|Cobalt. Image courtesy webelements.com|
The wine buyer made the statement from the audience Friday at a seminar at the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Symposium in Niagara, Ontario.
The LCBO tests every wine submitted for sale in Ontario for a variety of faults, including residues of pesticides and herbicides. It does not make its results public, and the buyer told me afterward that it cannot, for fear of being sued. He did not name any of the wines containing cobalt or lead, or their country of origin.
But the public comment is provocative, because if anyone has previously reported cobalt being found in wine, I haven't seen it.
It's worth noting that a low level of cobalt, by itself, is not an immediate health hazard. Cobalt is naturally occurring and is part of vitamin B12. The CDC says, "Exposure to high levels of cobalt can result in lung and heart effects and dermatitis. Liver and kidney effects have also been observed in animals exposed to high levels of cobalt."
The LCBO representative said that the number of wines testing positive for cobalt has increased sharply over the last couple of years. Needless to say, it rejects these wines, but that does not prevent them from being sold elsewhere in the world.
UPDATE: With the speed characteristic of a government organization, three weeks after running this post I got a letter from the LCBO denying it. You can read it in the comments section below.
Last year, a consumer organization in France tested 92 wines and found pesticide residue in every one, including those made from organically grown grapes.