On June 11, 2014, I launched a petition to ask 2 major beer companies – Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors to disclose their ingredients online. The alcohol industry lobbied for years to keep this information secret from us – and now finally due to your support, signatures and activism, we’re finally going to get some information. The Food Babe Army succeeded where other organizations have not. To think beer companies have gotten away with this for decades is mind-boggling.
“This is pretty incredible: 24 hours, and 43,000 signatures after her petition went online, Vani Hari, aka the “Food Babe,” has convinced Anheiser-Busch to publicly reveal the list of ingredients for its beers. To put that into context, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been lobbying the government to require beer companies to list their ingredients — something they’re not currently required to do by law — for three decades.” – Salon
I am so amazed by the power of the #FoodBabeArmy. What we have done is truly astonishing. In just one day, we received not only responses from these huge multi-billion dollar corporations, but they are already taking steps in the right direction and beginning to publish their ingredients online. But the fight is not over, I’m still going to need you to pay attention and learn the facts about what’s happening right now. I spent last weekend gathering this critical information to share with you – I want you to have all the details.
On the afternoon of June 12, 2014, I received a phone call and a letter from Anheuser-Busch, in which they told me that they they will agree to publish their ingredients online at TapIntoYourBeer.com and invited me to meet with their head brewmasters in St. Louis. When I heard the news, I was obviously thrilled (one of my lovely team members took a photo right at that moment, see below). I had been thinking and preparing for this petition for almost a year and was honestly quite shocked at the fast response.
Unfortunately, they decided only to post ingredient lists for Budweiser and Bud Light, initially. Obviously, this is not enough and I’m really looking forward to seeing the ingredient lists for their remaining beers as promised in the coming days. I am keeping very close tabs on this and will update you when all the ingredients for all of their beers are posted. I am looking forward to visiting Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis to learn more about their ingredient disclosures and talk to their brewmasters. That being said – I don’t think there’s any excuse for them to delay the listing of their other brands on their website, including the ingredients in Bud Light Lime which I was told contains high fructose corn syrup by their customer service representative after repeated inquiries and Stella Artois which reportedly contains caramel coloring:
This petition is all about transparency.
I want these companies to be open and honest about all of the ingredients they use to make some of the most popular beers in this country. With over 55,000 signatures, it’s apparent that the public overwhelmingly wants to know what ingredients go into the beers they drink, and the American Medical Association is on the record showing support for more transparency about ingredients, “based on health, safety, religious and other concerns, the public desires and deserves accurate information on ingredients and potential allergens in alcoholic beverages”.
Despite all of this, MillerCoors initially didn’t agree to publish ingredients and in an early interview with ABC News they stated that their ingredients were “proprietary information”. It was only after they felt the heat from Anheuser-Busch’s announcement, that MillerCoors quickly announced that they had also agreed to publish ingredients online. When I saw their announcement on their facebook page, I nearly leaped out of my chair – only to learn that they were once again trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Unlike Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors did not reach out me by phone or email, they sent me a simple Tweet. The tweet linked to a short list of “ingredients” for only 8 of their beers on their Facebook page:
They have since posted this same list on their website here. Keep in mind, MillerCoors has over 40 brands of beer here in the U.S., so I’d hardly call this a comprehensive list.
I knew immediately that they were not telling us the complete truth, and that they were definitely not giving us the kind of transparency that we’re asking for. It was obvious to me that MillerCoors was scrambling to put something (anything) online, so they didn’t look bad in the wake of their competitor’s announcement. However – they made some major mistakes in doing so.
MISTAKE #1 - Failing To List Corn Syrup As An Ingredient
Prior to launching my petition a week ago, my team and I sent dozens of emails to MillerCoors asking them to disclose the ingredients in several of their beers. This was not a simple undertaking, as they told us their ingredients were proprietary. We asked them specific questions about ingredients, including the use of hop extracts, colorings, stabilizers, and GMOs – and most of them went unanswered. However, we were able to obtain some concrete information. In one particular email from MillerCoors Customer Service they told me that “corn syrup” is one of the main ingredients “used in all our beers“. Check out the screenshot of this email from their customer service agent:
So, why is MillerCoors now just listing “corn” and not “corn syrup” as an ingredient on their website? It sure looks like they don’t want to give us the full story and know it will look bad if they tell us the truth about corn syrup being an ingredient. Of course, I immediately confronted them with this information, and they responded that “the corn we use is a liquid corn brewing adjunct”. Natural News did an exclusive interview with me on this issue last week, which was also reported in Beverage Daily. While I don’t know what brand of liquid adjunct they use, if it’s anything like this one by Cargill it’s supposed to be labeled as “corn syrup” and it’s trademarked as corn syrup. One reporter from USA Today revealed the truth – that it is in fact “corn syrup” being used by MillerCoors.
