Food safety guidance published for unpasteurised fermented plant-based products
Alcohol content of food products containing more than 1.2% alcohol by volume must be declared in order to inform consumer choice
28 September 2021
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has published new guidance to ensure producers of unpasteurised and fermented plant-based products produce safe beverages.
The guidance was developed in light of a survey carried out by the FSAI on unpasteurised plant-based fermented beverages (such as kombucha, kefir and ginger soda).
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.
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. 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.
The new guidance will inform the industry about how best to comply with EU and Irish food law, and enable the safe and consistent production, storage, handling and display of plant-based fermented products.
The FSAI’s survey examined a representative sample of 32 plant-based fermented beverages on the Irish market and sought to determine the level of compliance with EU and Irish food labelling and health claims legislation. Of the 32 samples analysed:
- 13% (4) had undeclared alcohol at concentrations above the labelling threshold of 1.2% alcohol by volume. Undeclared alcohol was at 1.5 – 3.9%.
- 91% (29) had unauthorised nutrition and/or health claims. Such as ‘full of goodness’; ‘contains live cultures’.
- 75% (24) were missing mandatory labelling information such address of producer, list of ingredients and best-before or use-by date.
According to Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI the new guidance will assist those producing unpasteurised fermented plant-based products to produce safe and legally compliant products.
The FSAI undertook widespread consultation with stakeholders to develop the new guidance including the FSAI’s Artisan Forum, the Health Service Executive, some individual food business operators and Teagasc.
The guidance is available to view and download for free at: https://www.fsai.ie/GN_Manufacturing_FermentedProducts/. Also, the ‘Survey of Plant-based Fermented Beverages Available on the Irish market’ is available at: https://www.fsai.ie/Survey_FermentedVeg/