Vinegar Is Coming For Your Children!
An article in the San Francisco Chronicle says, "Eating just one tablespoon a day of some vinegars can raise a young child's lead level by more than 30 percent, modeling requested by the news service shows."
Which "some vinegars"? According to the article, red wine and balsamic vinegars. But not all of them. The article says, "Lead can vary widely from product to product and from batch to batch." I don't advocate feeding your children lead, of course. But this article sows so much confusion that it's hard to take it seriously.
First of all, where does the lead come from? The article suggests one possible source: higher lead content in the soil in Modena, the area famous for balsamic vinegar. But that wouldn't affect all red wine vinegars or even most commercial balsamic vinegars, which, at the cheap end of the scale, are wine vinegars trucked in from all over Italy and then "finished" in Modena (with caramel coloring and other tricks) so the producers can use the name. The author offers another clue: "Some toxicologists hypothesize that production and storage are the main sources of lead contamination rather than the soil." What parts of the production? What parts of the storage? The author doesn't say.
If the article had limited discussion to authentic balsamic vinegar, it could probably make a good case. That vinegar is produced by fermenting grape must and then letting the vinegar evaporate for 12 years or longer. You could imagine a slightly higher-than-normal lead concentration in the soil getting much stronger as the liquid reduces. You could probably make a similar case for high-end but unauthentic balsamic, which is often evaporated over a long time as well. But if you're talking authentic balsamic vinegar, which costs about $30 per fluid ounce, the number of people who could feed their children one tablespoon per day is probably limited to the upper end of the upper end of income brackets.
Let's recap. Some red wine vinegars from all over the world, balsamic vinegars, and "balsamic red wine vinegars" (a term for industrial balsamic vinegars?) have higher-than-they-should lead levels. The lead might come from the soil in Modena, which would not affect most of the red wine vinegar in the world. It might come from "production and storage." But the lead levels are higher than in white wine vinegar or fruit vinegars, which are produced the same way as red wine vinegar. It's all clear now, right?
The solution is clear, at least: Don't eat vinegar! Or, you know, assume that this article is so vague as to be unhelpful and eat as normal. Of course, my preferred solution is to just make your own.