One of the department's responsibilities under the Food Act 1984 is to ensure that food and drinks sold in Victoria are safe, suitable and correctly labelled.
In late 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services identified a risk associated with the emerging trend for fermented soft drinks such as kombucha and fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut.
The department found that some of these products could contain excessive amounts of alcohol, over and above the amount declared on their labels.
Analysing the problem
A small testing program analysed the alcohol content of fermented soft drinks manufactured in Victoria. The testing revealed:
- all the samples were labelled stating that they contained 0.5 per cent alcohol by volume or less
- 48 per cent contained undeclared alcohol in excess of 0.5 per cent alcohol by volume
- 34 per cent contained between 0.5 per cent and 1.15 per cent alcohol by volume, still meeting the definition of a brewed soft drink under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) but labelled incorrectly
- 14 per cent contained greater than 1.15 per cent alcohol by volume, not meeting the definition of a brewed soft drink in the Code, nor complying with labelling requirements for beverages containing alcohol
- the alcohol strength of drinks sampled from retail were significantly higher than those sampled from manufacturers, suggesting shelf-life determination and alcohol testing were inadequate.
These findings showed that there were inadequate control points in the manufacturing process and supply chain used by some manufacturers to control the production of alcohol in their products.
In consultation with small- and medium-sized Victorian food businesses, we developed further information to complement food safety programs.
This additional information identifies the potential alcohol content risks with fermented food products and sets out food labelling requirements for alcohol content in brewed soft drinks.
These changes help Victorians consume fermented food products safely.
Following Victoria's lead, a national survey is now underway in the other states and territories to identify potential alcohol content risks for fermented food products.
Department of Health and Human Services 2019, The Food Act report 2017: Prioritising food safety and strengthening regulation, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Reviewed 19 February 2020