Kombucha banned from school district over alcohol content

ARLINGTON, Wash. – An age-old drink that’s now resurging in popularity is being banned in one North Sound school district.

Unpasteurized kombucha is now off limits at Arlington Public Schools after a teacher discovered an elementary student had a bottle on campus. The drink is being banned because the bottle’s ingredients listed a slight amount of alcohol.

But the ban has some health-conscious parents frustrated with the blanket policy.

“I think there’s much more important things that we can be worried about than kids drinking kombucha in school,” said Elizabeth Gough.

Gough says she recently got a letter, so did other district parents in early March, reminding them to not allow their kids to bring drugs, or alcohol, including unpasteurized kombucha tea, onto school property.

“The parents were stunned,” said Gough. “It’s a probiotic drink, we were like, ‘What?”

But Gough says most kombucha tea sold in stores usually only has a trace of alcohol.

In fact, if the tea has more the 0.5% alcohol per volume it must to be regulated by the feds.

“If there was enough alcohol left in it to be considered an alcoholic beverage, you’d have to have identification,” she said. “You would have to be 21.”

The district’s letter cites school board policy which is modeled after the Washington State School Directors’ Association. It bans unpasteurized kombucha tea which contains a small amount of alcohol.

Glory Bucha in downtown Arlington is about a year and a half old – and it’s the first kombucha brewery in Snohomish County.

“There’s a saying that history repeats itself and I tell you this is something that has definitely repeated itself,” said owner Lowell Profit.

Kombucha is centuries old but its popularity is on the rise.

Profit says in order for kombucha to earn its name it will always have a trace of alcohol – it’s even listed on their labels.

“There has to be trace amounts of alcohol,” he said, explaining the fermentation process. “However, it’s very low and it’s nothing you can get drunk off and get woozy.”

Meanwhile Gough says she and a couple dozen other parents are banding together to ask the district to reverse its policy. She believes kombucha has health benefits that outweigh any trace of alcohol.

“Kombucha isn’t going to kill our kids and can we continue to allow them to drink it?” she said.

A district spokesman told Q13 News the school board is always open to listening to the public about their concerns. Their public meetings are typically held the second and fourth Mondays each month at the administration office.