News BA Addresses Safety of Non-Alcoholic Draft Beer

The rising popularity of non-alcoholic beer has prompted many brewers to consider entering the category. But concerns have risen recently over the prospect that non-pasteurized beer without the natural protection of alcohol may be subject to the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and a significant health risk to consumers.

“A ‘food safe’ non-alcohol beer can be produced at the brewery for packaging in a can or bottle through pasteurization,” the Brewers Association (BA) said in an association news post on their web site. “However, in keg, non-alcohol beer moving through the three-tier system is subject to circumstances beyond the brewer’s control, such as elevated temperatures during transportation and storage, or being served from a poorly maintained long draw draught system. These and other pathways such as a contaminated food product stored in beer service areas, can possibly introduce contamination and/or stimulate bacterial growth with potentially human harming consequences.”

Multiple studies have shown that low and non-alcohol beers are susceptible to pathogens. In the past, most non-alcoholic beer was produced by large brewers with the ability to pasteurize packaged non-alcoholic beer, and draft non-alcoholic beer simply wasn’t offered. But with the growing array of non-alcoholic beers being introduced by craft brewers and a growing demand for non-alcoholic beer on draft, the concern is rising that there simply isn’t enough information yet on the risks.

“The Brewers Association does not believe that sufficient evidence exists to understand the potential risk of serving non-alcohol beer on draught. Similarly, the BA does not believe there is sufficient knowledge or experience to recommend best practices that would guarantee the safety of the product during on-premise draught retail sales.”

And the potential risk is high. We’re not talking about simple off-flavors, sourness or cloudiness. There is the potential of consumer health risk. “The potential consequences stemming from a foodborne pathogen contaminating non-alcohol beer are not the same as those of a beer that is compromised by non-pathogenic “beer spoilers” that impact the quality of a beer,” the BA said. “A non-alcohol beer on draught that contains pathogens could result in illness or death of consumers from foodborne pathogens and reputational risk and business losses for an individual brewery.”

More from the BA statement here and link to the BA resources here.

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