Big Brewers Respond to 'Food Babe' by Listing Ingredients

A-B InBev, MillerCoors Pledge to Put More Information Online

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Anheuser-Busch InBev has begun publishing ingredients used in some of its beer brands in response to a well-publicized campaign by a blogger who calls herself "Food Babe."

The babe, whose real name is Vani Hari, launched a signature-gathering drive on Wednesday for a petition calling on beer companies to list beer ingredients online. Federal regulations do not require beer brands to publicly list ingredients as is required for most other food products.

Food Babe Beer Petition
Food Babe Beer Petition

In a press release on Wednesday, Ms. Hari said she "grew concerned about the beer we are consuming, after discovering there is a long list of additives the government has approved for use in beer" including high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and "ingredients found in airplane deicing liquid, genetically modified ingredients, and even fish swim bladders."

The alarmist claims drew coverage in major media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune, USA Today and ABC News.

On Thursday A-B InBev responded, saying it would begin listing ingredients on an existing website run by the brewer called By the afternoon, ingredients had already been listed for Budweiser and Bud Light -- and they weren't that scary. Bud, for instance, listed "water, barley malt, rice, yeast, hops." The brewer in a statement also invited Ms.Hari and her husband "to our flagship St. Louis brewery to show how our beers are made and the ingredients we use."

In a statement, Ms. Hari praised A-B InBev, saying she was "thrilled" with the brewer's "quick response and can't wait to see the ingredients of all their beers online." She also called on MillerCoors and other beer companies to "step up to the plate" and follow suit. She said she had collected 40,000 signatures in 24 hours.

After her statement, MillerCoors issued a statement saying it would be "putting more ingredient information online in the days ahead," noting that it had already "led all alcohol companies by voluntarily placing a nutritional label on our Miller64 brand." The statement included ingredients for several brands, such as Coors Light, which listed "water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops."

Ms. Hari has successfully won similar media attention and company responses in other efforts. Last year, she played a role in move by Kraft's Mac and Cheese to remove artificial yellow dye from some varieties.

Some critics said her beer campaign was overly alarmist. "The offending compounds Hari highlights in the beer petition may not be harmful but her characterizations of them easily create consumer uproar," beer-trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights reported on Thursday morning.

The publication continued that "exaggeration, fear mongering and semi-truths in the name of advocacy largely get a pass these days. That's especially true if, as in this case, the advocacy boils down to information seeking. Fighting transparency in 2014 is often a losing battle, and the more time spent fighting it, the more ammunition is provided to the opposing side."

But what about the "fish swim bladders" that Ms. Hari suggested is in some beer?

ABC News reported that "some beer and wine manufacturers extract and dry them to use as filters, to help rid the beverage of particles." The report cited an April article in Newsweek that stated that the powder, known as isinglass, "has historically had wound-healing properties" and "renders those beverages drinkable but also unsuitable for vegetarians."

And the ingredients found in antifreeze (propylene glycol)? It is a "harmless food additive," Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told ABC News.

Still, Mr. Jacobson praised Ms. Hari's efforts in a separate statement, saying that "30 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."

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