Californian winemakers are facing a lawsuit after “very high levels of arsenic” were found in hundreds of bottles of well-known wines.
More than 1,300 bottles were independently tested and almost a quarter had higher levels of arsenic than would be permitted in water, the only liquid covered by US regulations.
Some were five times higher than the limit.
Arsenic is found naturally in the air, water and soil, but is highly toxic and, even in small quantities, can be deadly over time.
Kevin Hicks, who established a Denver laboratory that analyses wine, said he found “some very, very high levels of arsenic” in the bottles he tested.
He also discovered there was a relationship between the price of the wine and the levels of arsenic.
“The lower the price of wine on a per-litre basis, the higher the amount of arsenic,” he told CBS News.
The lawsuit is being brought against 28 wineries in California and the wines named are mainly White Zinfandel, Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
Popular brands affected include Beringer, Sutter Home and Treasury Wine Estates.
The vast majority of the wines concerned retail for $10 or less and more expensive wines are not thought to be affected.
Brian Kabateck, a lawyer whose firm is bringing the lawsuit, said: “The consumer may be spending less than $5 for a bottle of wine, but they may be paying with their health in the long run. These are very serious allegations.”
He explained the goals of the suit are to “clean up the wine industry, which is largely unregulated in the state of California”.
In a statement, the Wine Institute, an advocacy group for Californian winemakers, dismissed the allegations.
“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 US marketplace are safe.
“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,” the statement added.
The following brands and types of wine have reportedly been named in the lawsuit. It is unclear how high the arsenic levels in each case are alleged to be:
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
Corbett Canyon: Pinot Grigio & Cabernet Sauvignon
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
Tribuno: Sweet Vermouth
Vendange: Merlot & White Zinfandel
Wine Cube: Moscato, Pink Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Red Sangria, Sauvignon Blanc & Cabernet Sauvignon/ShirazReuse content