BCCDC, in collaboration with the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) is conducting a study of kombucha products in the marketplace. Prior studies have found that kombucha beverages can become very acidic and may contain levels of alcohol above 1%. While residual levels of alcohol are normal in fermented foods and beverages (see our Food Issue Notes
for more information on fermentation), levels in beverages above an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 1% are considered to be liquor. For a small child weighing 10 kg or less, as little as 375 mL of a beverage with an ABV of 1% may produce illness.
To assess potential risks and verify beverage contents, samples of kombucha products are being collected from retail grocery stores, restaurants, farmers’ markets, recreation centres, and at processing and manufacturing locations from July to September 2019. BCCDC food safety specialists and Environmental Health Officers from all five health authorities are assisting in sample collection; samples from the public are not required and will not be tested.
BCCDC will report on the study’s findings and share information with the public and regulatory partners. Final study results are expected in November 2019.
While results are not yet conclusive, processers and home brewers should familiarize themselves with the potential for the development of acid and alcohol in kombucha products. In 2015, BCCDC produced a Food Safety Assessment of a Kombucha Tea Recipe and a Food Safety Plan
, which outlines potential hazards, as well as recommendations for minimizing risks.
Alcoholic beverages may not be suitable for young children, people who are pregnant or seeking to become pregnant, breast-feeding parents, or those who are immunocompromised. Individuals who do not wish to consume alcohol, even at low levels, for personal, religious or health reasons may also wish to be careful about beverage choice.
Funding for this study was provided by the BCCDC Foundation for Public Health and NSERC’s Canada Research Chair Program through BCIT with in-kind contribution from the University of British Columbia.
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