Arsenic isn't something you normally want to accompany your dinner. But the naturally occurring substance turns up in all kinds of places you wouldn't expect.
The latest is cheap wine. A class action lawsuit last week named wines including Franzia White Grenache, Trader Joe's Two-Buck White Zinfandel and Ménage à Trois Moscato as containing up to 50 parts per billion of arsenic.
That might not sound like much but the federal standard for arsenic in drinking water is 10 parts per billion. So, yeah, it's 5 times that.
Of course, it was just a few years ago that pricier French wines were found to be loaded with pesticides, so the old "name your poison" saying may not be too far wrong.
The problem with arsenic is that it's just that -- poison. Of course a few parts per billion won't kill you right away but over time, well, researchers recently found that mice develop cancer after being exposed to low doses of arsenic.
Not just wine
Even teetotalers aren't off the hook, though. Arsenic has also been found in apple juice, poultry and rice, among many other things. It is naturally occurring and can find its way into all sorts of plants but some researchers think that pesticides may also be a major source.
Whatever the answer, the lawsuit seeks all the usual remedies, including huge damages. It was filed based on research conducted by Kevin Hicks, who analyzed 1,300 bottles of wine and found elevated arsenic levels in nearly a quarter.
Hicks found that, generally speaking, cheaper wines had more arsenic than the more expensive stuff.
There's no way for consumers to know how much arsenic -- or anything else, for that matter -- is in the wine they drink since there's no requirement that ingredients be listed on the label.
Spokesman for the wine industry shot back that Hicks was just trying to make a lot of money by suing large wine producers, which doesn't really answer the question of how the arsenic gets there.
And while it's true that most of us drink more water than wine, guzzling a glass or two per evening could, as Hicks sees it, be a genuine health risk.