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Proposed lawsuit claims some wines contain high levels of arsenic

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NEW YORK/ABC News Radio – A proposed class-action lawsuit alleges that some popular and cheap wines contain "dangerously high levels of poisonous inorganic arsenic."

Among the popular brands named in the suit are Franzia, Sutter Home, Charles Shaw and Beringer. They are largely inexpensive white or blush varietals including Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. "These wineries have long known about the serious health risks their products pose to customers," said Brian Kabateck, managing partner of Los Angeles-based law firm Kabateck, Brown Kellner.

"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," he said.

The Wine Institute released a statement acknowledging the lawsuit Thursday, saying that they "believe this allegation is false and misleading and that all wines being sold in the U.S. marketplace are safe."

The regulated limit for arsenic in drinking water in the U.S. is 10 parts per billion. However, because most people don't drink the amount of wine that they do water, the threshold is not quite equivalent. 

The Wine Institute points out that several countries, including the European Union, have established limits of 100 parts per billion or higher for arsenic in wine. 

The lawsuit points to levels of arsenic of 50 parts per billion in the listed wines, which is below the international standards. 

"Arsenic is prevalent in the natural environment in air, soil and water, and in food," The Wine Institute said. "As an agricultural product, wines from throughout the world contain trace amounts of arsenic as do juices, vegetables, grains and other alcohol beverages. There is no research that shows that the amounts found in wine pose a health risk to consumers."

The Wine Institute concluded by stating its worry that "the irresponsible publicity campaign...could scare the public into thinking that wine is not safe to consume which is patently untrue."