Some California winemakers accused of letting arsenic into products

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Some California Wine May Contain Arsenic
(Reuters) -- About 30 makers of low-priced California wines including popular brands Charles Shaw and Sutter Home allow unacceptable levels of arsenic in their products, private attorneys said in a proposed class action filed in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The legal action represents a challenge to a segment of the industry that produces wines that consumers can buy for less than $10 a bottle, or in the case of Charles Shaw the so-called Two-Buck Chuck product that retailer Trader Joe's has popularized at $2.

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Some California winemakers accused of letting arsenic into products

A lawsuit filed on March 19, is claiming that many popular low cost wines contain a dangerous amount of inorganic arsenic. The wineries that are producing the wines have knowingly created them with 500% or more than the allowed safe amount of the chemical. The following site, has a copy of the complaint and other information pertaining to the lawsuit. 

The following brands and types of wines  are listed as containing the dangerous chemical:

Acronym, Gr8Rw Red Blend 

Almaden, Heritage White Zinfandel, Heritage Moscato, Heritage Chardonnay, Mountain Burgundy, Mountain Rhine & Mountain Chablis

Arrow Creek: Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon

Bandit: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay & Cabernet Sauvignon

Bay Bridge: Chardonnay

Beringer: White Merlot, White Zinfandel, Red Moscato & Refreshingly Sweet Moscato

Charles Shaw: White Zinfandel 

Colores Del Sol: Malbec

Glen Ellen by Concannon: Glen Ellen Reserve Pinot Grigio & Glen Ellen Reserve Merlot

Concannon: Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir

Cook's: Spumante

Corbett Canyon: Pinot Grigio & Cabernet Sauvignon

Cupcake: Malbec

Fetzer: Moscato & Pinot Grigio

Fisheye: Pinot Grigio

FlipFlop: Pinot Grigio, Moscato & Cabernet Sauvignon

Foxhorn: White Zinfandel 

Franzia: Vintner Select White Grenache, Vintner Select White Zinfandel, Vintner Select White Merlot & Vintner Select Burgundy

Hawkstone: Cabernet Sauvignon

Hrm Rex Goliath: Moscato

Korbel: Sweet Rose Sparkling Wine & Extra Dry Sparkling Wine

Menage a Trois:  Pinot Grigio, Moscato, White Blend, Chardonnay, Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon & California Red Wine

Mogen David: Concord & Blackberry Wine

Oak Leaf: White Zinfandel

Pomelo: Sauvignon Blanc

R Collection by Raymond: Chardonnay 

Richards Wild Irish Rose: Red Wine

Seaglass: Sauvignon Blanc

Simply Naked: Moscato

Smoking Loon: Viognier

Sutter Home: Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pink Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc, Sweet Red, Riesling, White Merlot, Merlot, White Zinfandel & Zinfandel

Trapiche: Malbec

Tribuno: Sweet Vermouth

Vendange: Merlot & White Zinfandel

Wine Cube: Moscato, Pink Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Red Sangria, Sauvignon Blanc & Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz


Photo: Chris Weeks Via Getty Images

Charles Shaw aka Two Buck Chuck

Photo: mastermaq/Flickr

Charles Shaw

Photo: AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Sutter Home 

Photo: Neilson Barnard via Getty Images


Photo: ern/Flickr

Korbel Sparkling Wine

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Beringer White Zinfandel 

Photo: rbglasson/Flickr

Fetzer Moscato

Photo: nate_lawson/Flickr


The attorneys who brought the lawsuit said the majority of wineries in the state's $23 billion wine industry, the nation's largest, produce a safe product. But they said a lack of government regulation puts consumers at risk.

"There is more regulation in the caramel corn industry in the United States than in the wine industry, as surprising as that is," attorney Brian Kabateck told a news conference.

"We are trying to bring the wine industry out into the sunshine," he said.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and accuses about 30 California wineries of unjust enrichment, misrepresentation and engaging in unfair competition against wineries that follow safe practices.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets the maximum amount of arsenic in water at 10 parts per billion, but the lawsuit says laboratory tests conducted for the litigation have shown levels of inorganic arsenic, the most dangerous form of the substance, which can cause cancer and diabetes, at far higher levels.

The suit did not specify how much was being sought in damages.

Plaintiffs attorneys said they do not know exactly how the arsenic gets into some wines but said it may come from a clarifying agent or from inadequate filtration of pesticides used on grapes.

The Wine Institute, a trade association representing California wineries, said it believes the litigation is misleading.

"We are concerned that the irresponsible publicity campaign by the litigating party could scare the public into thinking that wine is not safe to consume, which is patently untrue," it said in a statement.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has the power under state law to bring a complaint to protect consumers from what may be unsafe wines, and the attorneys who filed the suit expressed hope she would take such action.

A representative for Harris' office declined immediate comment. Representatives for Sutter Home and Trader Joe's could not immediately be reached for comment.

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