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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Wine Drinkers Worried About Arsenic

LOS ANGELES (CN) - More than two dozen cheap California wines have unsafe levels of arsenic, consumers claim in a class action in Superior Court.

Lead plaintiff Doris Charles claims that the defendants' wines contain "inorganic arsenic in amounts far in excess of what is allowed in drinking water," but do not disclose it to consumers.

Twenty-eight of the 31 defendants are from California. They include many well-known California labels, including Sutter Home Winery, Beringer, Almaden, Fetzer, Korbel, Don Sebastiani and Trader Joe's.

The Wine Institute, of California, called the lawsuit "irresponsible," "misleading," and "false."

Institute spokeswoman Gladys Horiuchi told The Associated Press that the United States has set no maximum arsenic levels for wine, though other countries have, and California wines do not even approach those levels.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set a maximum level of arsenic in drinking water at 10 parts per billion. The plaintiffs claim that some of the wines they tested had five times more arsenic than that.

The 40-page complaint claims that most of the arsenic found in the wines was "inorganic," which it says is more toxic than organic arsenic - arsenic that appears naturally in the soil.

"(J)ust a glass or two of these arsenic-contaminated wines a day over time could result in dangerous toxicity to the consumer," the March 19 complaint states.

California's 1,200 wineries produce nearly 90 percent of domestic wines, according to the lawsuit, but "no government regulatory agency is regularly monitoring or testing these wines to ensure they are free from toxic poisons that could sicken or kill consumers over time."

Plaintiffs' attorney Brian Kabateck told The Associated Press that a Denver-based lab tested 1,306 bottles of wine, and found 83 with "excessive arsenic levels." Those statistics do not appear in the lawsuit.

The four named plaintiffs, two from Los Angeles County and two from San Diego County, seek class certification and damages for consumer law violations, negligent misrepresentation, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment and unfair competition.

Kabateck is a partner in Kabateck, Brown & Kellner.

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