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Lawsuit against 28 California wines raises concerns over arsenic 

county crop reportAs Paso Robles Wine Country was getting ready to for Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend that kicked off today, news broke Thursday of a lawsuit against 28 California wines that are alleged to contain “illegal and dangerously high levels of poisonous inorganic arsenic.”

The 28 wines named in the lawsuit filed by plaintiffs Doris Charles, Alvin Jones, Jason Peltier and Jennifer Peltier, include popular brands such as Franzia, Menage a Trois, Sutter Home, Wine Cube, Charles Shaw, Glen Ellen, Cupcake, Beringer and Vendage. The varietals named were primarily inexpensive moscato, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. None of the wines listed are Paso Robles wines. The plaintiffs allege that the wineries produce or market wines that in some cases, contain up to “500 percent or more of what is considered maximum acceptable safe daily intake limit.”

Charles Shaw — also known as “Two Buck Chuck” — is sold at Trader Joe’s. The grocery chain, which has a store in Templeton, said in a statement, “The concerns raised in your inquiry are serious and are being treated as such. We are investigating the matter with several of our wine-producing suppliers.”

The Wine Institute issued a statement regarding the litigation Thursday: “We have learned of possible litigation alleging that certain wines pose a risk to consumers because they contain trace amounts of arsenic. Although we are not privy to the contents of the litigation, we believe this allegation is false and misleading and that all wines being sold in the U.S marketplace are safe.”

According to the wine institute, arsenic is prevalent in the air, soil, water and 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.”

Currently, there are no established limit in the United States, but several countries around the world have limited arsenic levels at or below 100 parts per billion for wine. California wine that is exported is tested and is below those limits. According to the Wine Institute, the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau does monitor wine, beer and spirits for compounds, including arsenic, as part of its testing program.

“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. We will continue to keep consumers, the media and industry informed,” the Wine Institute’s statement read.

Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance Communications Director Chris Taranto was reached in the midst of Zinfandel Weekend preparation. He didn’t have concern over the allegations, especially since no local wines were on the list.

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