MISTAKE #2 - Failing To List Rice As An Ingredient In Coors Banquet
As you can see in their email above, they also told me that rice was an ingredient in Coors Banquet – yet they are not disclosing this as an ingredient on their new webpage. Is there rice in Coors Banquet, or not? Why are they publishing something different online than what customer service told me a couple weeks ago?
And then I remembered – they have been known to change their story in the past, depending on who you talk to. When I wrote my beer investigation last summer, MillerCoors told me via email that they used GMO corn in their beers. However when I called them up last week, the customer service agent on the phone told me that they do not use any GMO products. But then when I emailed them again last week, they said they do use biotech corn. Do they think it’s okay to just make this stuff up? What should we believe?
MISTAKE #3 - Failing To List Corn As An Ingredient In Blue Moon
Rice is not the only thing that MillerCoors left off their ingredient list. They published the ingredients for Blue Moon Belgian White on their website as, “water, barley malt, wheat, oats, yeast, hops, orange peel and coriander”. This is in direct contradiction to what their customer service agents told me a couple weeks ago, in which they said that “corn syrup” is an ingredient in Blue Moon:
I’m not the only one they told this to. According to Barnivore, Blue Moon said, “Corn syrup is one of the basic ingredients used in most Blue Moon products as US consumers prefer its taste“. Clearly – corn syrup is an ingredient in Blue Moon beer, but they are now trying to hide that fact and are blatantly lying to us on the ingredient list posted on their website!
This really makes me wonder. What else has MillerCoors left off their “ingredient disclosure”?
I would like to think that MillerCoors would do their due diligence and make sure that the ingredients that they post online are accurate and at least comply with FD&C Act labeling guidelines, as it appears Anheuser-Busch said they will be doing. These mistakes made by MillerCoors are surprising. Especially in light of the huge media exposure that our petition generated, which has been featured all over the world and has shown the power of the Food Babe Army. Several people have been coming out of the woodwork, calling us names, trying to discredit some of the claims I’ve made about the ingredients that are being used in beer. I’m going to address that now, because you deserve to know the truth.
“Propylene Glycol Alginate” is added to beer as a foam stabilizer.
There are a few blog posts circulating that indicate propylene glycol is used in the external chilling system at breweries and that it’s never is added to beer. They go as far to say that the only way it could be in beer is if there is a tank leak. Well, I’m not talking about leaking tanks here. The chemical Propylene Glycol Alginate (PGA) is added to some beers as a stabilizer for foam control and it is sold as an additive under various commercial names such as Stabilfoam. Another potential source of PGA is as a carrier for some “natural flavors” in fruit-flavored and cider beers. Propylene Glycol is added to many foods and drinks, it’s a very common food additive and I see it on ingredient lists everywhere at the grocery store. I know this because ingredient lists are on those items - but rarely on beer. In Germany, Propylene Glycol Alginate is listed as an ingredient on this bottle of Corona as “E405 Alginat” (the European food additive number for Propylene Glycol is E405), and you will also find it on this ingredient list on Sinebrychoff’s website in Finland. So, I’m really curious to know if and what other beers Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors may add this ingredient to.
Don’t you find it interesting that Anheuser-Busch InBev is required to label Corona in Germany but not here? They clearly have the ingredient list and have to do this in other countries – why aren’t they labeling it for us? This is another example of how beer companies exploit our interests as American citizens.
If corn syrup is used as an adjunct, it should be on the ingredient list.
