Exclusive report

GMOs now in beer

I have to confess, I’m not a beer drinker, but there’s someone in my household that loves it, so I had to figure out the truth.

Is beer really healthy? Why are the ingredients not listed on the label? Which brands can we trust? Which brands are trying to slowly poison us with cheap and harmful ingredients?

All of these questions were going through my head at once at lightning speed. So a year ago, I started to research what was really in beer and after questioning several beer companies, reading books about food science, and talking to experts, the information I discovered was downright shocking.

I see it all the time. Someone who eats organic, makes the right choices at the grocery store, is fit and lives an extraordinarily healthy lifestyle but then drinks beer like it is going out of style.

GMO beer

Caring about what you eat doesn’t necessarily translate into caring about what you drink and this is a HUGE MISTAKE.

Before we get into what exactly is in beer that you should be worried about, let’s talk about how body reacts to alcohol in general.

Alcohol is metabolized by the body differently than all other calories you consume. Alcohol is one of the only substances that you consume that can permeate your digestive system and go straight into your bloodstream. It bypasses normal digestion and is absorbed into the body intact, where it goes straight into the liver.

Your liver is your main fat-burning organ. If you are trying to lose weight or even maintain your ideal weight, drinking alcohol is one of your worst enemies. The liver is going to metabolize alcohol first vs. the fat you want to get rid of – making weight loss even harder. Additionally, one of the primary functions of the liver is to remove environmental toxins from your body – if it is overtaxed with alcohol, the normal removal of these toxins becomes extremely diminished and can result in rapid aging, loss of libido, and other diseases.

The one thing that has gotten me before and I’m sure many of you – is the health marketing claims on alcohol products making drinking them seem like a good idea and an added “benefit” to your health. The low alcohol content of beer makes it appear as an innocuous beverage and something people throw back without even thinking about it. Who hasn’t seen those studies that say a beer a day is great for you (I want to ask who ever stops at just one beer?)?

So, inherently, alcohol by itself is not a healthy person’s best friend – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Beer, especially American beer, is made with all sorts of ingredients beyond the basic hops, malt and yeast. There are numerous other ingredients used to clarify, stabilize, preserve, enhance the color and flavor of beer.

When you drink beer, there is almost a 100% chance that you don’t know what you are drinking (unless you quizzed the beer companies like I did). The ingredients in beer are not required by law to be listed anywhere on the label and manufacturers have no legal obligation to disclose the ingredients. For regular beer, calorie levels and percent alcohol are optional and for light beer calories are mandatory but alcohol levels are optional.

Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, author of Appetite for Profit, and president of Eat Drink Politics told me the reason that beer companies don’t disclose ingredients is simple: they don’t have to.

“Ingredient labeling on food products and non-alcoholic beverages is required by the Food and Drug Administration. But a whole other federal agency regulates beer, and not very well. The Department of Treasury – the same folks who collect your taxes – oversees alcoholic beverages. That probably explains why we know more about what’s in a can of Coke than a can of Bud. You can also thank the alcohol industry, which has lobbied for years against efforts to require ingredient labeling.”

I figured if the beer companies aren’t required to tell us the exact list of ingredients, I needed to investigate this for myself and asked them the pointed questions until I got the truth.

Beer GMO

First of all, I was able to obtain a baseline list of “legal” additives allowed in beer from the book “Chemicals Additives in Beer” by the Center of Science and Public Interest. This list allowed me to ask specific questions about each beer I investigated. For example – beer sold here in America can contain several of the following ingredients:

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) –  alcohol is already addictive with some people, but with MSG?! Holy smokes.
  • Propylene Glycol (an ingredient found in anti-freeze)
  • Calcium Disodium EDTA (made from formaldehyde, sodium cayanide, and Ethylenediamine)
  • Many different types of sulfites and anti-microbial preservatives (linked to allergies and asthma)
  • Natural Flavors (can come from anything natural including a beavers anal gland)
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • GMO Sugars – Dextrose, Corn Syrup
  • Caramel Coloring (Class III or IV made from ammonia and classified as a carcinogen)
  • FD&C Blue 1 (Made from petroleum, linked to allergies, asthma and hyperactivity)
  • FD&C Red 40 (Made from petroleum, linked to allergies, asthma and hyperactivity)
  • FD&C Yellow 5 (Made from petroleum, linked to allergies, asthma and hyperactivity)
  • Insect-Based Dyes: carmine derived from cochineal insects to color their beer.
  • Animal Based Clarifiers: Findings include isinglass (dried fish bladder), gelatin (from skin, connective tissue, and bones), and casein (found in milk)
  • Foam Control: Used for head retention; (glyceryl monostearate and pepsin are both potentially derived from animals)
  • BPA (Bisphenol A is a component in many can liners and it may leach into the beer. BPA can mimic the female hormone estrogen and may affect sperm count, and other organ functions.)
  • Carrageenan (linked to inflammation in digestive system, IBS and considered a carcinogen in some circumstances)

