By Will Smale
BBC News business reporter
Fancy a refreshing pint of betaglucanase? Or maybe a thirst-quenching glass of propylene glycol alginate?
These chemicals do not sound remotely appealing. But if you have ever had a pint of cheap lager or ale, it is likely that you have sampled both of them.
Each is an additive commonly used in the production of mass market beer: betaglucanase can be used to speed up the brewing process, while propylene glycol alginate can be added to help stabilise a beer’s head of foam.
Although both are safe food additives, they hardly sound tempting, and beer drinkers would most likely wish to avoid them.
At present, though, beer producers in the UK and across most of the European Union (EU) are under no legal requirement to list all their ingredients on bottles or cans.
And while premium beers proudly indicate that they only use the four historic core ingredients – water, malted barley, hops and yeast – others give no more detailed information than the current legal requirement: to say that their beer includes malted barley or wheat.
In many cases, therefore, the buyer has no idea whether or not his or her beer of choice has been brewed naturally, or what else might have been added.
This situation – which also applies to all other alcoholic beverages – stands in sharp contrast to the stringent rules which apply to other packaged food or drink products.