No, we’re not kidding. Help us stop this unwarranted attack. Action Alert!
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a division of the US Treasury Department, recently sent letters to several producers of kombucha, warning them that since their beverages supposedly exceeded the allowable alcohol limit, they must be labeled as alcoholic beverages and be subject to alcohol regulation or face hefty fines and legal action.
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink brewed with yeast and bacteria. The drink contains trace amounts of alcohol, but it typically falls below the federal limit of 0.5% alcohol by volume.
Why is this happening? Is there a safety concern? Not in the least. On the contrary, kombucha appears to be very good for you. It seems unlikely that the government would go after kombucha without prodding from some special interest. Has the soft drink industry detected a threat from a rapidly growing market and decided to use the power of the federal government to eliminate competition? There doesn’t seem to be another explanation.
The facts of the case reveal just how outrageous this investigation is—further suggesting that crony interests may be pulling the strings. The government is using the same alcohol test for kombucha that it uses for wine, beer, and spirits. But the organic acids and natural sedimentation in kombucha can be read as ethanol, which throws off the results of the test.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) sent a letter to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau explaining that their testing methodology is flawed. Polis asked them to stop their harassment of the kombucha brewers until a unique testing method can be devised that is appropriate to the specific chemistry of the beverage.