The kombucha company is being sued after a series of tests came back with high sugar and alcohol levels.
Credit: © Ben Alsop

Health-Ade and Whole Foods Market California are being sued by a consumer for (allegedly) having more sugar and alcohol in their kombucha than their labels claim.

Kombucha is a bubbly, fermented tea that’s made by brewing tea, adding sugar, and fermenting the mixture with a ‘SCOBY’ (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). This process creates carbon dioxide (adding to kombucha’s signature fizziness), alcohol, and various organic acids (which contribute to kombucha’s sour or vinegary taste).

The kombucha you find in the store has minimal levels of alcohol. By law it is required to contain less than 0.5% ABV in order to still be considered a non-alcoholic beverage.

Any kombucha above 0.5% ABV would need to be sold as an alcoholic beverage and be regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and it needs to be labeled and taxed accordingly.

Health-Ade’s kombucha is under fire for allegedly having much higher levels of alcohol and sugar. In the lawsuit, plantiff Gabriela Bayol says that testing “showed every bottle...contained a level of alcohol by volume greater than 0.5%.”

Bayol alleges that lowest level of alcohol detected was .88% while “half of the products contained more than twice the allowed alcohol content.”

She adds that Health-Ade “cannot escape liability for failing to include the required alcohol warning statement even if the beverages become alcoholic after they’re sold downstream to retailers or consumers that fail to refrigerate the beverages [cooler temperatures can slow or stop the fermentation process].”

On top of the potential implications of the unlabeled alcohol in kombucha, Bayol says the company “greatly understates the sugar content of Health-Ade Kombucha beverages on the products’ labels.”

The lawsuit does not provide details on the alleged disparities between the sugar levels stated on the beverage’s label and those detected in testing. When we reached out to Health-Ade for comment they said they do not discuss pending litigations.