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MONDAY MANIFESTOS
03/23/2015
No Arsenic In Wine?

By Charles Olken

I may wind up with a lot of egg on my face and die an early death from all the arsenic I have consumed in my lifetime and continue to consume, but I am going to come right out and say it—

The recent lawsuit against a long list of wineries suggesting that there are dangerous levels of arsenic in wine are founded on junk science—and intentionally deceptive claims raised for only one reason. To extort money from the California wine industry.

We have seen this kind of selfish legal action before, and it comes with a mix of cynicism and greed together with the not so hidden desire on some people’s parts to kill off all alcohol consumption.

Here are some truths that are worth knowing. And, while I will admit that there is some information yet to be disclosed, it will be forthcoming as the wine industry fights back. For now, consider the following:

  • The U.S. government has not published a limit for arsenic in wine but several countries including Canada, the EU, and Japan have set limits ranging from 100ppb up to 1000ppb – 10 to 100 times the level the EPA determined to be safe for drinking water.
  • The lawsuit claims that certain wines contain unsafe levels of arsenic based on the limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for drinking water – 10 parts per billion (ppb). However there is no scientific basis for applying the EPA drinking water standard to wine.
  • When the U.S. government considers limits for arsenic in food and beverages, they take into account how much of that food or beverage an average person may consume in a day and the age of people who likely consume that food/beverage. Daily intake levels for water are significantly higher than for wine.
  • The risks from potential exposure to arsenic in wine are lower than the risks the EPA considers safe for drinking water. For perspective, eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is the recommended daily amount, whereas one to two 5-ounce glasses of wine a day is defined as moderate wine consumption according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
  • Arsenic is prevalent in the natural environment in air, soil and 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 and this is nothing new.
  • The U.S. government, both TTB and FDA as part of its Total Diet Study, regularly tests wines for harmful compounds including arsenic as does Canada and the European Union to ensure that wine is safe to consume.

Alcohol overconsumption is not a healthy activity. We can all agree to that. But there is not one proven case of arsenic poisoning from wine drinking in the medical annals. Case closed.


 

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Comments

arsenic
by patrick mcclain
Posted on:3/24/2015 9:35:36 AM

IF THERE IS HIGH LEVELS OF ARSENIC IN WINE TODAY IT WOULD HAVE BEEN HIGH LAST YEAR  AND THE YEAR BEFORE ETC..I WILL CONTINUE TO BUY CALIFORNIA WINE OVER ANY OTHER WINE.  I HAVE BEEN DRINKING WINE FROM CALIFORNIA FOR OVER 50 YEARS.  aND EVERY YEAR WHEN I HAVE MY ANNUAL BLOOD WORK i NEVER HAVE ANY WARNING OF ARSENIC.

Arsenic? Alcohol?
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:3/24/2015 12:14:11 PM

Patrick--

Thanks for chiming in. The fact is that before anyone could get even remotely sick on arsenic in wine, they would be dead from a whole host of other ills because of the amount of wine they would need to ingest.

The effects of arsenic poisoning are pretty obvious--spots on the skin and lines in the finger nails. Even the most schlerotic alcoholics do not exhibit those characteristics.

This feels like a publicity gambit on the part of the lawyers and the firm that claims it can do the testing--although their tests are reported to come out significantly out of line with other tests.

Gallo -- and arsenic in wine
by Bob Henry
Posted on:4/12/2015 11:03:52 PM

If I recall the media reports correctly, Gallo is not a defendant in the class action lawsuit.

That purportedly, Gallo wines have very low levels of measured arsenic.

What is Gallo doing differently ("better") from its competitors named in the lawsuit?

(For example, more aggressive filtration?)

That's the unpublicized and unasked question.

Worthy of investigation.

Con Men
by Matt Smith
Posted on:4/13/2015 3:38:49 PM

Charlie has hit the nail on the head.  This is just opportunistic con men out to make a few bucks.  As Charlie clearly points out, this isn't bad science, its a complete lack of science.  It is a shame that these folks are getting their 10 seconds of fame because there is no violation to even talk about.  There is no standard for wine so no lawsuit is even relevent and if you demand that we post warnings on wine as a result you will have to post it on every other ag item as well.  I think they chose not to go after Gallo since Gallo could eat them alive with a counter suit, they are trying to intimidate a few folks into a payout rather than endure the bad press.

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