During my investigation, I couldn’t get a single mainstream beer company to share the full list of ingredients contained in their beer. But I did get some of them to fess up to the use of these ingredients in writing so I’m going to share this information with you now.

Carcinogenic Caramel Coloring

Newcastle, a UK brand, confessed to using what I would consider one of the most controversial food additives. Toasted barley is usually what gives beer its golden or deep brown color, however in this case, Newcastle beer is also colored artificially with caramel color. This caramel coloring is manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which creating carcinogenic compounds. If beer companies were required by law to list the ingredients, Newcastle would likely have to have a cancer warning label under California law because it is a carcinogen proven to cause liver tumors, lung tumors, and thyroid tumors in rats and mice.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Many of the beers I questioned contained one or more possible GMO ingredients.

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (Guinness – unable to provide an affidavit for non-GMO proof)
  • Corn syrup (Miller Light, Coors, Corona, Fosters, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Red Stripe)
  • Dextrose (Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch Light, Michelob Ultra)
  • Corn (Red Stripe, Miller Coors Brand, Anheuser-Busch Brands)

Most beers brewed commercially are made with more GMO corn than barley. Many of the companies I contacted dodged the GMO question – however Miller Coors had a very forthcoming and honest response. They stated “Corn syrup gives beer a milder and lighter-bodied flavor” and “Corn syrups may be derived from a mixture of corn (conventional and biotech.)”, admitting their use of GMOs.

Miller Coors

Pabst Blue Ribbon responded saying their corn syrup was “special” and “made of carbohydrates and some simple sugars like dextrose and maltose.  The sugars are fermented into alcohol and CO2, and the carbohydrates, both from the corn syrup and the malt, remain in the beers as flavor, color and body components.”

Dextrose and maltose can come from a variety of substances that are sweet, but likely are derived from GMO corn because it is super cheap for a company to use corn instead of fruit or other non-GMO sources. With cheap beer – you are not just getting a cheap buzz, you are getting the worst of the worst.  Just like with cheap fast food – if you don’t invest in your beer – you will be drinking a lower quality product like Pabst Blue Ribbon that is made from GMO Corn and Corn Syrup.

In 2007, Greenpeace found unapproved and experimental GMO Rice strain in Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser, Bud Light) beer. Anheuser-Busch responded saying their US-grown long-grained rice “may have micro levels” of a genetically engineered protein called Liberty Link, but added that the protein is “substantially removed or destroyed” during the brewing of beer sold domestically. Don’t you think it’s hard to trust any beer company that gets caught using experimental food made in a laboratory? GMOs have not been tested long term on human beings and one of the main pesticides (Roundup) they spray on GMO crops are linked to inflammation, cancer and other diseases. 


High Fructose Corn Syrup & Fish Bladders

Speaking of trusting companies, let’s get one thing straight, Guinness beer is no longer owned by the Irish, they are now owned by a large beer conglomerate called Diageo and manufactured in over 50 different countries. No matter how many St. Patty’s Day celebrations you’ve had with this dark stout, it’s time to stop because they use high fructose corn syrup in their beer. But, Guinness beer also contains isinglass, a gelatin-like substance produced from the swim bladder of a fish. This ingredient helps remove any “haziness,” solids, or yeast byproducts from the beer. Mmmmm… fish bladder sounds delicious, doesn’t? The sneaky thing this beer company does like many of the companies mentioned here today is create an illusion of using the best ingredients when in actuality what they tell you publicly on their websites is a complete farce. On Guinness FAQ’s – they have a question that states: “What are the key ingredients in Guinness” and the answer doesn’t reveal the whole picture – it only states “Our key ingredients – other than inspiration – are roasted, malted barley, hops, yeast and water.” What BS, right?  You have to call, email, question and know the right things to ask to even have a chance at getting the truth. This is insanity.

