What's in that beer you're drinking? Yeah, we know -- hops, barley and so forth but what else is in it? That's what Vani Hari would like to know.
Ms. Hari, who calls herself "Food Babe," says that she herself isn't much of a beer drinker but her husband is, which caused her to wonder just what's in all those bottles and cans of beer that slide down Americans' gullets every day.
A partial answer, she notes, is that there are many ingredients that are allowed in beer -- things like "high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, stabilizers that are linked to intestinal inflammation, artificial colors, ingredients found in airplane deicing liquid, genetically modified ingredients, even fish swim bladders."
How can you tell what exactly is in that beer that's clenched in your right fist? Anheuser-Busch said it provides information about the ingredients of its brands at www.tapintoyourbeer.com.
“Our brewmasters take great pride in making our beers to the highest standards of quality and consistency, using pure, fresh, natural ingredients. For example, our flagship Budweiser and Bud Light brands are made with the best barley malt, rice, hops, yeast, and pure water," an Anheuser-Busch company spokesman said in an email. "Both brands use American-grown rice, and the USDA has declared that no genetically modified rice varieties are grown orsold in the United States. Moreover, these flagship brands use none of the other additives you mention."
Feds set standards
Soda cans and bottles list the ingredients and amounts right on the label, but beer doesn't. That's because it doesn't have to -- beer is regulated by the Treasury Department, not the Food and Drug Administration or Agriculture Department, which regulate most food products.
Anheuser-Busch said its beers "adhere to federal and state brewing and labeling standards. Our beer ingredients all meet TTB (Treasury Department's Tax and Trade Bureau) and FDA standards for food safety."
But Hari has started a petition asking Anheuser-Busch and Millers Coors to brew up a pint of courage and start listing the ingredients, even though they're not required to do so by law.
"We know more about what’s in a bottle of Windex and Coca Cola than we do about one of the world’s most popular drinks – BEER!" as Ms. Hari sees it.
She's picking up support from such prominent food safety advocates as Michael F. Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"Thirty years ago the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned and then sued the government to get ingredients listed on labels of alcoholic beverages," Jacobson said. "But the government largely slammed the door on that idea -- requiring only allergens like sulfites and Yellow 5 to be labeled. I hope that Vani Hari's petition will persuade the two biggest brewers -- and other companies -- to do voluntarily what the government has failed to require them to do.
Jacobson agreed with Ms. Hari that consumers at the very least have a right to know if a specific beer contains ingredients that might be harmful.
"Ingredients like propylene glycol alginate, Red 40, caramel coloring, and others should certainly be listed on labels in case consumers are concerned about allergens or simply troubled by beers that contain a raft of additives," he said.