow much more arsenic in wine than the EPA allows in drinking water. The International Organization of Vine and Wine, which regulates wine makers in 45 countries, sets the limit for total arsenic in wine at 200 ppb. In Canada and the European Union, the limit is 100 ppb.

Besides, the lawsuit doesn’t attack the California wine makers for dangerous amounts of arsenic. It claims the companies broke state laws because they didn’t disclose that there was any arsenic at all in their wines on the labels. That basically means that every California winery would have to make the same disclosure, because arsenic is in almost all food and drinks.

The Wine Institute, which represents 1,000 California wineries, called the lawsuit “irresponsible” in a statement:

“Arsenic is prevalent in the natural environment in air, soil and water, and in food. As an agricultural product, wines from throughout the world contain trace amounts of arsenic, as do juices, vegetables, grains and other alcohol beverages. There is no research that shows that the amounts found in wine pose a health risk to consumers.

“The U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the agency that regulates wine, beer and spirits, monitors wines for compounds, including arsenic, as part of its testing program as does FDA as part of its Total Diet Study. While there are no established limits in the U.S., several countries, including the European Union, have established limits of 100 parts per billion or higher for wine. California wine exports are tested by these governments and are below the established limits.”

Whether or not the federal government should set limits for the amount of arsenic allowed in wine is open for debate. But even if it does, the level won’t be the same as drinking water’s, which is what the eRumor seems to imply.