New kombucha products may contain more alcohol than people expec - KPTV - FOX 12

New kombucha products may contain more alcohol than people expect

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Kombucha. The fermented tea is all the rage, but could new products give you more of a buzz instead of a health boost?

Some new products might contain more alcohol than you'd expect. 

"We get new brands in fairly frequently and it doesn't look like it's slowing down any time soon," said New Season's Nutritionist Kayla Petersen.

Walk in to any New Seasons and you'll find rows upon rows of Kombucha on display.  

"The big part of it is that people are looking for an alternative to soda," said Petersen. "Kombucha is like soda, but it also brings nutritional benefits. It's fun to drink and there are tons of flavors available right now." 

The drink is a centuries old creation made by fermenting tea and refined sugar with bacteria and yeast. The slightly sweet, slightly sour fizzy beverage is rich in vitamins and probiotics. 

The same live cultures that make the drink healthy also wind up playing a key role in its alcohol content.  

"Any time there's fermentation, there's the possibility of developing into alcohol. Most of kombuchas are controlled and they have less than .05 percent alcohol, which is the legal limit for calling something nonalcoholic," said Petersen.

For those reasons, the OLCC tells FOX 12 it does not regulate kombucha. But, as the craze for kombucha grows, different products are emerging that appeal to all kinds of customers, including some alcoholic versions of the fermented tea.

At first glance, the warning label on the bottle is easy to miss.

"At New Seasons we only have one variety and it comes in a darker bottle labeled that you must be 21 or older to purchase," said Petersen. "That one is fermented longer and it's allowed to develop a higher alcohol content."

The alcohol lurking inside that bottle of kombucha is enough to potentially get someone drunk. All fine if it winds up in the hands of a suspecting adult intending to consume alcohol, but that's not always the case.

New Seasons says their employees are trained to card customers when purchasing an alcoholic version of the tea. But, parents are now being urged to also check the label to make sure the drink is safe to share with kids at home.

The Oregon Health Authority says so far, it's received no reports of intoxication cases among kids who have consumed kombucha and neither has the Oregon Poison Center.

But, it's something officials say they are keeping an eye on. Especially as alcoholic versions of kombucha are now being sold at various health food stores across the state.

New Seasons nutritionists also add it's important not to leave kombucha sitting out in a warm place, because the drink will continue to ferment and that also creates more alcohol.

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