Citing independent product tests, four consumers seeking to represent a class have filed a lawsuit in California state court alleging that dozens of wineries in the state manufacture and sell wine that contains as much as five times the maximum safe daily limit of arsenic. Charles v. The Wine Grp., Inc., No. BC576061 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles Cnty., filed March 19, 2015). “[J]ust a glass or two of these arsenic-contaminated wines a day over time could result in dangerous arsenic toxicity to the consumer,” the complaint alleges.
The plaintiffs apparently hired BeverageGrades, an independent laboratory in Colorado, to test for levels of inorganic arsenic, which is “substantially more toxic and dangerous to humans” than organic arsenic, the complaint says. Ingestion is reportedly linked to a variety of health issues, including nausea, vomiting, disturbances of the cardiovascular and nervous systems, and type 2 diabetes. The complaint asserts that in 83 samples, the lab found levels of inorganic arsenic exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level of 10 parts per billion for water. The products at issue include wines produced by Beringer, Franzia, Sutter Home, and Wine Cube as well as Charles Shaw, the brand sold by co-defendant Trader Joe’s.
The plaintiffs allege violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, unfair business practices, misleading and deceptive advertising, unjust enrichment, and negligent misrepresentation/omission. They seek class certification, a declaratory judgment, an order requiring the defendants to label their wines with a disclosure that warns of the risks of consuming inorganic arsenic, an order for a corrective advertising campaign, an injunction, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.