OPTING for 'healthier' non-alcoholic beer could put you at risk of nasty bugs, a study suggests.
Craft beers with zero alcohol can become a breeding ground for food poisoning bugs like E. coli and salmonella to survive, US researchers found.
The lack of booze and normal beer-making processes meant the bacteria lived for over two months.
It means it could be better to stick to regular pints – in moderation – rather than drinking non-alcoholic beer, they suggested.
Dr Ann Charles-Vegdahl, of Cornell University, said: “Traditional beer is generally considered safe from foodborne pathogens due to several hurdles.
“These include alcohol concentration, hops bitter acids, low pH, high amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide and low oxygen.
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“When one or more of these hurdles is absent or at insufficient levels, beer can become susceptible to pathogen survival and growth.”
No or low-alcohol beers are booming in popularity, with sales jumping by 23 per cent during the past year compared to the previous 12 months.
The Government announced in September it is planning to bump up the legal limit for an alcohol-free tipple from 0.05 per cent ABV to 0.5 per cent to convert more drinkers to them.
The drinks are often considered a healthier alternative, as research shows they slash the damage booze inflicts on the body.
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The latest study, published in the Journal of Food Protection, looked at the potential danger they pose when it comes to harbouring bacteria.
Researchers put tiny amounts of five bacteria strains including E. coli and salmonella in non- and low-alcohol beers.
The beers were then placed in storages of 4C and 14C for 63 days to see whether the bacteria would survive.
They found the germs thrived in the zero alcohol beer at both temperatures.
The low alcohol beer, which had an alcohol percentage of 3.2 ABV, prevented the bugs growing at 4C but small amounts were found at 14C.
Dr Charles-Vegdahl said: "This study demonstrates the need for beverage manufacturers to prioritise and maintain food safety plans along with practices specific to low- and nonalcoholic beer manufacturers."
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