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Arsenic in Wine—Is it Safe?

Mar 27, 2015 | posted by in Industry, Organic Living | 0 comments


A lot of buzz in the wine industry circulated last week when a class action lawsuit was filed against some of the biggest names in California wine making for high levels of arsenic found in their wine.

Arsenic is a component found in many foods and drinks other than wine, including fruit juices and even drinking water. In wine, it is used as a clarifying agent to make wines more translucent and appear more “sparkly.”

We first heard the story through, who reported that a Denver laboratory, BeverageGrades, found that popular brands like Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck has “up to four and five times the maximum amount of [arsenic] the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows for drinking water.” Many rebuttals followed, mostly by big wine industry, defending the safety of using arsenic in wine.


It’s about as safe as drinking diet soda, in our opinion, if that helps you get the idea. Like any non-natural food or drink, the long-term effects of consuming chemical and unnatural preservatives are strongly linked to why we have seen such a rise in cancer and other diseases.

While drinking conventional wine that uses non-natural production practices likely won’t hurt you in the short term, the impacts over time could. Arsenic has been linked to many cancers, is classified as “highly toxic,” and has been compared to harming the body in similar ways as cigarette smoking.


While there are many other non-natural additives that can be used in wine production outside of using arsenic, our argument always has been that it’s the consumer’s right to know. Plain and simple.

It is our right to know what is in all of our food and drink, and the wine industry has slid under the radar for years in terms of transparency. There are no ingredients on wine labels, no strict enforcement of rules in place, and big wine business blocks most lobbying efforts for more transparency.

Enough is enough. The wine industry has had a free ride for a long time, and it’s time for a change. This argument against arsenic is hopefully getting us one step closer to getting ingredients labels on our wine bottles.


• Avoid grocery store wines. All of the arsenic-heavy wines found on this list are the brands found in major grocery stores. Even Whole Foods still carries many brands that are produced conventionally, (though they are the lesser of the evils and do take steps towards improving the sustainability of their wine program).

• Buy organic or Biodynamic wine. These are still hard to find even in speciality stores, as there isn’t much labeling done to point out organic and Biodynamic production. Shops like ours and a few others sprinkled throughout major food and wine cities will have only wines produced without additives like arsenic, so you can trust they are safe.

• Shop at local, smaller wine shops. Local shops likely are carrying smaller, more natural producers and should know how the wine has been produced. (If they don’t, find a new wine shop). You can engage and ask questions as well so you feel good about what you’re taking home.


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