Lawsuit: Cheap wine may come with a high levels of arsenic.

That Cheap Wine You Love May Come With High Levels of Arsenic, Lawsuit Claims

That Cheap Wine You Love May Come With High Levels of Arsenic, Lawsuit Claims

The Slatest
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March 21 2015 12:06 PM

That Cheap Wine You Love May Come With High Levels of Arsenic, Lawsuit Claims

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Is that arsenic you smell?

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Did you spend your Friday night drinking cheap wine and watching Netflix? Well, your plans may have come with a side helping of dangerously high levels of arsenic, at least if you believe a lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles.

Four California residents are seeking class-action status on a complaint that claims wine being sold under labels such as Charles “Two-Buck Chuck” Shaw, Sutter Home, and Ménage à Trois contain arsenic levels that are 500 percent higher than what is normally considered safe, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Wine Institute industry group says the whole thing is nonsense. “We believe this allegation is false and misleading and that all wines being sold in the U.S marketplace are safe,” the Wine Institute said in a statement.

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The lawsuit claims that independent lab tests showed cheap wines contained high arsenic levels when compared to what is considered safe for drinking water. The levels were first detected by the head of Denver-based lab BeverageGrade, reports the Associated Press. "He decided to test 1,306 bottles of wine representing more than 75 percent of the wine consumed in the U.S." Kabateck said. "Out of those he found 83 that had excessive arsenic levels." Additional testing confirmed the results.

The plaintiffs weren’t actually made sick by the wine, “they were just appalled,” as their lawyer put it. CBS News took the results of the tests to an epidemiologist who said that the highest levels of arsenic found in the cheap wine could be deadly over a period of time. "It has as many effects inside the body as cigarette smoking does," the epidemiologist explained. The government doesn’t regulate how much arsenic there can be in wine. One of the companies named in the lawsuit says it is irresponsible to extrapolate the water standard to wine because people drink more water than wine.

A full list of all the wines mentioned in the lawsuit can be found here.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.