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Consumer Groups Claim Alarming Levels Of Lead And Arsenic Found In Some Major Vinegar Brands

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - Some consumer groups are calling on the federal government to take a closer look at what they are calling alarming levels of lead and arsenic in some vinegar products. Two organizations, Rochester-based Empire State Consumer Project, and a national advocacy group, Food & Water Watch, sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration that said consumer advocates tested two dozen major brands of vinegars and glazes and found nearly half had arsenic or lead in them. These include various red wine and balsamic vinegar products. All but one of the samples testing positive were balsamics, and all were imported from Italy, Greece or Spain. According to the consumer groups, the  tests found high levels of arsenic and lead in brands like Great Value (Walmart) Balsamic Vinegar, Rachel Ray Balsamic Reduction, Colavita Balsamic Vinegar, Wegmans Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Alessi Balsamic Reduction. All tested products found to be contaminated are sold through retailers like Walmart, Target and Wegmans. Wegmans issued a statement saying "The safety of our vinegar products is regulated by the FDA and meets all FDA requirements." Carol Chittenden, director of the Empire State Consumer Project, said they want to see the FDA to take steps to better identify the presence of arsenic and lead in these products. “We’re asking them to put labels on the products and also on the shelves, but also to do their own testing to find out how pervasive this issue is with more brands and higher quantities and then to set limits for what should be allow on these products that are imported,” Chittenden said. The FDA provided this statement to WXXI News: “The Food and Drug Administration shares the Empire State Consumer Project, Inc.’s concerns in ensuring the safety of foods available to U.S. consumers. We will review the data the agency received yesterday. We understand that detection of toxic elements in the food supply raises concerns for the public, but as naturally occurring elements in our air, water and soil—detection of these elements is not unexpected and does not necessarily mean that the levels pose a health risk. To determine the potential health risks of a food, the agency conducts assessments that consider a number of factors including the level of the toxic elements found in the food, consumption patterns, the vulnerability of the populations of concern and other relevant information. Ensuring the safety of the food supply is among the FDA’s highest priorities.”