February 22, 2024

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Low-Alcohol and Alcohol-Free Beers May Harbor Foodborne Pathogens

Low-Alcohol and Alcohol-Free Beers May Harbor Foodborne Pathogens



Low-Alcohol and Alcohol-Free Beers May Harbor Foodborne Pathogens.

A new study suggests that low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers may serve as breeding grounds for foodborne pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella, potentially introduced during the production, storage, or disposal processes.

Driven by the rise of health-conscious culture, there has been a global shift in the beverage industry towards producing low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks, including beer. In the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, if a beer’s alcohol content is below 0.5% Alcohol By Volume (ABV), brewers can label it as “non-alcoholic” beer.

While consuming alcohol-free or low-alcohol beer has apparent benefits, containing vitamins and minerals and showing cardiovascular advantages compared to regular beer, a recent study by researchers at Cornell University suggests that removing alcohol from beer could create an ideal environment for the growth of foodborne pathogens introduced during manufacturing, storage, or disposal.

Co-author Randy Worobo noted, “When you remove the alcohol, beer is no longer beer in the traditional sense. Our suspicions that foodborne pathogens can grow without alcohol were correct. Non-alcoholic beer must be treated with the same scrutiny as food, ensuring it meets all parameters for product safety.”

Traditional beer contains various factors that prevent the growth of pathogens, including ethanol concentration, bitter acids produced by hops, low pH, high carbon dioxide concentration, low oxygen, and lack of nutrients.

Ann Charles-Vegdahl, another author of the study, remarked, “Craft brewers of non-alcoholic beer sometimes follow traditional brewing processes. However, in the end, brewers may add extra flavor and aroma substances to non-alcoholic beer, such as hops, which could potentially introduce contamination.”

Researchers collected beer samples with alcohol content below 0.5% (non-alcoholic) or 3.2% (low-alcohol) and introduced three foodborne bacterial pathogens: E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. Beers with three different pH levels (4.20, 4.50, and 4.80) were prepared and stored for two months at two different temperatures (39°F (4°C) and 57°F (14°C)).

Both E. coli and Salmonella were found to grow and survive in beer at both temperatures, regardless of pH or alcohol content. Storage at 57°F resulted in a doubling of bacterial counts at all tested pH levels. Listeria was not detected at either temperature.

Low-Alcohol and Alcohol-Free Beers May Harbor Foodborne Pathogens

Based on their findings, researchers recommend pasteurization of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers to meet commercial aseptic standards. They also suggest considering sterile filtration and the addition of preservatives to reduce microbial risks. Additionally, they caution that supplying non-alcoholic beer in kegs or casks may increase the risk of pathogens and recommend regular disinfection of barrels, pipelines, and beer taps.

Worobo concluded, “Without alcohol in beer, many safety nets preventing foodborne pathogens are lost. Without the protection provided by alcohol, manufacturers must consider how pathogens can infiltrate during processing.” The study was published in the “Food Protection Journal.”

Low-Alcohol and Alcohol-Free Beers May Harbor Foodborne Pathogens

(source:internet, reference only)


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