Yesterday, Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) responded to pressure from self-styled ‘Food Babe’ Vani Hari agreeing to full disclosure of the ingredients in flag beer brands Budweiser and Bud Light, and there are no nasty surprises.
Food activist Hari is the brains behind FoodBabe.com, and this week used her site as a platform to pressure ABI and Miller Coors into make the disclosures, winning circa. 50,000 signatures for a related petition in 24 hours.
Hari cited concerns about additives in leading beer brands – high fructose corn syrup/HFCS (still a bête noire for health campaigners), artificial flavors, stabilizers linked to intestinal inflammation, GMOs and ingredients she said are used in airplane de-icing ingredients.
Miller Coors initially told ABC News its ingredients are proprietary information, but yesterday posted ingredients lists for Miller Lite, Coors Lite, Miller High Life, Keystone Light, Blue Moon Belgian White, Coors Banquet, Miller Genuine Draft and Miller Fortune on its Facebook page.
Hari called on all America’s brewers to disclose all the ingredients they used without giving away its formulas, and Miller Coors said in response: “We value transparency and are happy to comply with the request for additional information.”
‘It seems a little dishonest’ – Facebook users respond
But Miller Coors admits to Hari in comments under its Facebook post – where ingredients in Coors Banquet are listed as water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops – that the corn used in beers including Banquet and Blue Moon is in fact a “liquid corn brewing adjunct, but it is not HFCS”.
Subsequent respondents then criticize the brewer for a “lack of candour”, while one says “It seems a little dishonest to say corn, and not corn liquid.”
Though in fairness to Blue Moon, the traditional craft hostility towards so-called adjuncts grains including corn - let's leave the liquid aspect to one side for now - seems to be waning.
Since the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulates beer labelling under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act) manufacturers such as ABI and Miller Coors do not have to list ingredients on the label or online, which Hari says prevents transparency.
That said, every ingredient used to made a food (this includes beer and other alcoholic drinks) must be permissible under FDA standards – this includes their GRAS status – otherwise a product is classed as ‘adulterated’ under the terms of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).
Contrary to Hari’s claims that the FDA does not regulate beer, it does have powers under the Food Additive Authority to remove unsafe alcohol products from the marketplace, which led it to send warning letters to four caffeinated alcohol brands (Four Loko being one) in 2010.
Behind the Buds – What’s in your Budweiser?
Nonetheless, Hari insists transparency is crucial for consumers: “After finding out that we know more about about what’s in a bottle of Windex and Coca-Cola than we do one of the world’s most popular drinks, beer, I knew I needed to bring this subject to light,” she said.
Yesterday, ABI used its microsite Tap Your Beer to put the information online for Budweiser and Bud Light, with the rest of its brands to follow in coming days.
Disappointingly, for shock headline writers, the truth behind the Buds is pretty tame. Both Budweiser and Bud Light ingredients listed are water, barley malt, rice, yeast and hops. No nasty surprises there, seemingly.