Class action lawsuit claims winemakers sell arsenic-laced products

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Friday, March 20, 2015
Class action lawsuit claims wine is being sold with high arsenic levels
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Reena Ninan has the story.

LOS ANGELES -- A class action lawsuit has been filed against 28 California wineries accusing the low-cost winemakers of selling products that contain high levels of inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.

The lawsuit claims the wineries are violating California state law by knowingly "producing, marketing and selling arsenic contaminated wine" and "failing to warn consumers about the potential danger."

Some of the wineries named in the lawsuit are behind brands such as Charles Shaw, Sutter Home, Glen Ellen and Beringer.

The lawsuit states that the wines were independently tested by BeverageGrades, a Denver, Colorado-based lab. The lab tested 1,306 different types of wine and found 83 showed elevated levels of arsenic.

BeverageGrades CEO Kevin Hicks said the wines were tested simply to find out what they were made of and the results were "profoundly disturbing."

In a statement to Eyewitness News, The Wine Institute, an association that represents 1,000 wineries, said the allegations are "false and misleading."

"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 statement said.

The lawsuit does not request a specific dollar amount, but seeks civil penalties and damages.