For the study, led by Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services as part of a committee advising Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, 239 samples of kombucha and kefir were collected across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.
Of the 132 kombuchas tested, nearly 65 per cent contained more than 0.5 per cent alcohol, while over 22 per cent contained more than 1.15 per cent alcohol. In a 350mL bottle (the normal serving size) this is the equivalent of almost one-third of a standard alcoholic drink or approx. half a light beer – potentially enough to push a P-plater over the zero-alcohol limit. (To be clear, drivers on their full licence would have to down a LOT of kombucha very quickly to end up anywhere near a 0.05 reading.)
Here’s where things get sticky: Under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, all bevs containing more than 1.15 per cent alcohol must state this on the label. Plus, in NSW, this would be enough to classify the drink as a "liquor," meaning it falls under the Liquor Act, which prevents it being sold to anyone under the age of 18.
The study’s authors note that shelf-life is a contributing factor (the longer kombucha is left to ferment the more buzz you’ll get from it.) Adding fruit juice, effervescence, sugar and other flavourings may also influence its alcohol content.
"When people think they are buying a soft drink that has no alcohol that is what they should get,” Margaret Allman-Farinelli, Professor of Dietetics at the University of Sydney said of the findings. “With respect to cancer risk, the finding is there is no safe level of alcohol intake. The same applies for damage to the foetus during pregnancy."
The takeaway? Always look at the label before taking a swig and stick to the low-alcohol versions if you like your ‘buch to be as good for your guts as possible.
PSA: Kombucha is just as bad for your teeth as soft drink. Watch below to see what damage it can do...