In 2010, the government took kombucha off the store shelves over a claim that the popular probiotic beverage contained too much alcohol. Little do consumers realize – most large kombucha companies reformulated their products to make certain no alcohol could possibly show up (less than 0.5% by volume), thus, changing the product itself. This, however, doesn’t make the government happy enough (it tends to target drinks that are sought for health benefits). A few lawmakers have introduced a bill to block further regulation.
The naturally sparkling drink is made from a tea fermented with yeast and bacteria. It contains vitamin B, beneficial bacteria, enzymes and revitalizing acids. Probiotics are not only a part of the healthy brain-gut connection, but are proven to remove harmful substances like pesticides, plastics and BPA from the body. The drink isn’t for everyone – some people report feeling worse after consumption of fermented or vinegar drinks. Others claim it gives them pep, quenches thirst, aids digestion and/or even helps with allergies and arthritis. But the biggest argument for saving kombucha from the regulatory trap could be because many people are turning to the beverage as a satisfying, guilt-free alternative to alcohol and soda drinks, thus, it is becoming more popular in restaurants and at New Year’s Eve parties (especially if you are the designated driver).
Yet again in 2015, the government, via the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), sent warnings to several kombucha producers accusing them of producing beverages that allegedly exceeded the allowable alcohol limit – and once again threatened to start regulating kombucha or else pay hefty fines and face legal action.
If kombucha falls under alcohol limits, why is the government taxing kombucha as an alcoholic beverage?
The same reason raw milk often comes with sting operations. Tests that are done in complete ignorance and tunnel vision. Example: by its very nature, unpasteurized milk is going to contain loads of bacteria, so the same test for bacteria that an inspector would give a pasteurized facility isn’t fair to perform on a raw dairy farm- it’s a different product! Likewise, forcing kombucha producers to undergo the same test as alcoholic beverages is completely skewed because the organic acids and natural sedimentation in kombucha can be read as ethanol, and trip false positives.
Alliance for Natural Health USA reports [emphasis mine]:
Three bipartisan lawmakers from Colorado recently introduced a bill in both chambers of Congress that would eliminate federal alcohol taxes on kombucha and update the regulations that govern the drink.
The bill, called the Keeping Our Manufacturers from Being Unfairly Taxed While Championing Health Act (KOMBUCHA), would raise the ABV limit (the allowable alcohol by volume) in kombucha from 0.5% to 1.25% and thus shield kombucha from being treated as an alcoholic beverage.
…The drink contains trace amounts of alcohol, but it typically falls below the federal limit of 0.5% ABV. If it isn’t stored properly, kombucha can sometimes go above the 0.5% ABV, but this also spoils the drink, as Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), a co-sponsor of the House bill, pointed out in a letter to the TTB. Polis also noted that eight spoiled kombuchas are roughly equivalent to one beer.
Do you really believe the government is worried about a scenario in which a person sits down to chug 128 oz of spoiled drink and then gets in his car? Which, by the way, still wouldn’t land him a DUI although he might swerve to get to the nearest restroom. Is the government worried that a person may chug 16 spoiled kombuchas? Of course, not.
Most of you here, won’t be surprised to discover that alcoholic beverages – legal drugs that have claimed many, many lives, kill brain cells, impair judgement and dull consciousness – also contain hormone-disrupting microplastics, glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide known to cause cancer) and other pesticides. But these of course, remain ignored and unregulated in America’s Happy Hour drink of choice.
Why should health-conscious consumers have to travel to the liquor store and pay high, regulatory prices on an already pricey probiotic drink just because the government is deliberately using a flawed testing system?
Yet again, this regulatory aggression has nothing to with safety – it is more likely that the alcohol and/or soda industries detected the trend toward kombucha long before I did – and so they sought help from their government hounds. These actions would indeed benefit the competition, but not the consumer.