In Vino Vomitus: Lawsuit Warns of Arsenic-Tainted Wines

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 26, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Watch out sommeliers, oenophiles, and old-fashioned winos. According to a class action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, your wine of choice may contain high levels of arsenic, the potentially toxic poison.

According to the complaint, several popular wines contain up to 500% or more of the maximum acceptable arsenic levels, yet provide no warning to the consumer. Though the suits claims are just allegations at the moment, they may have you thinking twice before going back for that extra glass of Pinot.

Notes of Pear and Arsenic

Four plaintiffs, Doris Charles, Alvin Jones, and Jason and Jennifer Peltier, allege that they have consumed arsenic-rich wines without proper warning and in violation of California law. And consume wine they did! Well over fifty wines from twenty-some wineries are listed in the complaint, including Beringer's Red Moscato, two buck Chuck's White Zinfandel, Cucpcake's Malbec, and many, many types of Franzia.

While some snootier publications than FindLaw have referred to the wines as "cheap," we would never begrudge anyone their bargain drinks. But economy shouldn't come at the price of health, and arsenic is a known toxin and carcinogen tied to several serious illnesses.

Class Action Could Cover Huge Numbers

Should the class action proceed, it could potentially involve huge numbers of consumers. The complaint asks the court to open the class action to anyone in California who has purchased any of the allegedly-arsenic rich wines over the past four years. With over 215 million cases of wine produced in California, and with many of the wineries listed among the state's largest, that could lead to a potentially huge class of affected consumers.

Don't Purge Your Cellar Just Yet, Though

You may not need to start flushing your bottles and boxes of wine down the drain just yet, however. While the suit alleges that no organization monitors the California wines for toxicity, the Wine Institute, an industry trade group, notes that the European Union establishes limits for arsenic in wine and tests California exports against these limits, finding no excess levels of arsenic.

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