Recalling whiskey, rethinking beer

Finland, Sweden and Norway recently asked the makers of Fireball whiskey to recall a batch containing higher than usual amounts of the ingredient propylene glycol, used as a sweetening agent in the newly popular cinnamon whiskey. Despite being commonly utilized for non-edible products including antifreeze, propylene glycol is considered “generally recognized as safe,” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used in food and beverages. While Fireball and propylene glycol may not deserve all of the critique they are receiving, there are other, less publicized and more harmful substances in common liquor brands.

Vani Hari, a writer and public figure who investigates various food substances and their health effects, wrote a blog pertaining to the hidden additives in common beer brands. “Caring about what you eat doesn’t necessarily translate into caring about what you drink and this is a huge mistake, I see it all the time,” Hari wrote. “Someone who eats organic, makes the right choices at the grocery store, is fit and lives an extraordinarily healthy lifestyle but then drinks beer like it is going out of style.” Most people know of the general health risks of excessive alcohol consumption, but many are unaware of the harmful additives in common beer brands, not innate to the production.

Alcohol manufacturers are not legally obligated to list their ingredients anywhere on the packaging, or disclose them to the general public. Beer manufacturers are also not required to list the percent alcohol. In fact, alcohol is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration at all. The Department of Treasury oversees alcoholic beverages.

Beer in itself is not innately harmful, in moderation. The problem arises in the numerous other ingredients added to clarify, stabilize, preserve and enhance color and flavor. Many popular beer brands contain caramel coloring, genetically modified organisms (GMO) such as GMO sweeteners and GMO corn syrup, monosodium glutamate (MSG), propylene glycol, and in some cases more than one of the previous mentioned.

Two common harmful beer ingredients are corn syrup and GMO corn syrup. While the effects of GMOs are yet to be fully understood, the health risks of corn syrup are clear. To start, pure fructose does not activate the fullness signals glucose tends to activate, leaving a person with a false sense of wanting more. Fructose fails to stimulate insulin secretion or leptin production, which help regulate body weight and food consumption, causing excess energy intake and weight gain. To add to the risks, a study was published in 2009 in “Environmental Health,” where researchers reported finding mercury in nine out of every 20 commercial high fructose corn syrup samples tested. To name a few brands, Miller, Coors, Corona, Fosters, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Red Stripe admitted to their use of GMOs and corn syrup. Corona contains GMO corn syrup and propylene glycol.

Toasted barley is usually used to color beer, however Newcastle is also colored artificially with caramel color. This caramel color is manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, creating carcinogenic compounds proven to cause liver tumors, lung tumors and thyroid tumors in rats and mice.

Despite the common beer brands mentioned, not all brands have converted to using these substances. A testimony to additive free beer, Germany is widely recognized for their old fashion brewing style. German beers are considered to be reliable and safe, thanks to a law called “Reinheitsgebot,”enacted on April 23, 1516. The law limits all German beer manufactures to a list of core ingredients: water, hops, yeast, malted barley and wheat. Alongside this, many consumers believe German “Reinheitsegebot” beers taste cleaner and even report the beverages do not cause hangovers because of their purity.

Fortunately, there are also many choices in the United States for beer drinkers looking to avoid additives and possible health concerns. To avoid corn syrup, and other additives previously mentioned, one can purchase Heineken, Steamwhistle, Amstel Light, Duchy Original Ale, Organic, Mill Street Brewery, Fuller’s Organic, Nelson Organic Ale or Natureland Organic. To avoid GMOs, buy Sierra Nevada, Duck Rabbit, Dogfish Head, Shipyard, Victory Brewery , North Coast, Bridgeport, Ayinger, Royal Oak, Franziskaner, Weihenstephaner, Maisel’s or Hoegaarden. One can also consider purchasing Certified Organic Beers, which are required by law to not include GMOs and other harmful additives. Organic beers also support environmental friendly practices and reduce the use of pesticides. Peak Organic Brewing, Wolaver’s, Lamar Street, Bison, Dogfish Head, Fish Brewery Company, Lakefront Brewery, Brooklyn, Pinkus, Samuel Smiths and Wychwood are some organic brands. Additionally, Sierra Nevada, Heineken, and Amstel Light are all made without GMO grains, artificial ingredients, stabilizers or preservatives.

Hari concludes her article on a critical but also hopeful note. She ends, “We must inform and protect each other from these industrial chemicals, untested and potentially harmful ingredients and it starts by sharing your knowledge with the ones you love. Bottoms up!”

Information for this article taken from:,,


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