So What Beers Are Additive and GMO Free?

If you enjoy the occasional beer and wish to maintain your healthy lifestyle, choosing one without GMOs and additives is ideal. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream beers available have additives, but luckily, there are a few that don’t. For example, Sierra Nevada, Heineken, and Amstel Light (7/31 UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Heinken USA has changed their formula to use GMOs – I called their customer service line 1-914-681-4100 to confirm and asked for the list of ingredients – the man told me “water, yeast, malted barley and hops” – then I asked if their beer contained any genetically engineered material and he confirmed “YES,” but wouldn’t tell me what ingredients are genetically engineered. They recently changed their formula after my initial research that started in late 2012.) (8/1 Update: Heineken reached out to me personally to say their customer service department made an error in telling me and others who called their beer has GMOs. I met with a head brew master and have viewed affidavits from the company and confirmed Heinken and Amstel Light do not contain GMOs – they apologize for the confusion.) appear to be pretty clean (but these companies still wouldn’t disclose the full list of ingredients to me. They did say they use non-GMO grains, no artificial ingredients, stabilizers or preservatives).

German Beers are also a good bet. The Germans are very serious about the purity of their beers and enacted a purity law called “Reinheitsgebot” that requires all German beers to be only produced with a core ingredient list of water, hops, yeast, malted barley or wheat. Advocates of German beers insist that they taste cleaner and some even claim they don’t suffer from hangovers as a result.

An obvious choice to consider is also Certified Organic Beers. They are required by law to not include GMOs and other harmful additives. Organic beers also support environmental friendly practices and reduce the amount of pesticides and toxins in our air, support organic farmers – which is a huge plus. (To this day, the beer drinkers in my family haven’t found one they love so if you have suggestions, please let us know in the comments!)

Craft & Microbrews Beers – For certain local craft and micro beers, you can ask those companies for a list of ingredients and many of them will be up front with you. However, companies like Miller Coors are slowly closing in on craft beers and buying them up one by one… like they did when they created the unique popular variety called Blue Moon (the beer you drink with an orange) and Anhesuer-Busch did this with Rolling Rock and Goose Island Brewery. Make sure your favorite craft and microbrew is still independently owned and controlled before taking a sip.

In the end – if you decide to drink beer, you are definitely drinking at your own risk for more reasons than just the crazy ingredients that could be in them. The key point to remember is – if you like to drink beer and want to be healthy, drink it infrequently and quiz the beer companies for the truth. Find a beer that you can trust and stick with it.

For your reference, here are some important questions to ask your favorite beer company:

  1. What are the ingredients in your beer – all of them from start to finish?
  2. Are any of your ingredients GMO?
  3. Do you use any soy, corn, or rice processing ingredients? (Examples include: dextrose, corn syrup, etc.)
  4. Do you add any natural, artificial flavors or colors to the beer? (Examples include:  yellow #5, caramel coloring, red #40, MSG, natural flavors)
  5. Are there any additional preservatives, stabilizers and/or clarifying agents added to your beer during processing? (Examples include: propylene glycol, Calcium Disodium EDTA, anything ending in “sulfite” like sodium metabisulfite, Heptylparaben, isinglass)

If you know someone who drinks beer – share this post with them.

These ingredients are no joke. We must inform and protect each other from these industrial chemicals, untested and potentially harmful ingredients and it starts by sharing your knowledge with the ones you love.

The 10 point plan to defeat GMOs
Australia to unleash genetically modified wheat

Source: http://foodbabe.com/2013/07/17/the-shocking-ingredients-in-beer/


  1. you are probably wasting your time (God forbid!), but you DO realize that the audience you want to reach most likely has nothing better to do on sunday than watch football, and guzzle beer, right? in fact, i would imagine that most of your audience are midwestern “hosers” who wouldn’t know the difference between GMO or DNA, or care. as for me, i don’t drink beer, or watch fagball.

    • Yeah. Definitely wasting time considering what his demographic is comprised of… Milk drinkers and winos.

    • This is a perfect example of why large corps. are so hard to stop, because instead of solidarity all you find is ignorant people hating on others…fagball? REALLY!? I like beer and football and I am someone who cares about the food I eat and avoiding GMOs is important. Thanks for the article. I stopped drinking Guiness since it’s been brewed in Canada but now have another reason.

  2. I also consider the addition of water containing sodium fluoride when choosing my beer. Some countries rightly make it illegal to poison their own citizens by adding fluoride to municipal water supplies.

