Oregon lawmakers are attempting to end the alcoholic beverage tax placed on kombucha. One of the fastest growing fermented produce and beverages, many kombucha brands are based in Oregon, and state leadership on both sides of the political fence realize how critical kombucha is to Oregon’s economy. “I’ve met with kombucha manufacturers in Oregon who have told me how this outdated tax is holding back their industry,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River). “This bill will help these small businesses keep more of their hard earned money to reinvest in their businesses and create jobs in our communities.” The bill – called Keeping our Manufacturers from Being Unfairly Taxed while Championing Health Act (or KOMBUCHA) – would increase alcohol-by-volume limit for kombucha from 0.5 percent to 1.25 percent. Currently, fermented beverages containing at least 0.5 percent of alcohol by volume are taxed through federal alcohol excise taxes.
Read more (Oregon Public Broadcasting) (Photo by: Humm Kombucha)
The voices of organic and natural advocates are critical to public policy, and change in the food system starts with farmers, food producers and even parents feeding their family in a healthy, sustainable way.
“Your voices matter more than ever. You are the reason we’ve seen so many changes in our food system over the past 85 years,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), keynote speaker at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif. Stabenow is the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and the co-author of the 2018 Farm Bill. “We’ve made progress, but there’s a lot more to do. That’s where all of you come in. “
Legislation is catching up with consumer desire. For the first time in U.S. history, organic food is permanently protected and protected under the current farm bill. The farm bill is the government’s primary food and agriculture policy tool, and it’s renewed every five years.
Organic food is a movement that’s been rising for decades, Stabenow said. Though it may feel like the organic industry just took off, Stabenow said “It’s moving more quickly now because of the incredible demand from the public. … Organics is the fastest growing part of our farm economy, so we made it a priority in the farm bill.”
“Now more than ever before people are paying attention to what they eat. They want to know where their food comes from and how it’s grown. … People are also becoming more interested in the hands that plant the seed, the soil in which they grow and the impact on our family’s health.”
The farm bill is the best example of how food policy has changed. The first farm bill was established in 1933, during the Great Depression. A national organics program wasn’t put in the bill until the 1990s.
The organic industry has grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to over $50 billion today.
Stabenow is proud of the policies added to the 2018 Farm Bill, passed in a difficult political climate. Republicans control all parts of the federal government. And President Donald Trump has pushed for such tight regulations on the organics program that he’s been accused of “waging war” on the organics industry. But bipartisan support helped pass what Stabenow called “the most progressive farm bill yet.”
The major bill highlight for the organic industry was the establishment of permanent, mandatory funding for organics. Stabenow compared it to organics previously sitting at the “kid’s table” with temporary funding for organics that was depleted and reevaluated every five years.
“I’m proud to say we’re now at the adult’s table,” Stabenow said. “What does that mean? It means organic research and provisions will live on past the current farm bill. It means farmers markets and food hubs and community food provisions will continue to grow the local food movement.”
With organics finally protected, Stabenow said, it’s time to look at new ideas. What can propel the next farm bill with healthy and sustainable policies?
“As creators, as innovators as advocates you really are the engine driving our country to a more sustainable future, and I can’t think of anything more important than being able to do that,” she said.
There are beer wars over fermentation practices between two of the country’s biggest beer brands. MillersCoors is suing Anheuser-Busch over a Bud Light Super Bowl ad that shamed Miller Lite and Coors Light beers for using corn syrup during their brewing process. The controversial ad shows the Bud Light King trying to figure out what to do with a giant corn syrup barrel delivered to their castle by mistake. The Bud Light knights attempt to deliver the barrel to both the Miller Lite and Coors Lite castle, since both beers have corn syrup in their ingredients. MillersCoors says the ad is false advertising. The brand says corn syrup is used in brewing to aid the fermentation process, but their final product does not include corn syrup. MillerCoors also alleges that Anheuser-Busch is playing on consumer’s fears of corn syrup. Focus groups show consumers view no difference between corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup. Dietitians say corn syrup is not unhealthy in brewing, but high-fructose corn syrup is an additive linked to obesity. The lawsuit also alleges Anheuser-Busch also uses corn syrup as a fermentation aid in some of the brand’s other drinks (Stella Artois Cidre and Bud Ice). MillerCoors is asking Bud Light to stop the ad immediately and pay all of MillerCoors’ legal fees.
Read more (CNBC)
“The right kind of diet may give the brain more of what it needs to avoid depression, or even to treat it once it’s begun,” writes the Wall Street Journal. Research from Australia’s Deakin University found, for people battling depression, an improved diet resulted in”significantly happier moods than those who received social support.” A bad diet affects our microbiome (“the trillions of micro-organisms that live in our gut”) altering the production of serotonin (a neurotransmitter). Research says a balanced Mediterranean-style diet provides the nutrition our brain needs. Research lists probiotic-rich food with live bacteria and yeasts (yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, fermented veggies) to replenish the good bacteria in our microbiome.
