A recent California lawsuit claims a score of brands of wines produced there, contain high levels of arsenic. According to San Francisco's CBS affilate:
So far there is no theory on why this might be happening but Hicks’ [Kevin Hicks, founder of Denver lab BeverageGrades] tests showed an interesting pattern. “The lower the price of wine on a per-liter basis, the higher the amount of arsenic,” he said.
Hicks’ list of low-priced, high-arsenic wines includes Trader Joe’s famous Two-Buck Chuck White Zinfandel which tested at three times the limit. A bottle of Menage a Trois Moscato was four times the limit and a Franzia Blush had five time the EPA limit for drinking water.
We cheapskates and lushes at HQ were near-frothing, until we read this from Alder Yarrow of Vinography:
Arsenic is a naturally occurring compound that is found in the cellular structures of many foods we eat (fruits, vegetables, shellfish and meats) and in all the water we consume in trace amounts. Newsflash: most wines will ALL likely have very small traces of arsenic in them.
Arsenic also happens to be one of the essential minerals our bodies require for health, not unlike selenium, which is another metal that is quite toxic in high doses, but which is found in most multi-vitamins…
Apple juice and pear juice contain up to two or three times as much arsenic as drinking water as a matter of course. The Food and Drug Administration has known this for years. In fact the acceptable threshold for traces of arsenic in juice is much higher than it is for water, a fact that the FDA explains by simply saying that people don't drink as much juice as they do water.
So, the arsenic levels look pretty high until you compare them to, say, your kid's juice box. Snopes has a nice round-up of coverage, including the note that the lab's press release about their arsenic testing services was concurrent with the media splash of the lawsuit. Why, that's the kind of thing that could make a suspicious-minded person doubt the purity of their public-spiritedness.