Arsenic in Wine…Health Risk or Hoax?

Is your wine safe to drink?  This is the question that has been raised by many social media and news outlets around the world, but where did this notion come from, and is arsenic in wine a real threat to your health?


Here are the facts:

Several articles were published about a class-action lawsuit initiated by Kevin Hicks filed in California Superior Court claiming that dozens of brands of wines produced in that state contain "dangerously high levels of poisonous inorganic arsenic" on March 19th 2015. Hicks is the owner of a private company offering lab testing of foods and beverages. In his study of over 1,300 bottles of wine he found that the levels of arsenic were higher than the EPA maximum limit for drinking water. In some cases the arsenic levels were four and five times that maximum.



A Wisconsin University study in the October 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health entitled “Arsenic Content in American Wine” released results of testing 65 wines from the top four wine-producing states in the U.S. --California, Washington, New York, and Oregon -- and found that all but one of the wines contained arsenic levels that exceed those allowed in drinking water by the EPA. The study showed that the average glass of wine contained 24 parts per billion of arsenic.



On March 24, 2016, Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County dismissed the class action suit. "Defendants did not deny that their wines contain arsenic. They argued, however, that the existing warning satisfied California law even though it does not mention arsenic," stated the press release. “These defendants never once denied that their wines had extremely high levels of inorganic arsenic, so we plan to continue fighting to protect consumers and ensure that they get accurate information about the wine they’re consuming,” claimed Michael Burg, lead counsel for the plantiff.


So what is the truth?

The truth of the matter is that the amount of arsenic might sound alarming, but the average adult generally consumes somewhere around two liters of water per day. So even if you consumed a full bottle of wine a day, seven days a week, you would still be under the recommended dose of arsenic that the EPA considers safe.


Last year, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario tested more than 11,900 wines for arsenic levels,1543 of which originated from California. The LCBO reported back that all of the wines from California were below the maximum allowable limit for arsenic.


So are you at risk?

You are not at risk as it pertains to arsenic in a glass of wine, but if you enjoy some apple juice in the morning, partake in a few glasses of wine at dinner, and drink your 2 liters of water --well now you may have to worry.


Other foods high in arsenic:

  • Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower - Arsenic levels in regular sprout eaters were 10.4% higher than in people who never ate them or ate them less than once a month.
  • Dark-meat fish - Inorganic forms of arsenic were 7.4% higher in people eating dark-meat fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardines, bluefish, and swordfish) once a week, compared to people who ate them less than once a month.
  • Rice - People who eat rice closer to the amount the average American does (about half a cup per day) have consistently high arsenic levels.
  • Chicken and other poultry - Poultry birds are regularly given feed containing arsenic-based drugs, which lead to an elevated level of arsenic in the meat. The FDA recently revoked approvals for three out of four of these toxic feed additives.


The threat of arsenic in food is very real.  Arsenic occurs naturally in the earth, air, and water and is highly toxic in its inorganic form. Exposure over a long period of time can lead to arsenic poisoning, which is related to many severe chronic illnesses such as: heart disease, cancer, lower respiratory diseases, and diabetes.


So as it pertains to wine, you should have nothing to fear, but you should be conscious of how much arsenic rich foods you are consuming especially if you are a daily wine drinker.




W. Blake Gray.  "Arsenic in Wine Lawsuit Thrown Out". wine-search.  24-Mar-2016.

EMILY MAIN "Foods You Should Maybe Not Eat All the Time" Rodale Wellness November 25,2013

O'Donnell, Ben. "Lawsuit Claims California Wines Contain Dangerous Arsenic Levels". Wine Spectator. 19 March 2015.

CBS San Francisco. "Your Favorite Wine Might Contain High Levels of Deadly Arsenic" 19 March 2015.

* All other sources are linked