The Kombucha Is Back


Kombucha lovers rejoice! Your favorite fluid is back on shelves at Whole Foods.

Kombucha maker Vibranz on Wednesday said that its product  is back in stores. Whole Foods Market Inc. removed all varieties of the drink from shelves in mid-June over worries they contained too much alcohol.

The retailer and regulators are concerned that some bottles have more than 0.5 percent alcohol -- the legal limit for a drink not to be considered alcoholic. The drink, which some call Chinese fermented tea, in its most popular form is raw and unpasteurized, meaning it ferments and the yeast inside produces alcohol.

Kombucha contains live bacteria and yeast, similar to yogurt. The company's website clearly states it's not a tea, plant or a mushroom -- and that it's not fermented. It's cultured, the site states. People who like the bubbly drink say it has health benefits such as improving digestion.

The government since June has tested hundreds of types of kombucha to determine if it should be labeled like beer or wine. Distributors and retailers removed raw kombucha from stores, saying they won't restock until they know more.

Vibranz said it has a new formula that reduces alcohol to fall within the limits. Its kombucha, which it first started making in April, is now back in Whole Foods stores in Northern California, near its headquarters. The company said it has more orders from around the country. It would not say how much alcohol its drinks had previously.

Whole Foods, which is based in Austin, Texas, did not return messages left seeking comment.

G.T. Dave, CEO of the company that makes category leaders GT's Kombucha and Synergy, said Wednesday his company is close to relaunching new products within weeks.

The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which has not issued a recall, has been testing samples and plans to come out with new guidelines when testing is complete. It said Wednesday that it did not know when that would be.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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