Lawmakers seek to protect the drink from unnecessary attacks. Action Alert!
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.
In 2015, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) sent letters to several kombucha producers, 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.
Because the federal government treats kombucha as an alcoholic beverage, producers are hit with higher taxes than other soft drinks. This means higher prices for consumers.
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.
Kombucha is a tea drink fermented with yeast and bacteria. 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.
There was no safety concern that prompted the TTB’s action. 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? Or is it just the alcohol industry? There doesn’t seem to be another explanation.
Action Alert! Write to your members of Congress and ask them to support the KOMBUCHA bill! Please send your message immediately.
Other articles in this week’s Pulse of Natural Health: