The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has recently published new guidance in light of a survey carried out on unpasteurised plant-based fermented drinks.

‘Good Manufacturing Practices for the Production of Ready-to-eat Unpasteurised Fermented Plant-based Products’ aims to assist with the production of safe products.

The FSAI carried out a survey which examined 32 unpasteurised plant-based fermented drinks such as kombucha, kefir and ginger soda on the Irish market and sought to determine the level of compliance with EU and Irish food labelling and health claims legislation.

The survey results identified a “problem with the alcohol content” of some beverages.

Under EU labelling rules, the alcohol content of food products containing more than 1.2% alcohol by volume must be declared in order to inform consumer choice.

13%, or four of the drinks, had undeclared alcohol at concentrations above the labelling threshold. Undeclared alcohol was at 1.5% – 3.9%.

“Failure to comply with these declaration requirements means that such products can pose a risk to vulnerable consumers such as pregnant or breastfeeding women or people with underlying health conditions who unwittingly consume alcohol,” the FSAI explained.

“People’s livelihoods may also be affected where even low levels of alcohol are not permitted, for example drivers with learner permits, operators of heavy machinery and airline pilots, among others.”

Unauthorised health claims

91% (29) had unauthorised nutrition and/or health claims, such as ‘full of goodness’ or ‘contains live cultures’.

75% (24) were missing mandatory labelling information such as address of producer, list of ingredients and best-before or use-by date.

In Ireland and other countries, there has been an increase in the popularity of unpasteurised plant-based products over recent years.

According to Dr. Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive, the new guidance will assist those producing unpasteurised fermented plant-based products to produce safe and legally-compliant products.

“The methods used in producing unpasteursied fermented plant-based products can be difficult to manage,” Dr. Byrne explained.

“Fermentation can continue during handling and storage, which can lead to an accumulation of alcohol.

“The guidance will help producers to achieve consistent production methods, safe storage, safe handling and safe transportation of fermented beverages.”