Kombucha Recall – The Big Whoop

NOW DRINKING:  Honey Rose (made using raw honey & rosewater)

Hello Kombucha Lovers and curious newbies!! Kombucha has been bubbling up in the collective consciousness and now it has overflowed into the mainstream media.  The concern about the amount of alcohol in Kombucha has triggered the Whole Foods voluntary recall .

What’s the Big Whoop?

“Beverages such as soft drinks, fruit juices, and certain other flavored beverages which are traditionally perceived by consumers to be “non-alcoholic” could actually contain traces of alcohol (less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume) derived from the use of flavoring extracts or from natural fermentation. FDA also considers beverages containing such trace amounts of alcohol to be “non-alcoholic.” (from the FDA Compliance Policy Guidance Manual)

As it turns out, there is a bit more hooch in the booch than previously thought.

High on Life (Pro-biotics)

At my Kombucha Kamps, or when people order Kombucha Kits from me) when I ask the participants about their personal experience with Kombucha, several have commented that it makes them feel high or gives them a buzz.  I’ve experienced it myself but it always quickly faded (darn! 😉    Part of the reason I don’t get buzzed, is that I drink it medicinally – that is, a little at a time (4-8oz) with a lot of water to flush the toxins.  Kombucha is not a substitute for water and as such ought to be respected as a powerful detoxifier that can create adverse reactions when over consumed.

In light of the current situation, I will be getting my own Kombucha tested to see how much alcohol mine contains.

Liability or Who Do I Sue?

Homebrewers have enjoyed the taste and health benefits of Kombucha for over 2000 years.  So what’s the fuss?  It’s the law!

*Beverages must contain less than .5% alcohol by volume to sell to minors
*Alcohol content must be accurately labeled
*People who drink alcohol are going to hell!!**

**Ok,that last one isn’t true.  Or if it is, I’ll see you there 🙂

This concern over how much alcohol bottled Kombucha tea contains has been whispered about for a few months now.

The banner logo for Longevitea Kombucha

Michaela Biaggi, one of the owners of LonjeviTea Kombucha, told me, “in order to be proactive rather than reactive and as a committment to our ethics, we (LonjeviTea Kombucha) voluntarily pulled our product from stores” almost 2 weeks before Whole Foods decided to remove all bottled Kombucha from their shelves.

My Theory

My speculation about the situation is that Whole Foods is trying to handle the problem without getting the FDA involved.  OR perhaps the FDA is involved, but is allowing Whole Foods to resolve the issue themselves.  Either way, I am confident that Kombucha will be able to weather this tempest in a (fermented!) teapot and come back better than ever.

What Next?

Kombucha Botanica Banner featuring their flavor line from 2009.Adam Goodman of Kombucha Botanica, told me that they will have a “reformulated product on the shelves by September.” Other commercial brewers are also working to quickly bring their Kombucha into compliance with the FDA standards.

In the meantime, if you got to get your booch, give homebrewing a try!

I welcome all questions and comments.  Happy Brewin!

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Responses to Kombucha Recall – The Big Whoop

  1. Thank you so much for this update!! I was wondering why people at work were looking at me funny when I was walking around with a bottle of my kombucha – at least more funny than normal… 🙂 Appreciate the help!

  2. thanks for finding me on twitter and i just posted on my blog about kombucha today and trying my hand soon at making my own…picking up scoby tonite!

  3. Good article Hannah.

    It's my understanding that there is no more alcohol in kombucha then there is in fruit juice and even some very ripe fruit. Maybe you can get some commercial fruit juice tested as well. It would be an interesting study.

  4. I enjoyed your take on the "hooch in the booch" article. I hadn't realized that it was being pulled off the grocery shelves (and fast too). I wonder how much more over the 0.5% alcohol limit those commercial bottle brews were…

  5. Thanks for the news. I don't have a Whole Foods store nearby, but I wondered why our Giant Foods, which has a large natural foods section, pulled all its kombucha off the shelf this past week. I assume it was voluntary, but the sign on the shelf said "due to a manufacturer's recall." Fortunately, I brew my own, 'cuz I gotta have my booch. Love the name!

  6. I'm sorry but I very much think this whole thing about pulling the Kombucha is a bunch of BS!

    Just like much of the political and corporate swindling that happens right before the publics eyes – and which the public support without any research or intelligent inquiry – this situation is also happening.

    First, if anyone cares to recall, Kombucha has been on the shelves for many years now, and never an peep from any store/chain owner until now. And why? Is it because they had nothing better to do with the thousand or so products they manage on their shelves and decided to make this one a big deal? Or, with a tiny bit of reasoning is it possible to realize that SOMEONE created a liability issue for one of the corp giants and they all got scared and jumped! yes!!!

    this is what I heard straight from the employees at a Whole Foods near my house and it MAKES PERFECT SENSE. Corporations do not care unless there is either A – an issue that could cause them a lawsuit or B – a possible increase in profits.

    If Kombucha is labeled such that it becomes an 'alcoholic drink' (which we all know is BS or we'd all be in a 12-step meeting by now) then a new tax will be imposed.

    So either it's profit making or it's butt-saving…whichever it has nothing to do with making sure we, the consumers have the same healthy tonic/elixier that's been around for 2000 years!

    I do NOT want some 'new form' of this drink – you know that means it will NOT be the same health drink it was before.

    WE THE PEOPLE here in the Western world need to speak up to the corporations rather than just letting them bulldoze you to death.

    look for my page on FB and join and create intelligent talk on the subject. "kombucha is not an alcoholic drink….."


  7. People who are allergic to alcohol and pregnant women need to be very careful about the amount of alcohol that they consume. Kombucha manufacturers need to be able to prove that they had nothing to do with any medical conditions or reactions that the aforementioned people may have. Commercially produced Kombucha is carefully regulated to compliance when it leaves the factory. I doubt seriously that the alcohol content changes much when it is properly cared for. I think the greatest problem is going to come from store owners who leave it on the loading dock until it gets warm, shoppers who pick up a bottle then change their mind and leave it in the cereal isle to ferment, or people who leave it in a warm car while they continue shopping at their next stop. Since it is a living culture, temperature makes a big difference, and I think they are going to have to be looking at how Kombucha reacts to improper storage and handling to really put this matter to rest. I trust my home brew, and I trust LonjeviTea, but I don't necessarily trust the minimum wage stock clerk or the bozo in the checkout line ahead of me.

  8. I don't understand the hype here, industrialized Kombucha is been pasteurized, which means a total depletion from the macrobiotic essence of this product.
    Whoever claims benefits from such products is a liar.
    Learn how to grow your own raw Kombucha and enjoy the real benefits.

  9. My health food store is now selling Kombucha bottled by the Honest Tea people. I hope I am not being paranoid but I can't help wondering if the owners of Honest Tea, the Coca-Cola Company, saw a potential market, squealed to the FDA about alcohol content, then shelves were wiped clean of top selling Kombusha by GT'S and others,and Coca-Cola has a new market waiting for their new product!

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