As we discussed on Monday, customers may be getting more than a cheap buzz from their inexpensive bottles of wine. A class action lawsuit filed in California alleges that dozens of low-end California wines have dangerously high levels of arsenic in them. Arsenic is a carcinogen that, in high doses, can lead to serious health problems. The defendants include Sutter Homes and Trader Joes’s.
So what exactly are the plaintiff’s alleging in this case? The complaint alleges that “just a glass or two of these arsenic contaminated wines a day over time could result in dangerous toxicity to the consumer.” Yet the plaintiffs do not assert any causes of action or allegations that anyone has suffered any actual injury from the drinking these “contaminated” wines. Rather, the complaint asserts causes of action for violations California’s consumer protection laws, including unfair business practices, misleading and deceptive advertising, and the consumer legal remedies act. The suit seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties, disgorgement and damages, and certification of a class of California consumers who purchased the named wines since 2011.
A spokes person for the wine industry has issued a statement in response to the lawsuit and believes that the suit is meritless. Wine Institute vice president Nancy Light told Wine Spectator, “[t]here are no [EPA] limits [on Arsenic] for other foods and beverages—including wine—because they’re not consumed at the same level as water and not deemed to be a risk. There is no research that shows that the amount of arsenic in wine poses any health risks to consumers.”
So is your cheap wine going to kill you? Seems unlikely. Do the Plaintiff’s have case related to misleading advertising and other unfair business practice? Maybe. A complete list of the wines at issue in this case can be found here.