Read more (Wall Street Journal)
Blending ancestral kitchen traditions and new scientific research will allow fermentation to change our diet — and our planet.
In a TEDx Talk, Mara King, co-founder of fermented food store Ozukè, shares why she is proudly releasing trillions of good bacteria into the population. Her food philosophy rubs against everything the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments practice. While government agencies enforce strict sanitation standards in the name of protecting American’s food, King preaches that it’s wiping out good bacteria and dumping more toxins into the environment.
When King and co-founder Willow King (no relation) opened their Colorado-based food business, a food scientist from the Denver office of the Health & Human Services Department performed a safety inspection. The food expert was confused by Ozukè’s live, fermented pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi. King: “He said ‘Your product is so weird. We follow all these FDA guidelines in food manufacturing in order to diminish bacteria and here you are making it on purpose.’”
“The food we make is actually super, super, super safe, unlike mots processed packaged fresh foods,” King says. “The reason this food is so safe is not because I’m better at this antimicrobial Macarena than anybody else. It’s because the bacteria are doing the work of making the fermented foods pretty much bomb proof.”
Though numerous cultures have been fermenting for generations (“It’s how humans have been eating raw, crunchy vegetables all through hard winters.”), King notes it’s only in the last 10 years that scientists have been able to map the complex fermentation process. By letting bacteria thrive in its own ecosystem, it “creates a food that’s no longer harmful to humans” and makes a more nutritious product.
“Nature does not operate in a vacuum and neither should we,” King says. “We need to understand the complexity of the world in which we live, then we can start to come up with solutions that do honor our heritage.”
King, who great up in Hong Kong, says older Chinese women store an impressive knowledge of food and medicine. Merging ancient tradition with new science is what will create the living solutions needed to continue living on our planet.
“In fermentation, we have a little trick that we use which is called using a started culture or a mother. I believe that our starter culture…is our human cultural history,” King says. “Once we start tapping this information…we’ll start to come up with amazing solutions, solutions that grow, solutions that rot, solutions that breath.”
Today Ozuke (which means “the best pickled things” in Japanese) still makes pickled veggies, but also teaches fermentation workshops. For more information, visit their webpage.
More Americans want their food natural, traditionally sourced and eco-friendly — and 2019 food and beverage laws reflect that philosophy.
Thousands of new laws went into effect in the U.S. on Jan. 1 2019. Fermented food and drink producers need to take note because dozens of those new state and municipal laws will aid fermentation businesses and, in some cases, hurt businesses.
From new rules (increased minimum wage in 19 states) to less regulation (lenient homemade food sale laws; fewer restrictions on craft breweries), to planet saving measures (ban on straws in California restaurants; ban on styrofoam containers in New York restaurants) here’s a breakdown of the major laws affecting the fermentation industry.
HB2484 – Food tax is now uniform, a requirement that bans an additional tax for a specific food item. Lawmakers suggested imposing a higher tax on soda and alcohol.
SB1022 – Certain homemade food items can be sold to the public without an inspection by the health department. The food is limited to: fruit jams and jellies, dry mixes, honey, dry pasta and roasted nuts. The food also must be prepared by someone with a food handler’s permit and sales must advertise that it was made in a home kitchen not subject to health inspection.
Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force – Sales tax on groceries drops from 1.5 percent to 0.125 percent.
SB946 – Sidewalk vending is no longer a crime under the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act. Vendors can determine where they’d like to operate, without asking an adjacent business for permission. Cities and counties will regulate street vendors.
AB1884 – In an attempt to curb ocean waste, single-use plastic straws are only available at a diner’s request. The law applies to full-service restaurants; fast-food establishments are exempt. Violating restaurants could be fined $25 a day and up to $300 annually.
AB626 – Amends state food code to legalize home-based food sales or “microenterprise home kitchens.” Cities and counties are now in charge of permitting small-scale home cooks who want to sell to the public.
SB826 – Publicly-held companies with headquarters in California are required to elect a minimum of one woman on their board by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021, a company with a five-member board must have two women on their board; a company with six or more directors needs three women on their board. Violators face fines of $100,000-$300,000.
SB243 – An update to an alcohol law passed from the Prohibition-era, full-strength beer can now be sold in Colorado grocery stores. Previously, the law only allowed grocery store beer with 3.2 percent alcohol by weight.
HB4568 – Called the Healthy Local Food Incentives Program, the bill increases low-income residents access to healthy food. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars now include food from farmers markets.
HF2391 – The law decreases liability for bars, restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. Previously, any alcoholic beverage licensee was on the hook for all damages caused by a person who became intoxicated while at the licensee’s establishment. Now, non-economic damages cap at $250,000 for an injury or death. There’s still no cap for economic damages.
