Should you be worried about it?
The world is all abuzz about recent news that wine has dangerous levels of arsenic. With headlines like that, who wouldn’t panic? We wanted to find out the whole story so we did some old-fashioned research and we found that arsenic naturally occurs in air, soil, water, and clay, but it can also be introduced into wine through pesticide residue and other methods.
A class action lawsuit was filed in the California Superior Court alleging that certain wines contain trace amounts of arsenic that pose a risk to consumers. The wines tested at the laboratory at BeverageGrades, showed some had arsenic levels higher than the allowed limit of 10 parts per billion of arsenic for drinking water in California. Water is the only beverage with an arsenic limit set by the U.S. government. “BeverageGrades believes that retailers need a screening and certification model that allows them to assure their customers of the purity of all of the alcoholic beverages they sell, and particularly their control or private label brands.” It is noteworthy that the company that produced this incendiary study also happens to sell the same service that detects arsenic in wines so they have a vested interest in the success of the aforementioned lawsuit.
We will wait to see what happens as the lawsuit progresses. Our wine making friends challenge the results as there are other safeguards in place and argue that the levels of arsenic (up to 50 parts per billion) described as “dangerous” in the lawsuit are one-fourth as high as those permitted in Europe and elsewhere by the International Organization of Vine and Wine. The Wine Institute, the association of 1,000 California wineries, issued a statement to put some perspective on the arsenic issue.
“… 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.”
Yes, there is real danger in increased arsenic levels for human consumption, but further testing is needed to verify these results which have already questionable results by CBS News who spot-checked and tested the four wines (not the same vintages) listed in the lawsuit. They were all considerably lower than the results obtained by BeverageGrades.”What do we really know? We know that a catchy headline can be very misleading, as it seems to be in this story. We know that certified organically grown grapes do not use any artificial fertilizes, herbicides or pesticides. And we know that drinking organic wine reduces your exposure to harmful chemicals, reduces the impact of pesticide use on the people who grow the grapes (workers face much more exposure to harmful chemicals), reduces the threat to groundwater contamination, and helps to promote biodiversity.