There are a number of ways to get arsenic poisoning, the most common of which is from drinking water. One of the arguments against hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), in fact, is that this method of mining may mobilize arsenic in the groundwater. In addition, harmful exposure can occur occupationally (smelting of zinc and copper ores) and from food products (rice can accumulate arsenic from the soil rather easily) and feed has been found to contain levels detectable in commercially-raised chickens. Now add wine as another potential source. Cheap wine.
In a recently-filed lawsuit naming 28 wineries, four individuals complain that some 83 low-priced (i.e., $5-$10 per bottle) California wines contain dangerously high levels of arsenic. The litigation claims that testing by three independent laboratories on 1,306 bottles (representing 75% of the U.S. market), found that in some cases arsenic levels were 500% higher than what is considered safe. It appears that the high levels may have been due to the vinting process and were not naturally-occurring. A few of the brands named in the lawsuit are Almaden, Beringer, Fetzer, Franzia, Korbel, Sutter Homes, and kosher brand, Mogen David.
The Wine Institute (which represents some 1,000 wine producers), called the suit “irresponsible,” and sees no reason to recall any wines. An Institute spokesperson stated that “all wines being sold in the U.S. marketplace safe” and that California vintages have never come close to exceeding acceptable levels.
There seems to be no question that wines costing over $20 are safe for consumption. So with the Passover and Easter holidays approaching, don’t be cheap when it comes to the fruit of the vine.