Vani Hari, the Food Babe, has demanded answersSelf-proclaimed Food Babe, Vani Hari has an online petition
Michael F. Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) agreed that "Big Brewers Should Label Beer Ingredients."
Three cheers for the Food Babe for shining a light on one of the dark corners of the beer industry. Thirty years ago the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned and then sued the government to get ingredients listed on labels of alcoholic beverages. But the government largely slammed the door on that idea--requiring only allergens like sulfites and Yellow 5 to be labeled. I hope that Vani Hari's petition will persuade the two biggest brewers--and other companies--to do voluntarily what the government has failed to require them to do.Hari's "investigation" apparently involved reading CSPI "fact" sheets. CSPI is a neo-prohibitionist organization who seem to base much of their actions on the Anti-Saloon League playbook (more on that later). According to beer writer Jay Brooks,
CSPI is a prohibitionist organization that rarely has anything to do with actual science. It’s one of the most egregiously dishonest of the bunch, in my opinion, an opinion assembled from following them for many years. They’re hardly a good place to begin an honest attempt to look at the ingredients in beer.Obviously, listing the ingredients on the beer's label where everyone can see it is not enough...Go ahead; look at the label. It says: "Hops, Rice, and Best Barley Malt"! Aha! They didn't list water! I knew they were hiding something! Coors, on the other hand, only lists "100% Rocky Mountain Water" on the can, which if you have ever tasted Coors....
Well it should be online.
....What do you mean the ingredients are listed online?
Online, Anheuser-Busch goes on to list the water and yeast (perhaps Hari's investigation did not bother looking beyond CSPI's facts sheets to include actual research or fact checking or she could not get by the age-gates for the breweries' websites). While the yeasts, hops, barley, rice, and water are all proprietary for these breweries (yes, even water tastes different due to different chemicals/minerals in it--water in different areas is different) the basics are the same:
Crushed grain (usually just barley but sometimes, wheat, rice, or corn may be added) is soaked in hot water (between 140F and 158F) for a period of time (about 20 to 60 minutes) and then the liquid is run off to be boiled. After the liquid (called wort) has boiled it is cooled and yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) are "pitched" into the wort. The yeast eat the sugars and excrete alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2) until they run out of sugars to eat. That's it.
With their ingredients listed on their websites and (for Budweiser, at least) on its cans, Hari's demands were first answered by silence. After all, they had answered the question.
As Hank Campbell, founder of Science 2.0 points out:
[Hari] uses the science illiteracy of the nutritionist segment to full effect and conspiratorially declares that [her targets] must be hiding something if they refuse to answer her uninformed questions about ingredients.Then Anheuser-Busch/ImBev broke their silence and listed their beers' ingredients on another website, tapintoyourbeer.com (which still has a pesky age-gate). You will be shocked to learn that it lists the ingredients for Budweiser and Bud Light as "Water, barley malt, rice, yeast and hops."
Good thing Hari shone that light in that dark corner to reveal that Budweiser is made from "Water, barley malt, rice, yeast and hops." Otherwise, you might have thought their beer was made from "Water, barley malt, rice, yeast and hops" just as it says on their website.
Notice that Hari went after BMC (Budweiser Miller Coors) because, of course, they are mega-corporations and only corporations have something to hide. It is common knowledge, after all, that smaller brewers use only the finest, purest, highest quality ingredients for their artisanal malt beverages.That logic is, of course, pure, high quality horse manure.Maureen Ogle notes this "adulterated ingredients" tactic has been used before:
Well over a century ago...supporters of "temperance" and alcohol prohibition launched a campaign to eliminate "adulterated" beer from the marketplace...[one particular group] demanded that the nation's brewers reveal the use of all their ingredients and sent brewers a questionnaire aimed at rooting out the truth. On the list of alleged ingredients were corn, rice, glucose, 'grape sugar,' molasses, and potato and corn starch. Other groups claimed brewers used acids in their beer...The Brewers Association, which represents the smaller craft brewers in the United States has been silent on this issue. Whether they think that they are exempt from the Food Babes of the world or they think "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," or something else entirely, I do not know. Either way, it is a dangerously naive strategy.As Maureen Ogle points out what happened after the turn of the 20th century,
Eventually, of course, the prohibitionists, who never met a fear they weren't willing to exploit, managed to make prohibition the law of the land --- with, shall we say, disastrous results.
Smart Takes on the Food Babe's TacticsThe New Yellow Journalism By Jay Brooks
Beware the Dangers of [Profit-Driven] Dumbassery by Maureen Ogle
Beer McCarthyism - The Food Babe Goes After Breweries Again by Hank Campbell
What's In YOUR Beer? Or, The Dangers of Dumbassery by Maureen Ogle
Beer Wars: The Calumny of The Food Babe by Tom Cizauskas (anyone who uses "calumny" in a title has to be giving a smart take)