Adjuncts (corn, rice, corn syrup, dextrose) are used by some brewers instead of, or in conjunction with, barley malt. Some argue that corn syrup is just added as an adjunct to feed the yeast, and doesn’t end up in the final product. They suggest that for this reason, corn syrup shouldn’t be on the ingredient list. The sugar in traditional beer comes from the barley malt, so would you say that barley malt isn’t an ingredient in beer? During my investigation last year, Anheuser-Busch admitted to me on the phone that they use dextrose (likely made from genetically engineered corn). And as shown email above, MillerCoors said they use corn syrup as an adjunct in their beers. Also in an email, Pabst Blue Ribbon told me their corn syrup is a blend of simple sugars like “dextrose and maltose.” There is no reason to keep this a secret from the public.
Fining agents that are added to beer should be disclosed so consumers can make an informed choice.
Beer makers often use processing aides to remove yeast from beer, and one of these is an animal product. Some beer bloggers are saying fish swim bladder (isinglass) is something not be concerned about. I’m not saying this is a harmful additive and I know it’s been used for centuries to make beer. However, they are saying that it all stays in the fermenter and does not end up in the final product, so it should not be on the label. I’m not personally convinced that these fining agents are completely left behind in the tank bottom, especially since Guinness admits that their beer may contain trace amounts. Who has tested their beer to see how high these “trace amounts” may be and is willing to share those results? This is a real issue for vegans & vegetarians, whether it ends up in their bottle of beer or not, they deserve to know if an animal product was used in its production. Instead of isinglass, some breweries use food-grade carrageenan (from Irish Moss) that is linked to colon inflammation and colon cancer in animals. Food-grade carrageenan has also been shown to be contaminated with degraded (non-food grade) carrageenan, which is a carcinogen. Samuel Adams admitted via email that they use carrageenan to process their beers, yet I did not find this information on their website or label. As trace amounts may remain in beer, consumers should be able to make an informed choice on whether they will consume beer that was processed with these fining agents, so these should be publicly disclosed.
If “Hop Extracts” are used we want to know about it.
Some brewers don’t use whole hops or hop pellets but rather a chemically altered hop extract to add bitterness while reducing the amount of actual hops in the beer. One reason behind this is apparently to keep the beer from getting that skunky smell that is caused by hops exposed to light (light struck). This allows the beer manufacturer to provide “trendy” packaging while maintaining a long shelf life. Watertown Hops Company is a subsidiary of MillerCoors, a manufacturer of hop extracts, and MillerCoors has also patented hop extracts. Several email inquires MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch in which we asked if they use any hop extracts have gone completely unanswered to date – I plan on asking Anheuser-Busch about this in person when I see them in a few weeks. When a soda company sweetens a drink with stevia extract (instead of whole stevia leaf) it will be designated as an extract on the ingredient list. Likewise, if a bottled tea is made with a tea extract instead brewed tea leaves, it’s listed as an extract or concentrate on the ingredient list. It’s all about giving us the whole picture about what is really being used to make the products that we drink – and we deserve to know the truth.
This feeble attempt at transparency is not going to work.
Please continue to show your support by signing this petition to demand full transparency on all of the ingredients being used by MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch. Here’s where you’ll find the MillerCoors Facebook and Twitter pages to let them know that they’re still serving #MysteryBeer - and ask them to disclose all ingredients including corn syrup, rice, propylene glycol, caramel coloring, fining agents and hop extracts.
As a consumer who votes with their dollar (like many of you out there), having this information is critical to know whether to support these companies or not. I thank everyone for moving the needle this week – the more transparency we have the better! I love watching what happens when concerned citizens come together.
#FoodBabeArmy – you are a force to be reckoned with!
Please share this major update with everyone you know.
P.S. If you are looking for some clean beer options without fining agents or additives, check this list we put together.
P.P.S. Our work was mentioned in major news outlets all over the globe, here’s a sampling if you’d like to get caught up:
- Why Big Food Fears The Food Babe – Toronto Star
- What’s in a bottle of Budweiser? Online petition convinces Anheuser-Busch to tell all - Salon
- Food Babe wins battle with King of Beers – Financial Times (front page!)
- AB Bows: Agrees to Post Ingredients – USA Today
- Top Beer Makers To Post Ingredients Online – ABC News
- Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors Post Beer Ingredients – AP
P.P.P.S. Remember this quote always:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” - Mahatma Gandhi