Legal Expert Talks Label Claims and Class Action Lawsuits at KombuchaKon

At last weekend’s KombuchaKon 2016, BevNET caught up with Greenberg Traurig attorney Justin Prochnow, who specializes in legal and regulatory issues in the food and beverage industries, and presented on the topic of nutrition panel and label claims.

In a video interview filmed at the event, which was organized by trade group Kombucha Brewers International (KBI) and held at the Long Beach Convention Center, Prochnow spoke with BevNET about the nature of his presentation as well as some of the the other regulatory issues kombucha producers face today.

While watchful eyes at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) have been the subject of many recent headlines regarding the regulation of kombucha, Prochnow said that class action attorneys present an equal, if not more, worrisome entity.

“The private class action plaintiff lawyers are looking at everything you say on your label,” Prochnow said. “There are companies here right now that are currently under class action lawsuits from plaintiff lawyers over things like sugar content and alcohol content.”

Prochnow pointed to terms like “healthy” and “made in the USA” as examples of label claims that must be substantiated or companies risk the wrath of such class action lawsuits.

As for federal agencies’ stance on kombucha, Prochnow referred to the TTB’s recent guidance that requires kombucha producers to ensure their beverages are less than 0.5 percent alcohol at every stage in its production otherwise they would be regulated as alcoholic products. While KBI president Hannah Crum led a presentation about techniques for controlling alcohol levels during kombucha fermentation, Prochnow believes that some kombucha producers might need additional guidance.

“It’s still a growing an emerging industry so with these types of issues it’s still not totally clear on what are the proper testing methods,” Prochnow added.

BevNET’s full recap of KombuchaKon can be found here.