Thursday morning CBS News broke the story about high levels of arsenic in top-selling wines and the ensuing class action lawsuit filed against 24 California winemakers. The levels of arsenic in the tested wines were compared with the EPA’s limits for drinking water, because there is no standard for arsenic in wine in the U.S.
Meanwhile, the Wine Industry Advisor and other industry media received a press release from the suing company BeverageGrades offering wine retailers their services to deal with the arsenic problem.
However, the Wine Institute in a statement refuted that the levels of arsenic found in the California wines are a problem, in fact, they are well below the limits set by both Canada and the European Union for wine. And it doesn’t appear to be because Europeans and Canadians are more tolerant of arsenic, because they have the same high standard for arsenic in drinking water as the U.S.
The regulations on arsenic in drinking water in the Canada, EU, and U.S. are largely based on the recommendations set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO), who calculate their guidelines by tolerable daily intake of the carcinogenic compound. And as a spokesperson for The Wine Group points out to CBS News, “’It would not be accurate or responsible to use the water standard as the baseline’ because people generally drink more water than wine.”
It might even be fair to assume that if people drank the same amount of wine that the WHO assumes an average person drinks of water. The level of arsenic would be the least of the health worries.