This is a new "trend" among commercial Kombucha brewers - Kombucha in a can..
Kombucha originally, was supposed to be a drink that was different than sodas. But every day, it starts looking more and more as a soda.
There was a day, not long ago, when all Kombucha was in glass bottles. Well, almost all, as some brands were using plastic bottles. But the breweries with class that dared to be different, used glass.
Those days are unfortunately long gone.
The explanation for switching from glass bottles to cans is usually very similar. And does seem to make sense, especially when you look at it from the business point of view.
But the business part is only one aspect, and this particular change affects the the final product which the consumer gets, especially the unaware consumer.
So, let's take a closer look at those claims.
From the business point of view, it seems like a win win situation. Cheaper, lighter and smaller packaging, made out of recyclable material (aluminum) - all those aspects are touted as being better for the environment.
For the environment maybe yes, but is it better for your health?
That should be the real question, a question that is usually omitted by those who are switching to this type of packaging. Especially that Kombucha was always touted as a drink that is promoting health
So, is it better or is it not?
It's definitely not better for one's health. And there are at least two reasons why it's not.
Aluminum as material being the first one of them, and the can coating being the second.
So, putting your lips on an aluminum can does not minimize the overexposure.
But yes, you can always use a straw to drink out of a can, or you can pour the contents into a glass.
That can solve this problem.
But the bigger problem is the one that hides inside.
And it is the can coating, which is needed to separate the metal from the can's contents (which with time could corrode the can).
Rust is quoted as the number one enemy of a can.
So, without that special coating, sometimes called epoxy, some of the cans would corrode within couple of days, like cans with Coca Cola. (see here)
There are different coatings for different drinks, and drinks with acids, like Kombucha, require stronger coating to prevent corrosion.
Coating can also affect the flavor of the contents, if that coating is inadequate to the contents of the can. But those coatings, even though their formulas are proprietary, are for the most part plastics.
Here's a more detailed description about them from Wired:
"Creating those coatings takes a cross-linking resin, curing catalysts, and some additives to give it color or clarity, lubrication, antioxidative properties, flow, stability, plasticity, and a smooth surface. The resin is usually epoxy, but it may also be vinyl, acrylic, polyester, or oleoresin, and could even be styrene, polyethylene, or polypropylene. The mixture also requires either a solvent, so that the epoxy can cure when baked, or a photo-initiator, so that the epoxy can cure when exposed briefly to ultraviolet (UV) light. The cross-linking agent of choice for the most tenacious epoxy coating is bisphenol-A, or BPA. According to coatings specialists, roughly 80 percent of that epoxy is BPA."
So as you can see, BPA plays a crucial role in those coatings.
From the same article, further on, you can find out more about BPA, in case you missed all the coverage about it few years back:
"Unfortunately, BPA does more than make plastic plastic. The double-hexagon-shaped molecule is also a notorious endocrine-disruptor, which means that it interferes with hormonal biology. Biologically speaking, hormones are rare, and potent. The system that produces, stores, and secretes them—the endocrine system—controls hair growth, reproduction, cognitive performance, injury response, excretion, sensory perception, cell division, and metabolic rate. Endocrine organs—including the thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands—produce particular molecules that fit into particular receptors on cells, unleashing a chain of biochemical events. Hormonal changes in infinitesimal quantities cause dramatic changes, including diabetes and hermaphrodites. Endocrine disruptors like BPA get jammed in the cells so that the real molecules can’t get in there and do what they should. Others fit perfectly, triggering events the body didn’t intend to initiate."
And still more:
"A 2011 paper titled “Most Plastic Products Release Estrogenic Chemicals,” published by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, sums up the current understanding of the broad scope of the issue. In it, researchers describe detecting estrogenic activity in over five hundred plastics, including many advertised as BPA free. They report that manufacturing processes—such as pasteurization—convert nonestrogenic chemicals into estrogenic chemicals, and they note that sunlight, microwave radiation, and machine dish washing accelerate the leaching of estrogenic chemicals.
Can makers argue that modern society offers plenty of exposure to BPA outside of cans, and that it’s been deemed safe; that the quantity of BPA in each can is minuscule, and that even less migrates into foods and beverages. Nevertheless, Frederick vom Saal, a respected biologist, won’t buy canned foods or beverages, and won’t allow polycarbonate plastics in his home. In a 2010 interview with Elizabeth Kolbert, in the Yale University online magazine Environment 360, he said, “Right now, it is the most studied chemical in the world. NIH has $30 million of ongoing studies of this chemical. Do you think that federal officials in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan, would all have this as the highest priority chemical to study, if there were only a few alarmists saying it was a problem?”
Because of BPA, everybody dances around what to call the can’s internal corrosion inhibitor. The FDA calls it a resinous and polymeric coating. At Can School, Ball employees called it an organic coating, or water-based polymer. The EPA calls it a chemical pollutant. Health researchers call it an endocrine disruptor, and a chronic toxin."
So yes, cans can be better for the Kombucha producer's costs and the environment, but not necessarily for you, as a customer.
So the choice is yours.
We personally drink a lot of our Kombucha, and we would never can our product for the reasons mentioned above.
Glass is also recyclable, and the problem usually lies in the particular policies, in particular countries that do not recycle glass, than in anything else.
We also do not use any canned foods, like beans, or even tomato products for the same reasons. But that is our conscious choice.
You would have to make your own!
For those who want to find out more about dangers of plastics, or for those that would be told that this particular can does not contain BPA, here's another article, this time from Discover magazine, titled "Many BPA-Free Plastics Are Toxic. Some Are Worse Than BPA"
Front photo credit.