A class action suit was filed in federal court on April 20. Dozens of California wineries and distributors – including F. Korbel & Bros. Inc., Sutter Home Winery Inc. and Trader Joe’s Co. – produce and sell wine containing dangerous levels of arsenic, without informing consumers, according to a potential class. Zahira Crespo-Bithorn alleged in the suit that the winemakers and distributors have produced or sold wine containing inorganic arsenic and have concealed that fact from consumers, who are at risk for maladies ranging from nausea and bronchitis to cancer, encephalopathy and death. The complaint alleges that just a glass or two of these arsenic-contaminated wines a day over time could result in dangerous arsenic toxicity to the consumer.
Crespo-Bithorn alleges that other “responsible” wineries limit the arsenic in their wines to legal limits with filtering procedures, but said that the Defendants’ products contain up to 500 percent of the maximum acceptable safe daily limit. The complaint said further that the Defendants have violated federal laws, as well as statutes from all 50 states, and accused the wineries and distributors of “secretly poisoning wine consumers” by failing to disclose that their products contain any amount of inorganic arsenic. It’s alleged that scientific evidence linking inorganic arsenic to a variety of health problems has been available since at least 1987. The complaint alleges:
Even today, with the sophisticated testing equipment available to winemakers and distributors, Defendants still conceal and/or refuse to warn the typical wine consumer about the true risks they are taking by ingesting and consuming their product.
The Plaintiff said that government regulators don’t test wine for arsenic or other toxic ingredients, but also cited three annual studies produced by a testing program run by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau that concluded dozens of winemakers’ labels were not compliant.
Crespo-Bithorn accused the defendants of negligence, unjust enrichment and breaching their warranties, and claimed that members of a nationwide class could number “in the millions.” A class comprised solely of Louisiana consumers was proposed. The complaint seeks punitive damages and also asks that the Defendants be ordered to disgorge their ill-gotten gains, stating that each proposed class member’s individual damages would be at least $25.
The Defendants should also be required to produce corrective advertising and notify consumers of their products’ health risks, the complaint said. The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.
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