Many popular, inexpensive brands of wine made and distributed in California, including Trader Joe's famed "Two Buck Chuck," contain illegal and dangerously high levels of poisonous inorganic arsenic, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles.
Plaintiffs Doris Charles, Alvin Jones, Jason Peltier and Jennifer Peltier allege in their complaint that dozens of wineries are violating state law by knowingly producing, marketing and selling arsenic contaminated wine and failing to warn consumers about the potential danger. The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, is seeking class-action status.
Some of the popular wine brands named in the lawsuit include Franzia, Menage a Trois, Sutter Home, Wine Cube, Charles Shaw, Glen Ellen, Cupcake, Beringer and Vendage. The wines named in the lawsuit are primarily inexpensive white or blush varietals including moscato, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc.
A spokesperson for Trader Joe's said the chain is looking into the allegations.
"We take these concerns seriously and are investigating the matter with several of our wine-producing suppliers," Trader Joe's spokeswoman Rachel Broderick told NBC4.
One other defendant named in the lawsuit, Treasury Wines, told CBS News that it was "fully compliant with all relevant federal and state guidelines," according to published reports.
"These wineries have long known about the serious health risks their products pose to customers,'' plaintiffs' attorney Brian Kabateck said. "Yet instead of reducing the exposure to acceptable levels, the defendants recklessly engage in a pattern and practice of selling arsenic-tainted wine to California consumers."
The suit seeks unspecified damages and a court order directing the wineries to correct the alleged poor practices.
Arsenic is an odorless, colorless and highly toxic poison known to cause illness and death when ingested. Some of the long-term health effects of arsenic exposure include various types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, medical experts say.
The 28 California wineries accused in the lawsuit "produce and market wines that contain dangerously high levels of inorganic arsenic, in some cases up to 500 percent or more than what is considered the maximum acceptable safe daily intake limit," the lawsuit alleges.