The industry’s growing pains and its growing pains again have left wine makers scratching their heads, with a survey of nearly 1,500 employees released Tuesday revealing a disturbing number of problems that plague the industry: toxic waste, food safety, health concerns and, yes, toxic waste.
The survey, conducted by wine-industry advocacy group Wine Alliance, found that nearly one in five wine-making employees had a “food safety” concern.
And the number of people who said they had a food safety concern jumped by more than 70 percent between 2013 and 2015.
“The majority of our workers are in the wine industry and have a passion for the wine business,” said Wine Alliance CEO Robyn Liss.
“But the data clearly shows that the industry is in a very, very toxic state right now.”
Liss said the industry needs to take “immediate steps” to better protect its employees.
Wine Alliance’s survey found that 46 percent of the workforce is aware of the toxic waste problem in the industry.
Another 20 percent said they knew about food safety issues, and 10 percent reported that they had never heard of food safety concerns.
About 20 percent of wine-producing employees said they were in a “toxic” or “unsafe” state.
In many cases, employees said, wine workers had already been drinking or eating tainted food and were unaware of what was going on.
“We’ve been drinking the same stuff, and we’re not going to stop,” one employee said.
Another wine-maker employee told Wine Alliance that he had recently started drinking alcohol to “get the hang of it,” adding that he and his coworkers are “pretty much on top of it” after years of doing nothing.
In the survey, wine-makers identified seven areas of concern.
Among the worst were the following:The company reported that it had “significantly” higher employee exposure to toxic waste and food safety in 2015 than in 2012, with some employees reporting exposures of up to 40 percent higher than they were a year earlier.
It also reported that the wine-processing industry had “the highest rate of food-borne illness and food-poisoning-related deaths” of any industry in the U.S.
According to the Wine Alliance report, the industry’s most common toxic waste is found in a wide range of products including refrigerators, air conditioning, and dishwashers, and the most common food-safety concerns are:The majority said that they didn’t know about the problem, and a large majority reported that there were no food-related health concerns.
The number of workers reporting that they were not aware of toxic waste in their workplace dropped by nearly 20 percent between 2012 and 2015, according to the survey.
Wines and spirits production also experienced an increase in the number who reported a “health concern,” up from about 1 in 6 employees in 2013 to about 1 out of 4 employees in 2015.
Winemakers also reported higher rates of illnesses and illnesses-related illnesses than any other industry, with about 15 percent reporting they had “serious” or fatal illnesses, and 6 percent reporting “serious and fatal” illnesses-like pneumonia, heart disease, or a “serious respiratory disease-that occurred during the workday.”
Wine and spirits producers also reported a more than 50 percent increase in illnesses and the “highest rate of hospitalizations” among their workforce.
Winery and spirits workers were also more likely than their non-wine and spirits counterparts to be sexually harassed, according the survey:Winemakes reported a staggering 20 percent higher rate of sexual harassment than their other workers.
“I think what’s really concerning is the lack of support and support from the wine and spirits industry,” said one wine- and spirits-producing employee who wished to remain anonymous.
“I don’t know if there’s anything that’s really been done to try and address these issues.”
According to Liss, the Wine Association has been working with wine-distribution companies to provide them with more “meaningful guidance” about the industry and what needs to be done to improve the health of its workers.
The industry has also started working with other industry stakeholders, including state lawmakers, to create better, more comprehensive safety and health programs for wine-production workers, Liss said.
But the Wine League has had limited success in getting lawmakers to take up the Wine Act, which passed in 2015, which aims to prevent foodborne illness among people who work in the beverage industry.
The Wine League hopes that its efforts will help to improve public health by bringing more wine and spirit makers in contact with people who may be at risk for food- and water-borne illnesses, Lison said.
In order to do that, the group has formed a coalition of more than 100 wine and beverage-distributing businesses, which include companies like the Blue Ridge Mountains winery and the