You probably already know that the alcohol in all drinks containing alcohol is a result of fermentation. Yeasts are what converts the sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide.
So, when people brew 0.5% beer, they either brew a full-strength traditional beer and remove the alcohol or use a process that will only produce a small amount of alcohol in the first place, like a lazy yeast.
Foods like bread also use yeast to help them rise. So, it is no surprise that these foods also end up containing a certain amount of alcohol.
But for this article, we will investigate what food and drink items have alcohol present and what causes it to exist.
Is There Alcohol In ‘Non-Alcoholic’ Food and Drinks?
Many common food and drink items contain alcohol, which is generated by yeast. But where does the yeast come from?
Did you know that it is only in the last few thousand years that the human race came to understand the role yeast plays in fermentation entirely?
For a long time, if you wanted to make foods containing alcohol, you would have relied on spontaneous fermentation. Naturally present in the air, wild yeasts would convert the sugars in your bread or beer to alcohol.
However, spontaneous fermentation can also unintentionally cause other foods and drinks to end up containing alcohol.
What Food & Drink Items Contain Alcohol, and How Much?
So, how high are the alcohol levels in food and drink anyway?
Well, the University of Kaiserslautern recently carried out a study on foods containing alcohol. They were worried about how much alcohol children and women were consuming in their day-to-day lives.
The researchers found that;
- A cherry yoghurt contained up to 0.02g of alcohol per 100g (or 0.02% alcohol by volume)
- A ripe pear had up to 0.04g per 100g (or 0.04% ABV)
- A ripe banana had 0.2g per 100g (0.2% ABV)
- An overripe banana with dark spots had around 0.4g per 100g (0.4% ABV)
- And burger rolls contained a whopping 1.28 per 100g (or 1.28% ABV) of alcohol! This is more alcohol than most alcohol-free beers!
The University of Kaiserslautern also looked at drinks containing alcohol in the same study. They measured this in grams per litre rather than ABV. They found that:
- Grape juice had up to 0.86g of alcohol per litre
- Orange juice contained up to 0.73g per litre
- Apple juice had up to 0.66g per litre (though most brands averaged 0.2g per litre)
- And white wine vinegar had up to 2.64g per litre.
To put this into perspective, the average 330ml bottle of alcohol-free 0.05% beer has around 0.1g of alcohol, while a 330ml bottle of 0.5% beer contains about 1.3g of alcohol.
The University of Kaiserslautern’s study concluded that children could ingest a significant amount of alcohol in their day-to-day diet – if they drink multiple glasses of fruit juice, for example. However, the alcohol levels in food and drink are still far lower than those in alcoholic drinks. Altogether, the amount of alcohol in all these products still doesn’t add up to even one UK unit.
Is It Possible To Remove Alcohol From Food?
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, on certain medicines, or have children, you might wonder, is it possible to remove alcohol from food? To a certain extent, yes, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce how much alcohol is in your food.
As we mentioned previously, overripe fruits can contain up to twice the amount of alcohol of ripe fruits. So, though it may be less sweet if you want to reduce the amount of alcohol you get from fruit, be sure to limit how long the fruit sits in your bowl.
Another way to reduce the alcohol in food is to heat it. You know the way mulled wine or cider has hardly any alcohol left after it’s simmered for ages? The same is true of foods containing alcohol if you cook them.
However, the temperature you cook the food at, the length of time you cook the food, and the surface area of the cooking dish you use are all factors in how much alcohol is removed. For example, according to the US Department of Agriculture, a mixture boiled for an hour has its alcohol content reduced by 75%. So, to reduce your alcohol intake, a slow-cooked stew or berry pie is a good option.
Should I Be Worried About Alcohol Levels?
What if you choose to leave the alcohol in food?
Should you be worried about getting drunk?
Should you avoid driving?
Well, no. Even before removing alcohol, though the foods contained more alcohol than non-alcoholic beers, none of the foods or drinks containing alcohol had enough to equate to a single UK unit. So, these foods are unlikely to have any noticeable effect on an average adult. Even if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, these foods should be fine. Just limit how much of them you eat.
Alcohol Content in Food & Drink FAQs
What foods contain alcohol?
Many foods contain alcohol, including bread and fruits like bananas.
What fruits contain alcohol?
Many fruits, including cherries, pears and bananas, especially when overripe, contain alcohol.
Can you get drunk from alcohol in food?
No. Unless you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have very young children, alcohol in food is not a concern for a healthy person.
Does alcohol remain in food after cooking?
Yes. Unless you heat the food at a high temperature in a dish with as much surface area as possible for a long time, a significant amount of alcohol will still remain in the food you cook.