Kombucha tea after the recall: It's back and still controversial

Vibranz kombucha tea back on shelves.Bottled Kombucha tea, a trendy beverage choice among the herbal set, is returning to store shelves after being recalled in June by its distributors and most notably from Whole Foods Markets.

This week, the reformulated teas returned, according to manufacturer Vibranz -- the first back on the market. At issue in June was the discovery of "slightly elevated alcohol levels" in the unpasteurized fermented brew that is made by adding bacteria and yeast to sugar and tea."Our expert team succeeded in using their prior knowledge of winemaking to achieve a very low alcohol content while maintaining our position as a great-tasting, unpasteurized probiotic beverage," said Vibranz President and Co-Founder Kathy Taylor.

According to Vibranz, the brew started in East Asia and "is believed to aid in digestion by restoring healthy bacteria in the stomach. Kombucha has also been credited with the ability to increase energy levels and immunity and improve liver function."

However, the mainstream health community does not embrace Kombucha tea. Quite the opposite. Mayo Clinic internist Dr. Brent Bauer warns on the Mayo Clinic web site that "it's prudent to avoid it" given the lack evidence to support health claims and more evidence to suggest it can cause "harm."

"The Food and Drug Administration cautions that the risk of contamination is high because Kombucha tea is often brewed in homes under nonsterile conditions," Bauer writes. "Lead poisoning also may be a risk if ceramic pots are used for brewing -- the acids in the tea may leach lead from the ceramic glaze."

Kombucha is not currently regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, except for alcohol content. However, the Treasury Department issued a statement when the product was pulled saying that the alcohol levels found in certain products were high enough for it to be taxed as an alcoholic beverage and require new labeling.

"Right now, our primary concern is to ensure that consumers are not misled about the nature of alcohol beverage products that might be marketed as nonalcohol beverages," the Treasury Department said in a statement.
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