  3. Thanks for the very informative article. This was not a waste of time. Great Job!

  4. I thought American beers added Carbon Dioxide to their beers to provide foam. Canadian beers are more robust and MAY not have similar additives. I’m not a beer drinker but when I do I choose Mill St. Organic – a local micro-brewery.
    I wonder about additives in wine? Years ago the Austrians were found to be adding anti-freeze to their white wine…no longer practiced. Same for French Bordeaux.
    My very favourite drink is vegetable juice blend even with the salt and sugar added. Or Clamato. Or Tonic Water for the Quinine hit.

  5. I post almost ALL of your links to articles on my FB(Big Brother controlled I know but what do you do). VALUABLE information in almost EVERY article, keep it up!!

  6. Well researched and well written article. I eat organic and guzzle beer like its going out of fashion and it didnt occur to me to quiz the ingrediants. I also dont eat meat so i am shocked and feel rather stupid not to have checked the contents. Thanks for raising my awareness on this issue.

  7. I am from the midwest and do not drink beer, milk or watch football. I also do not watch t.v.
    Many people are waking up. Keep the articles coming. Thank you!

  8. We are not so besieged in Britain yet, the global drinks conglomerates are trying to grab the entire market but the regional independent brewers are getting a lot of public support for their fightback. Good information here though for those of us who like to know what we are drinking.

  9. This is a very, very bad post.

    You can list as many *bad* beers as you want. It isn’t helpful until you list the *good* ones.

    Telling people not to drink beer is really dumb. It’s one of the healthier things you can drink, if you get the right stuff.

  10. Quick answer: Support your local microbrewer.

    Most of the brands you’ve listed are bad beers according to beer aficionados anyway.

    I live in the Pacific NW where there are dozens of microbreweries within the same driving distance as a grocery store. You can meet the brewers and ask them about their ingredients and even walk inside the brewery.

    Get to know your brewer.

    There’s nothing inherently bad about beer.

    You listed several bad brands of beer. I have not verified whether they’re GMO-free, but good brands include: St. Bernardus, Russian River, Founders, Avery, Black Raven, Victory, 3Floyds, Gulden Draak, Deschutes, Firestone Walker, Bell’s, Oskar Blues, New Holland, Ninkasi, Mikkeller, Brew Dog, Dark Horse, Port/Lost Abbey, Stone, Laguanitas, Hair of the Dog, Bale Breaker, Green Flash, Boneyard, The Bruery, FiftyFifty, Alpine, Dogfish Head, Great Divide, North Coast, Brasserie Cantillon, Bear Republic, ad infinitum.

    (I have tried beers from all of those breweries. They make the ones you’ve listed taste like horse pee.)

    Point is, as with any food production based on quantity and consistency rather than quality (after all beer is a food), there are more likely be GMOs and other artificial ingredients than if the beer is brewed for quality rather than for shelf live or perceived public tastes. Did you know than Heineken intentionally “skunks” their beer in the U.S. by exposing it to UV light, because of the perception that Americans like it to be skunky? In the Netherlands it doesn’t taste skunky.

    Get to know your local microbrewer, ask them to show you their process and ingredients.

    Don’t slam beer just because of a few mass producers who are not unlike other food manufacturers.

  11. Great article thanks, very informative, and I personally do care. Not a big beer drinker, but on rare occasion I do enjoy a few. I was drinking Peroni (Italian) then I found out Italy is one of the few countries that still poison their water supply with sodium fluoride. In my experience German beers are the safest bet. Avoid anything British (fluoride) or American (fluoride + other crap).

    • Mike, not all British or American beers have crap in them. Innis & Gunn, Fullers, Brew Dog and Sadler’s from the U.K.and Sierra Navada from the U.S. as examples.

  12. I really enjoy PEAK ORGANIC out of Portland Maine. Pale, summer, IPA, Nut Brown and a few others .. they had an oatmeal maple that was fantastic.

  13. Pinkus is a very good German beer that is organic-certified.

    Did you come by any information about the GMO-ness of retail home-brewing ingredients?

  14. Wanna have fun – Make your own beer and wine – a little expensive to get started but once the initial cost has been outlayed – healthy, tasty, & affordable brew will be enjoyed.

    Yengling October Fest brew is quite delicious and I believe it to be GMO free – this is a small family run brewery in Western Pa.

