KOMBUCHA & THE FDA

From the Kombucha Konnection
 


Hi all

Bear with me - I think it's time for this. The following is from the June issue of the Kombucha Konnection. Remember - the newsletter is copyrighted - thanks.

'KOMBUCHA - A KILLER?" By: Ariana Estelle Kombucha Konnection, Volume 2, No. 6

It happened a few weeks ago - the nearly frantic phone call from a new Kombucha drinker. "Ariana, I just came from the Health Food Store and I'm very worried. The manager of the store told me that 4 people in Texas had died from drinking Kombucha Tea that they brewed at home. Now, I'm afraid to drink it!" She gave me the name & phone number of the store and I called them asking for the person she had spoken with.

"Hello, I'd like some information about Kombucha" His reply: "First of all, Kombucha will kill you. Quite a few people have died from drinking the stuff you make at home. I sell the bottled Kombucha Tea which is the only safe way to consume it" AHA...the key word - SELL! At that point I told him I was a Kombucha grower and I was very concerned that he might not have all the facts. That, to my knowledge, no one had ever died or even become seriously ill from drinking Kombucha Tea that they fermented themselves.

His reply: "Look, I read this in the local paper a couple of years ago and they got the information from the health department. If you don't believe me, just call the Health Department!"

I did just that. I phoned the Texas Department of Health and asked to speak with someone who had some knowledge about Kombucha. I was transferred two or three times, then connected with a man whose job it is to investigate "natural or herbal health remedies". I asked him to go back as far as five years and check to see if there had been any illness or deaths reported that were connected to the consumption of Kombucha Tea. He said, "I really don't have to do any research to answer your question. I have my information right here. The answer is "NO", there have been no such incidents in the state of Texas". I told him about the man at the Health Food Store and he said, "oh, yes, back in early 1995 there was a lot of media coverage about some woman in Iowa who died, and it was discovered that she had been drinking Kombucha Tea. But, as I understand it, upon autopsy, it was revealed that the woman was diabetic, suffering from severe acidosis and also had a perforated bowl which caused peritonitis". Then he asked for the name of the Health Food Store and said "I'd be very interested in taking a look at this stuff they are selling". He went on to tell me that when people called their office asking whether or not it was safe to brew Kombucha at home, they are told that with proper hygiene and cleanliness of the surroundings and utensils used, that it is, indeed, safe.

I thanked him for his time and called back the man at the Health Food Store. I told him what I had learned and his reply was: "I don't care what he told you - I read it in the paper and I believe it"

Like all of you, I've read the articles in print and seen the TV shows which cast a bad light on Kombucha. So, I decided to take this one step further and I phoned the FDA in Washington, D.C.

I spoke with several different people in four different divisions. The first conversation with with a gentleman in the 'complaints office'. He told me that regardless of the media 'hype', that there were, in fact, only two cases in which Kombucha Tea might have been suspected of contributing to illness and subsequent death. He went on to say that after thorough investigation, Kombucha WAS RULED OUT AS A CONTRIBUTING FACTOR in both of these cases. One of these was the now famous case of a woman in Iowa that died in April of 1995.(the actual CDC report). He went on to say that it was his personal recommendation at the time to "drop the whole case against Kombucha - because they didn't have a case". He stated that it was his belief that if, when 'home-brewing' Kombucha, that proper attention was given to hygiene and the cleanliness of the area, that it was probably okay. He then gave me the number of another office to call" the "Plant, Dairy Food & Beverages" Dept., that is currently doing research on Kombucha.

When I reached them I spoke with the person in charge of the "Microanalytical Evaluation" Dept. Here, of course, I found someone with a totally different outlook regarding Kombucha. I was speaking with a scientist. However, he was courteous and friendly and offered to send me a package of material relating to Kombucha. One of these is an "FDA Talk Paper".

We discussed the case of the man in Kentucky who died under mysterious circumstances, and once again, Kombucha was the 'prime suspect'. However, upon autopsy, this man was found to be suffering from non- viral hepatitis and other conditions that contributed to his demise.

This conversation continued for over an hour with reference being made to those "who jump on the Kombucha bandwagon in order to make quick, fast, big bucks". He stated that he felt that these 'hucksters', with no real interest in the health of the consumer - only their bank accounts, could be a major part of the problem. Often these people charge upward to $75 for a Kombucha culture and provide NO information, written or verbal, stressing the importance of sanitary conditions when brewing Kombucha.

Bottom Line: Be Careful - Be Clean - Be Cautious , and Be Considerate and share your information with others.
 


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Ariana

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UpDt 10/25/1999