Kombucha Sales Temporarily Suspended

11/4/10

Finally, your beloved Kombucha is back! GT's has released a reformulated version of their popular product.  According to their website,

We are delighted to introduce our "Enlightened" line of GT's Kombucha. Our new interpretation of this ancient elixir has a lighter and smoother personality while maintaining the same high nutritional value that you have come to expect from us.

The history:
On June 16 2010, UNFI, a major distributor in the natural foods market, halted the sale of unpasteurized Kombucha products, and recommended retailers also halt sales of those items. This is not related to any type of food contamination, is not a government mandated recall, and had nothing to do with Lindsay Lohan.  Details as of September 17 are as follows:

Why did UNFI halt the sale of unpasteurized Kombucha products?

UNFI was made aware that unpasteurized Kombucha products may not meet federal regulations governing the sale and labeling of products containing alcohol. When suppliers were asked to prove compliance with the regulations in question, they were unable to immediately do so. In fact, certain tests conducted showed many unpasteurized Kombucha products to contain in excess of 0.5% alcohol content by volume, the threshold above which products must include on their label the federal warning regarding the possible effects of alcohol.

The concerns are:

  • Items with alcohol content above this 0.5% threshold may pose a danger to some consumers.
  • Knowingly selling such items that do not meet labeling requirements is illegal.
  • Retailers that sell items containing alcohol over this threshold are required to hold specific type(s) of retailing permits/licenses/bonding. Many of the retailers who purchase from UNFI and who do not have such permits face potential legal exposure. As well, many retailers who purchase product which should have the labels but don’t and are above the threshold could lose any permits/licenses they may have. Finally, having reasonable knowledge of selling such products in violation of the law, exposes organizations to certain liability.

Why are UNFI competitors still selling unpasteurized Kombucha products?

There is presently no government-mandated recall of the items in question. UNFI, when provided the knowledge noted above, made the decision that the right thing to do to protect its retailers, consumers, and itself, was to halt the sale of these items.

What is the latest information on the brands affected?

  • Celestial Seasonings: Items have been withdrawn from the market by Celestial, and will be reformulated as rapidly as possible to assure compliance with labeling requirements. Currently, there is no ETA for reformulated product.
  • (updated 9/17) GT’s / Millennium: GT is moving forward with plans to produce two lines of product:

    • "AP5", code name for "above point five", also known as his original formula product. This line will carry the government alcohol warning, and will require all handlers of the product (distributors and retailers) to possess the proper alcohol licenses. Presently, UNFI is not able to distribute these types of products. There is no firm date for introduction of this line, as GT’s is awaiting securing the proper permits and licenses.

    • "GT’s Enlightened Kombucha" is the brand name for a new, below .5% alcohol line. GT has said that he’s "90% of the way there" in formulating and producing this line, and hopes to have it available for distribution in a month or so, although that timeline is not firm. Regional purchasing teams have been alerted to this development, and are working closely with GT’s to ensure the product is available just as soon as possible.

    It is important to note that GT’s has not sold a single case of product since mid-June, and any distributor or retailer presently selling GT’s products is selling old formulation.
    Read more in this FAQ from GT's Millenium.

  • Katalyst New machinery to support reformulated production process scheduled to be in place end of August. Production to resume after new lines are installed.

  • High Country: Company has reformulated, and is shipping UNFI new product. Limits on supply are impacting our ability to meet demand for this line. 
  • Honest Tea: Product reformulation has been completed. ETA of product into UNFI DC’s is end August 
  • Kombucha Botanica: Company has completed reformulation process. Presently aiming to have product available for orders mid-September. 
  • Pronatura: No information on go-forward approach by the supplier is available presently. Supplier has provided no planned course of action to return product to distribution.
  • Vibranz: Reformulated product has been back in the marketplace for several weeks. Supplier is not able to meet current high demand for product. Expect ongoing supply issues.
 
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