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Health advocates warn drinkers of kombucha effects

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. --  A popular health drink on the market is coming under scrutiny after regulators warn it might contain too much alcohol. They said the drink kombucha, made by several companies, has levels of alcohol that could be a risk for pregnant women and children.

"It's been used in controversial aspects for cancers, tumors, malignancies, hard-to-heal issues, things of that nature," health store owner Steve Lubin said.

Lubin has been following the kombucha craze. He said kombucha really got popular about six years ago, but it's been around for decades.

Many have turned to the drink for different reasons.

"For a good while it was used for energy, to promote energy," he explained.

Lubin used to sell it in his Good Life Health Foods Store but doesn't anymore because its shelf life is so short.

Kombucha is fermented tea with a vinegary flavor. The key ingredient looks like a mushroom and is a combination of yeast and bacteria, which supposedly gives drinkers probiotics.

Kombucha isn't sold in the alcohol aisle at the store; you've probably seen it among other common drinks. In fact, you can actually make it at home. But according to a recent report from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, some samples tested above the .5 percent alcohol-by-volume threshold for nonalcoholic drinks.

"I think anything in moderation is OK," Baptist Hospital dietitian Christy Davis said.

While .5 percent is very low, Davis said it's something good to be aware of.

"I wouldn't want my child or even somebody who is pregnant to be drinking with the potential of having alcohol content in there."

Kombucha is known to provide antioxidants. Davis said you can look to berries, beans and peas to get antioxidants.

"Really you can find probiotics and antioxidants in a wide variety of foods. There are so many new yogurts that have pro- and prebiotics, and really what those do is help with gut health."

Advocates for Kombucha argue there needs to be other ways to test levels in the drink and that the amount of alcohol is nowhere near enough to feel the affects of the alcohol.