Low-Cost Wine Brands Face Legal Action for Arsenic Content

Article by Harley Chase | esPResso Staff Writer

Image courtesy of Flickr / ZakVTA

Image courtesy of Flickr / ZakVTA

On Friday, March 20, a class action lawsuit was filed against 28 different California wineries regarding the high content of arsenic in their products. This legal action calls into question 81 types of wine from 31 different brands, including five Franzia varieties, 11 Sutter Home products and Trader Joe’s famed Charles Shaw (Two Buck Chuck) White Zinfandel. (Here is where you can find all 81 types of wine listed in the lawsuit.)

According to AdWeek, the lawsuit came about after BeverageGrades, a laboratory that specializes in analyzing beverages, tested more than 1,000 bottles of wine and discovered that an alarming amount of them contained up to five times the legal arsenic levels allowed. The research found a pattern that the less expensive brands had much higher levels of arsenic. BeverageGrade’s Kevin Hicks told AdWeek about his confrontations with the wine producers, stating, “Most wine companies, when I mention arsenic and wine in the same sentence, literally almost hung up the phone on me.” This, he says, is what brought about the lawsuit.

When asked about the case, Kelsey Bradley, a junior journalism major and political science minor at Marist, had two comments on the situation. “The companies’ responses to these accusations are unprofessional. Hanging up the phone when they are confronted with a problem regarding their product does more harm than good. On the other hand, it’s a lesson to consumers that we need be more conscious of what we are putting in our bodies, and if that information is not available for us, we should do something about it.”

A spokesperson for BeverageGrade, Rob Feldman, told CNN, “We understand the public interest in this story and look forward to resolving the litigation to make these products safer for consumers. And we hope the winemakers will take these findings just as seriously and work to make sure their wines are safe.”

As more information regarding the situation is being released, what will happen to these products’ customer base? Is there anything these brands can do to save their reputations during this issue?

With the restraints of the legal situation it does not seem as though there is much these companies can disclose; however, a spokesperson from Trader Joe’s told the Huffington Post, “We will not offer any product we feel is unsafe. Ever. We have no reason to believe the wines we offer are unsafe, including Charles Shaw White Zinfandel.”

Whether this case will have a future impact on these brands and alcohol regulation in the US is still to be seen.

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