Normally, a food and beverage company lists ingredients for its product on the packaging, though it isn’t uncommon to hold back some specifics. Lists may, perhaps, include “unique spice blend” or “artificial flavors” without detailing the recipe secrets. With the current conspiracy terrors about GMOs and carcinogens, though, there’s been an increase in demand for companies to promise that none of their ingredients are genetically modified, and, in many cases, to assure consumers the products are organic, free-range, or cruelty-free.
Despite concerns about some problems labeling may present, such as a widespread misunderstanding of what “organic” means (it doesn’t mean no pesticides are used) and questions about whether plants that are modified through breeding count as genetically modified, there is certainly some merit to certain labeling requirements, hence laws that do require most foods and beverages to carry lists of ingredients.
Vani Hari, of foodbabe.com, known as the “Food Babe,” has driven much of the recent demand, and promoted the public fear of standard ingredients. Currently, her petition to Anheuser-Buschand Miller-Coors is being credited with the decision of those two companies to post complete ingredients lists for their beers.
The petition reads,
Dear Luiz Fernando Edmond, President of Anheuser-Busch and Tim Long, CEO of MillerCoors,
Millions of people consume your beverages not knowing what’s actually in them. We know more about the ingredients in Windex and Coca Cola than we do about your beers. It’s time for this lack of transparency to end.
Please provide a full list of ingredients for all your beer product lines on your website. As you know, the Treasury Department allows a laundry list of additives, stabilizers, and flavor enhancers in beer. Many of these ingredients are allergens or could be harmful.
Consumers have the right to know what they are drinking.
While the petition harkens to certain common tropes in food fear, such as comparing ingredients in beverages to those in cleaning products, concerns about allergens are straightforward, and widespread.
While it’s not clear how many people signed Hari’s petition, the Washington Post reports that it is customer requests that have driven the decision to begin posting ingredients lists online, since both companies have noted there is no legal requirement for them to do so.
According to USA Today, this is because beer is regulated not by the Food and Drug Administration, which requires lists of ingredients on products, but the Treasury Department, which has made no such demands.
Hari, who you may remember from the controversy over a chemical in both bread and yoga mats, points out that one of the ingredients in many beers is also used in airplane de-icing liquids, but it’s notable that this has little meaning on its own, since many chemicals that are safe and innocuous are used in both food products and products for more industrial use. Salts, for instance, are useful in de-icing, but are primarily food ingredients, and, in moderation, are safe for consumption by most people.
The chemical in question, propylene glycol, is considered safe for consumption and approved by the FDA. It’s one of many ingredients commonly used as a food preservative.
As far as allergens go, however, Budweiser’s posted ingredients lists don’t contain anything that wouldn’t be expected in a beer: water, barley malt, rice, yeast, and hops.