While researching booze (ahem) for one of my previous blog posts "Alcohol helps me clean the house", I came across something that looked odd.
I landed on the Tesco online grocery website, where Tesco Value Vodka can be bought for a tenner. Now, I have used this product many times before, and I was happy that it was listed as "Suitable for Vegetarians" - as not all alcoholic drinks are. It's cheep and cheerful, so I did not think much more of it. Most vodka is made from grain, so I presumed that this vodka was too. You ferment grains to make alcohol. It's quite simple, and does not require any additives. Right?
Oh boy, was I wrong. The first clue was the ingredient listing for Tesco Value Vodka on their website, which is not present on the bottle: "Water, Molasses Spirit, Propylene Glycol." Let's break this down:
Molasses Spirit: This vodka is not made from grain, but molasses, which is a by-product of the sugar refining process. It's not a high-quality raw material, but it's still fine.
Propylene Glycol: Hell, no! Why is this in my vodka?
I had to zoom in onto that ingredient listing, to make sure I got that right.
It really says Propylene Glycol. To find out why you should avoid this ingredient, read my post on Propylene Glycol, but to sum it up: This is a heavily processed additive derived from petrochemicals. While legally allowed for use in food and drinks, it has been linked to kidney damage, deformities, asthma, eczema, urticaria, immunotoxicity and neurotoxicity. Propylene Glycol is commonly used as antifreeze, and I don't really want to drink that.
To make sure that I got this right, I tried contacting customer services at Tesco to check that this was not a data entry error. After numerous emails, tweets, Facebook messages and phone calls, I finally got a response from Tesco's PR department. My questions and their official responses are below.
- Is Propylene Glycol present in Tesco Value Vodka?
- Why is this ingredient added to the vodka?
A trace of propylene glycol is added as a marker so if we need to test the vodka we can be clear it’s Tesco vodka.
- Why do you not list your ingredients on Tesco branded alcoholic products? Even though this is not legally required, it would be welcomed by your customers.
As per the note from Customer Service and as you correctly explain it is not a legal requirement. However, we do take feedback on board and will be looking into this.
So there you have it - Propylene Glycol is added to Tesco Value Vodka, and possibly some of their other alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is an amazing substance - it's a natural preservative and does not need any additives, especially petrochemical-derived ingredients that could cause health problems. Propylene Glycol has absolutely no place in vodka.
Join me in asking Tesco to remove Propylene Glycol from their alcoholic drinks - sign the petition below.
This is not just about vodka, alcoholic drinks, or one particular retailer. Although alcohol is specific in that the manufacturers do not have to declare many of the substances that go into refining their beverages, like blood, bone marrow and fish bladder - hidden ingredients and chemicals are present in our food, drink and skincare products, and that bothers me. I need your support to make that stop. Please sign the petition and share it with your friends, via social media and your blogs.
If you have any questions, thoughts or comments on this post, I'd love to hear from you! Would you like to see all ingredients listed on alcoholic beverages, or would you rather now know what's in your glass? Let me know by leaving a comment.