The Kombucha Controversy…

This past week Whole Foods pulled my beloved Kombucha and Synergy drinks from their shelves.

Rest assured, this is not a quality issue. It’s an alcohol issue. You see, how Kombucha and Synergy provide their host of health-benefiting properties like probiotics, enzymes and vitamins is via fermentation of what is known as the “kombucha culture”.

Huh? You ask. Let me tell you a bit about how Kombucha is made:

The Kombucha culture looks like a beige or white rubbery pancake. It’s often called a ‘scoby’ which stands for ‘ symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. The culture is placed in sweetened black or green tea and turns a bowl full of sweet tea into a bowl full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and health-giving organic acids.

As the Kombucha culture digests the sugar it produces a range of organic acids like glucuronic acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, malic acid and usnic acid; vitamins, particularly B vitamins and vitamin C; as well as amino acids, enzymes. And of course there are all the benefits of the probiotic microorganisms themselves. The Kombucha culture is a biochemical powerhouse in your kitchen.

However, the fermentation process used to make Kombucha also creates another biproduct: alcohol. Kombucha and Synergy are supposed to contain less than .5 % alcohol, and I guess, due to some of the bottling and storage of this beverage (and the active fermentation that is going on inside the bottle) some of the bottles tested had a wee bit higher alcohol content. And, in turn, Whole Foods pulled the product from their shelves until the problem is resolved.

The founder of Kombucha, GT Dave has released the following statement regarding this controversy (and I guess Lyndsay Lohan got thrown in the mix some how…):

“We are investigating reports of the potential for slightly elevated alcohol levels in our Kombucha products that may be occurring after the product has been bottled and has left our facility. Although our products are tested to be compliant at the time of shipping, a subsequent increase in alcohol levels could potentially cause the product to go above 0.5% causing potential labeling issues.

We are working quickly to identify the possible causes and which lot codes and/or regions are being potentially affected. Please keep in mind that this is not related to any type of food contamination, is not a recall, had NOTHING to do with Lindsay Lohan and that you can still find our products at certain retailers. We are trying our best to get our product back on the shelves of every store. Until that happens, you can check the store locator featured on our website for further information on these retailers.”

My two cents: don’t worry too much…unless you’re drinking upwards of 3 of these per day. And, if you’re pregnant, try and have these beverages no more than 2 to 3 times per week. The alcohol content is minimal and I’m sure this issue will be resolved quickly.

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