June 13, 2014
Activist FoodBabe Scores Another Win: Beer Makers Begin Listing Their Ingredients
Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The food and beverage industry has an unlikely adversary in North Carolina activist Vani Hari whose nom de guerre is FoodBabe. And she has an impressive list of accomplishments under her belt from just the past few months. She and her website were responsible for convincing Kraft Foods to remove the yellow dye used in their children's macaroni & cheese offerings and, more recently, for shaming national sandwich chain Subway into removing azodicarbonamide, a chemical that can be found in yoga mats, from their breads. This week, FoodBabe set her sights on the American brewing industry.On Wednesday Hari launched an online petition via her website meant to convince the two largest brewers in the country, AB-InBev (Anheuser-Busch) and MillerCoors, to provide to consumers the ingredients used to craft their beers. As a graphic on her website notes, [Consumers] know what is in a bottle of Windex and Coca-Cola. Shouldn't we know what ingredients go into the most popular alcoholic beverage, beer? The socially-savvy advocate created the hashtag #mysterybeer to accompany her petition.
Unlike most every other consumable item you would find in a grocery store or mini-mart, beer is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Regulation of the frothy libation, instead, is administered by the Treasury Department. While that fact may seem incongruous for a beverage as popular as beer, remember it was Eliot Ness and The Untouchables, as officers of the Treasury Department, who were on the front lines during the prohibition-era early last century.
Hari decided to take on the two giant companies, responsible for selling more than $75 billion in beer annually, after coming across the results of an investigation into the ingredients the government allows brewers to use during the beer making process. While the companies may be within their rights to use such ingredients, Hari believes the consumer should be able to make an informed decision by knowing if high fructose corn syrup, certain stabilizers linked to intestinal inflammation, propylene glycol, GMOs and even fish swim bladders are used to create their favorite beers.
As Hari explained to Bruce Horovitz of the USA Today, her demand is not for the companies to change their formulas or their labeling. “I'm not asking for government involvement. I'm asking for voluntary disclosure on their websites. It's shocking that these companies don't disclose their ingredients. But it's even more shocking that millions of us drink these beers without knowing what's actually in them."
Initially, the response from the two beer makers was tepid, at best. They both put out statements that blandly alluded to their commitment to using the freshest ingredients and stressed the value they found in operating transparently. From Pete Marino with MillerCoors came this: “MillerCoors led all alcohol beverage companies with a voluntary nutritional labeling panel earlier this year starting with our Miller64 brand. We value transparency and we will strongly consider the request for putting more ingredient information online.”
Unhappy with that response, Hari claimed, “Nutritional labeling is distinctly different than ingredient disclosure, and it is not enough transparency for consumers to avoid additives like the corn syrup they use in many of their beers.”
Just 24 hours and 40,000 signatures later, AB-InBev relented, stating they would immediately put up ingredients for their two flagship beers, Budweiser and Bud Light, with ingredient listings for the remainder of their product line to follow shortly.
In an e-mail to Hari, AB-InBev company spokesperson Terri Vogt stated, “As American consumer needs evolve, we want to meet their expectations. Therefore, we are working to list our beer ingredients on our website, just as you would see for other food and non-alcohol beverage producers. We are beginning immediately, having incorporated this information earlier today on www.tapintoyourbeer.com for our flagship brands, Budweiser and Bud Light, and will be listing this for our other brands in the coming days.”
Seeing the writing on the wall, MillerCoors announced they, too, would soon be providing a full listing of all ingredients used in the production of their entire line of beers.
In light of the about face by both AB-InBev and MillerCoors, Hari, speaking with ABC News stated, “It's pretty amazing that making your voice heard can change the policies of a multi-billion dollar company.”