HB136 – Repealing an old cap on craft brewers sales to customers, breweries can now sell three cases and two kegs per customer onsite.
LD1693 – Clarifying Main liquor laws, a complete separation of two retail liquor establishments is now amended. A manufacturing facility and retail establishment at the same location do not need seperation.
SB410 – Bakers selling their fresh baked goods can now package their product in wrapped or covered containers, for sanitation purposes. Law formerly required all dry food items to be sold without packaging so products could be sold based on their weight.
A2015 – Food – prepared by a third-party, licensed vendor — is now allowed to be sold at small breweries.
SB8078 – New York’s food service businesses can no longer sell or serve food in styrofoam containers. After a six month grace period, fines will cost $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for three or more.
HB1433 – Known as the “Food Freedom Act,” the bill allows unlicensed cooks to sell homemade products. Meat and raw dairy products are still exempt.
N.C. Farm Act of 2018 – The act includes two sections relating to the fermentation industry. First, vegan, plant-based milk (like almond, rice, soy or coconut) cannot label itself as “milk” — but only if 10 other states adopt similar mislabeling policies. Second, the food and vegetable handler definition has expanded. Anyone dealing with the transfer of fruit and vegetables from a North Carolina farmer will be required to register with the state’s agriculture department.
Malt Beverage & Liquor Tax – Starting in July, the state will collect 6 percent sales tax from breweries and taprooms. Breweries have been tax exempt under state law, helping the state’s thriving craft brewery scene.
S2502 – Eliminates the state’s confusing regulations for street food vendors. The law simplified and streamlined the registration process for food trucks and food carts. Local municipalities now oversee location and hours of operation.
SB173 – Craft and microbrewers can now sell their beer directly to restaurants without a distributor, as long as it’s under 1,500 barrels. Brewers can also make up to 30,000 barrels a year while still keeping licenses that allow offsite taprooms and wine and cider sales. Former law put the limit at 5,000 barrels.
HB345 – The state passed the strictest drunk driving law in the nation lowering the level for driving under the influence as .05 BAC. The National Transportation Safety Board urged all states to drop the BAC to this level in 2017, but many in the alcohol service industry criticize the law for targeting social drinkers rather than drunk drivers.
The new “it” clean food label: Glyphosate Residue-Free Certification. The main ingredient in weed killer, glyphosate is the most heavily used pesticide in the world. A probable human carcinogen, Forbes estimates it’s about to become a household name consumers will cut out of their food. Though glyphosate is banned in organic crops, it still drifts into the organic food supply, especially in anything oat-based. The new label is awarded by 3rd-party The Detox Project, who regularly tests brands for glyphosates. Costing $1,472 per year, the certification was first granted to Foodstirs, the organic baking company launched by actress Sarah Michelle Gellar and Galit Laibow.
Read more (Forbes) (Photo by: Foodstirs)
Brew Dr. Kombucha became the first nationally distributed kombucha brand to receive a B Corporation certification. The prestigious ranking is given to companies that score high in social sustainability and environmental performance. Brew Dr. sources 100 percent renewable energy, implements a closed-loop brewing process and donates 1 percent of revenue to local environmental non-profits. Matt Thomas, founder and CEO of Brew Dr. Kombucha, said the B Corp certification “is one of the proudest moments I’ve experienced since founding Brew Dr. Kombucha.” He stressed that his company places “equal value on people, planet and profits.” More and more consumers want healthy products, but they also want their products to be created using both environmentally and ethically responsible efforts.
Read more (BevNet) (Photo: Brew Dr. Kombucha)
“Use By” dates are becoming uniform, with nine in 10 grocery store products now printing consumer-friendly labels. By 2020, all products will carry the more simplified date. The industrywide initiative aims to stop confusion over product expiration dates by standardizing wording on all products. The 10 date-label categories are now paired down to two – “Best If Used By” or “Use By.” Surveys found “when in doubt, throw it out” causes massive food waste in America, partly because of unclear food labeling. Over 90 percent of Americans throw out food because of a misunderstood label. Americans waste 133 billion pounds of food a year, a third of the U.S. food supply.
Read more (Supermarket News)
Researchers have developed a way to identify the “flavor-giving protein fragments” in fermented dairy products. The exact taste of fermented foods has been somewhat of a mystery to scientists. Of the thousands of different protein fragments in fermented milk products, it was always unknown which protein was responsible for flavor. But new research from TUM (Technical University of Munich) whittled down those approximately 1,600 protein fragments responsible for the bitter fermented flavor to just 17. This research is important to foodpreneurs wanting to optimize flavors in their fermented products
Read more (Science Daily) (Photo: Foodies Feed)