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Survey of Alcohol Content and Labelling of Fermented Soft Drinks

​(August 2019)

Introduction

The Implementation Sub-committee for Food Regulation (ISFR) nationally coordinated survey of Alcohol Content and Labelling of Fermented Soft Drinks investigated whether:

  • businesses are adequately controlling alcohol production in their fermented soft drinks, and
  • labelling of alcohol content of fermented soft drinks complies with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code).

Results

The survey was led by the Victoria Department of Health and Human Services and involved the testing of the alcohol content of kombucha, water and dairy kefir, and other fermented soft drinks including ginger beer across five Australian jurisdictions (Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania) in 2017 and 2018.

Results, particularly for kombucha and water-based kefir beverages found a proportion of samples contained excess or undeclared alcohol, including many considered to be non-compliant with the Code.

What's being done to manage identified issues?

Industry and regulator roundtable meeting

On 31 May 2019, a roundtable on fermented beverages was convened by the Australian Government Department of Health on behalf of the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) consisting of industry and regulators.

The roundtable aimed to raise awareness among stakeholders of the findings of the survey and associated public health concerns; and to consider any risk management required to ensure public health and safety.

The outcomes of the roundtable meeting can be found on the Food Regulation website.

Education

There are resources available to assist industry in managing alcohol content in fermented soft drinks, such as Victoria Department of Health and Human Services FoodSmart supplement.

Ongoing monitoring and enforcement

Australian states and territory food authorities will continue to monitor the compliance of fermented soft drink products in the market place and take action as necessary.

Key messages for consumers and industry

How do I know what's in my drink? How are fermented soft drinks regulated?

If you are concerned with the amount of alcohol in your food or drink, check the product label, or ask the vendor/caterer for food or drink served onsite. There are legal requirements for how and when the alcohol content must be labelled on foods.

For more information, Standard 2.7.1 of the Code outlines labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages and food containing alcohol.

Local food enforcement agencies regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages through local liquor licencing legislation.

Responsibilities for industry including manufacturers and caterers

It is the responsibility of manufacturers of fermented soft drinks to ensure their products meet the requirements of the Code and local liquor licencing regulations.

The control of alcohol production must be managed across the entire shelf life of the product, including all stages of manufacture, transport, storage and retail.

Need further information?

This compliance survey was conducted as part of ISFR's Coordinated Food Survey Plan and led by Victoria DHHS, with sampling undertaken in five Australian jurisdictions (Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania).

Enquiries regarding results and outcomes of the survey should be directed to the relevant jurisdictional enforcement authority.

Read the summary report

Coordinated survey of alcohol content and labelling of fermented soft drinks - summary

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