    As far a Organic Beer – keep experimenting til you find one you like – hell that’s half the fun.

    3 cold beers and my ole lady is chasing me around the house – I like beer!

  15. Dear Peter,
    Excellent and valuable information.
    I will share.
    Thank you for researching this.
    Candice Hammer

  16. Thankyou for doing your do diligence. A good report! Little did we know that the GMO food chain would include beer. The one area we would not suspect. It is a shame that labeling has been removed. We are not safe to drink or eat anything any more.

  17. To the author of this post, when you spoke about Guinness –


    “No matter how many St. Patty’s Day celebrations you’ve had with this dark stout, it’s time to stop because they use high fructose corn syrup in their beer”

    It has never, nor will it ever be known as St Patty’s Day. It is called St Patrick’s Day, or St Paddy’s Day. Patty is a female name and is a completely different name to Patrick.

    As for the article, it would have been a lot better if you listed some micro beer companies/craft beer breweries that don’t have all the E-Numbers and other crap in their ingredients. Even with the internet it can be hard enough to find a craft beer that is completely independent and not owned by a major McLarger. The same beer can be distributed by a different distributor depending on the country/region, and the distributor itself can be owned or affiliated by a different brewer depending on the region.

    I do though agree with this article highlighting the attitude and secrecy the major beer companies have as regards to the ingredients they put into their products. Every beer should by law have all their ingredients listed, and people should not be brainwashed by the advertising of the big companies.

    Most of the beer from the big corporations taste and smell like piss anyway and for a couple of extra coins, people can enjoy a far better tasting and healthier beer from a craft/micro brewery.

  18. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=labels-for-gmo-foods-are-a-bad-idea

    When you buy anything at the supermarket, you are trusting that the Food and Drug Administration has approved of it as safe for human consumption. Why are GMOs any different?

    The distinction between GMOs and non-GMO foods is made up, imaginary, ficticious. Labeling will make non-GMO foods more expensive, cause people that don’t understand what GMO means to have concern unnecesarily, and lesson the efficiency and effectiveness of using GMOs to solve enormous international problems, most prominently malnutrition.

    Anyway, regardless of GMOs, did anyone expect beer to be healthy?

    • gogmo, I think your way off with your facts. GMO’s are not “fixing” anything. They produce less and are only engineered to withstand pesticides. Those pesticides are causing other problems with the soil and wildlife. Monsanto wants us to think GMO can fix things but it’s more spin from them

  19. Why are people still reading this crap? Corn is a “GMO”

  20. Even if the beer is organic, they can still use carrageenan in the clarifying process. Carrageenan is a know inflammatory. It has been studied for decades and the results show that it can cause cancer and gastric inflammation. This sucks!

  21. Very poor investigation on german beers. You should add some of the requirements of the reinheitsgebot!!! Germans are very very serious about their beer. The Reinheitsgebot dates from 1516 A.C. It only allows certain ingredients in beer. For example the all have to have hops ( it is use as a preservative) to avoid all other danngerous stuff. It also states that german beer must be maded with spring water only. No corn or such is allowed. Verystrict! My advise is drink org german beer if posible otherwise german bier is the best option. There are many kinds that are unfiltered and unpasteurized!!! Those are the best and very healthy ( lots of vitamins and minerals especially b12 )…

    • Cindy, the German’s are now being infiltrated by GMO wheat for beer production. Monsanto has the wheat in testing in Germany now.

  22. Alcohol is bad for u it will kill u eventually if u drink excessively u will get liver failure so just DON’T DRINK !!!!!

  23. Alcohol is beneficial to human health,… the consumption of, of course, whether beer, or otherwise,… at least on occasion,… in moderation.
    I randomly drink beer or rarely liquor or wine,… and I don’t drink much beer,… and I distinctly get a healthy feeling with drinking these, on occasion in moderation,… healthier than if without. You got that? Healthier than without,… and I consume to thrive.
    I’m age 45, and doing well. Been paying close attention to diet and health since age 14.
    Your body reveals, your body gives response indicators to what you consume.
    Ideally your desires are in sync with what’s good for your optimum health, reasonably speaking. You’re body let’s you know what’s going on, sooner than later,… it’s up to you to be aware and understand what your body is indicating to you by the tone of your skin,..
    Inflammation is warning indicator of something not being good for you,.. for example,.. there are other negative indicators in different manifestations depending on the circumstances or consumed-item type.
    Let your body prudently direct you.

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