Gluten Free Beer Labeling Guidelines

TTB Labeling Guidelines


In a recent ruling by the TTB (Department of the Treasury: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), a definition has been outlined for what can be labeled as gluten free when it comes to alcohol.  This ruling of course covers what can be labeled as a gluten free beer.  Per the TTB guidelines, only alcohol made with non-gluten containing ingredients can be labeled gluten free.  This ruling will have an affect on several gluten free beer brewers such as Estrella Damm Daura and the new Widmer Brothers Omission beer.  Although the Omission beers are great beers and beer that anyone, gluten free or not, can and would drink; they can no longer be labeled as gluten free.  At the Gluten Free Beer Association, we are much more interested in finding a 0 ppm test then what the product is made from.  If you are truly Celiac, 1 ppm is 1 too many in our opinion and experience.  Here’s to a good beer that doesn’t make us sick!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah June 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm

You are wrong. As a celiac, I would NOT drink this beer. In fact Estrella has made me sick. Recent studies have shown that current testing methods underestimate hydrolyzed barley.

Joey June 25, 2012 at 1:16 am

My Dear Sarah,

This post is not about a specific beer but rather the ability or not to label a beer as gluten free. If you have read our other posts, including the conclusion of this post, you would realize that the Gluten Free Beer Association does not condone even 1 ppm. Estrella Damm proudly labels their beer as 6 ppm far above what we would recommend to any Celiac but far below the EU standard and in line with the leaning of the FDA (much to our regret). It is not our place to tell folks what beers to drink or not drink, but we do say, even in this post, that we are looking for a test to prove 0 ppm. Until such a test for liquids is proved, we would not suggest that any beer be consumed with no regard to the gluten level, especially one that is made from a gluten containing grain. Again, I repeat my statement that I made in this and many other posts around the net, we believe 1 ppm to be 1 too many for a Celiac. Estrella Damm does not hide the gluten content of their product, they label it, if you chose to drink this beer with that knowledge, then you have learned the lesson that we have been preaching; 1 ppm is 1 too many.

By the way, the tests that you refer to have not been substantiated as of yet but we have high hopes that they will be. Currently, that is the only hope of a 0 ppm test that the Association is aware of. If someone knows of other trails being done on other tests, we would love to hear about it. :-)

Peter Olins October 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Hi Joey,
I have reviewed some of the challenges in measuring gluten in beer, and more importantly, the issue of safety:
Is “gluten-free” beer made with barley malt safe for celiacs?

I’m not sure that I can support your ideal of “0 ppm”, since it is impossible to measure “nothing”. Current assays have a limit of detection of a few ppm, and developing anything more sensitive may be hard (but not inconceivable). I also think that “ppm” is a red herring, since it measures concentration, not amount, and it’s reasonable to assume that the toxicity of gluten is proportional to the total amount consumed. For example, a few dashes of a spice that may contain some wheat could be a lot safer than consuming substantial quantities of a low-gluten beer (not an unusual occurrence!).

Joey October 29, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Hi Dr. Peter,

You are right and I should rephrase in future. We are hopeful of an assay that will show 0 gluten present as opposed to proving 0 ppm though the outcome will be the same. :-) Our concern, like yours, is for the safety of the Celiac and Gluten Sensitive community so whether it is 0 ppm or somehow tested to be safe and non-reactive for Celiacs we will be happy. At the end of the day, it is the bodies Celiac reaction, whether we recognize the reaction or it is just internally harmful, that we all want to avoid.

Thank you for your comments and your article. :-)

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