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Kombucha Debate: Free Lindsay?

Lindsay Lohan's fate in court has been determined, but the jury is still out on her favorite drink, kombucha.

Lindsay Lohan cries next to her lawyer Shawn Chapman Holley as she is sentanced to 90 days jail by Judge Marsha Revel during her hearing at the Beverly Hills Courthouse.
David McNew | AFP | Getty Images
Lindsay Lohan cries next to her lawyer Shawn Chapman Holley as she is sentanced to 90 days jail by Judge Marsha Revel during her hearing at the Beverly Hills Courthouse.

Kombucha is a fermented tea that claims to provide benefits ranging from improved digestion to better skin and hair to cancer prevention. But others claim the product can have a darker side, especially home-brewed batches that can have potentially lethal effects if left to overferment.

But the latest blow to the drink's reputation are the lingering questions about whether some bottled versions of it contain trace amounts of alcohol.

Already, Whole Foods and other stores have pulled unpasteurized bottles of kombucha from their shelves over the alcohol concerns.

Those concerns continue to be linked to Lohan after some fans suggested the star's favorite drink, G.T. Dave's Organic Raw Kombucha, set off Lohan's SCRAM bracelet, which she was required to wear to monitor her alcohol consumption as a condition of her 2007 drug case.

Lohan tried to squelch those rumors by sending out a note on Twitter that kombucha was not the reason the bracelet went off at the MTV Movie Awards show.

But the talk continues to put a bigger spotlight on the little-known tea, and it's still unclear whether the newfound attention will benefit the G.T.'s Organic Raw Kombucha and another kombucha brand manufactured by the same company, Synergy Organic and Raw kombucha, or not.

Kombucha Tea
Photo by: zeevveez
Kombucha Tea

That company, Millennium Products, is the nation's largest bottler of kombucha and has been in business since 1995. The company's Web sitesays it is investigating why some of its kombucha products have been found to have alcohol content above 0.5 percent.

G.T. Dave, Millennium's founder, said that the company's products are tested to be compliant at the time of shipping, but a subsequent increase in alcohol levels could potentially cause the product to go above 0.5 percent. The reason is unknown, but it may be related to the elements the product is exposed to when it is stored or shipped.

The company said it is working to identify which lots of the product were affected, but the company stressed that it is a labeling issue, not an instance of food contamination or a recall.

Dave said he continues to be frustrated over the connection between their product and Lohan's situation. (For the record, Superior Court Judge Marsha Revel said she was not considering Lohan's "alcohol-related" violation as part of her decision to sentence Lohan to jail. Instead she focused on Lohan's failure to attend court-ordered alcohol education classes, another condition of her probation.)

"Lohan has been drinking our product for four years," Dave said. The instance at the music awards show was not an isolated event.

Meanwhile, fans of the company's product have been flocking to its Facebook page. Many are complaining about the difficulty finding the drink on store shelves, and some are discussing other brands that are not identified with the Lohan controversy. Others are attempting to brew their own at home. But most are saying how dedicated they are to the brand, and maybe that's not bad for business after all.

For Dave, it is a frustrating situation on "many different levels."

"New customers want to try it and can't get it," he said. "Long-term customers, especially those who drink it for health reasons—for personal ailments—and now they can't drink it."

He also does not know how long it will take to resolve the problem. But he expects it will be resolved and the drink will be back on store shelves "sooner rather than later."

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com