You love the blog, so subscribe to the Beervana Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud today!

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Further Few Words on Ingredients

Last week, I supported the idea that breweries, like food producers, should have to list their ingredients.  The proposal on the floor isn't even a labeling law: the activist raising the question wants breweries to voluntarily list their ingredients on their websites.  I'm still mystified that this is a controversial proposal, but it is.  Aside from being tweaked by the Food Babe--the activist in question--the only real objection I can see runs along these lines:
What's "in your beer" is, well, four or five ingredients. What goes into the MAKING of that beer is another matter altogether. 
and (from comments to my post):
I don't think we need disclosure, for one thing, what is an ingredient? All these things are value judgements. Should butter list ingredients, milk, hamburger meat? If we list the cereal components of the mash, need we say whether insecticides were used to help grow those cereals? Do we say what trace elements of minerals are in the brewing liquor? Where does it end?
With respect to Gary Gillman, a great commenter who wrote that second comment, this is not a great argument.  Beer is no different than food, and when policy makers wrote the labeling laws, they had to confront the same issue.  It was necessarily incomplete and could be subjected to exactly the same criticism.  Indeed, a years-long war is being waged about whether consumers have a right to know if their food is genetically modified--because current rules don't make producers reveal that information.  Current rules also do not reveal to consumers know how their food was grown or processed.  It's easy to game the system.  If you use lab-grown isoamyl acetate to flavor your banana candies, it's an "artificial ingredient" but if it comes from, say, fermenting beer, it's "natural." 

So while it's true that listing ingredients does not provide full transparency, that seems like a pretty poor argument to shrug and say we should have no transparency.


Incidentally, Alan has a great post on the ingredients brouhaha that I encourage for anyone who has even a passing interest in the controversy.

1 comment:

  1. I fear we're missing a wonderful opportunity to educate consumers throughout all of these verbal lashings. More common eyes have been turned towards the brewing process than I can recall in recent memory. It should be viewed as an opportunity to share information, as opposed to engaging in an endless battle of who schooled who on who's blog.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with anyone asking more questions. I do, however, think there is something wrong when the Food Babe is giving all the answers. Now is the perfect time to direct people towards any number of resources about brewing. The technical guides on Hops, Yeast, Malt and Water could be a great start. And does anyone know that the University of Oklahoma offers a free online course on the Chemistry of Beer?

    We should be sharing these well-researched resources with those who are interested. Not getting defensive or using this opportunity to belittle others.