Interim Policy on Gluten Content Statements in the Labeling and Advertising of Wines, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) May 24, 2012 ruling reiterates the pre Food Allergen Act of 2004 and the gluten-free proposed labeling -- working definition of gluten-free based upon FDA compliance guidelines on the use of the term “free” under misbranding penalties. Thus until a US definition for gluten-free in labeling exists or is set by the FDA, the former (and current) use of “free” is affirmed as the regulation. Essentially, the TTB will not pre-suppose or follow a regulation until it exists. (The proposed FDA gluten-free regulation replaces zero “free” and allows gluten (below a 20 ppm level for a legal gluten-free claim.) Links to both TTB press release and TTB complete ruling.
CSA appreciates the clarity of the TTB ruling, which follows the MEANINGFUL, CONSISTENT AND VERIFIABLE pattern CSA advocates for industry wide gluten-free labeling definitions.
FDA, USDA and TTB share regulatory responsibility for the foods and drinks in the US. A regulation in one agency may or may not be the same as in other agencies.
- FDA is responsible for the labeling of beers that are not made with both of these ingredients, regardless of any special brewing process designed to remove some or all of the gluten from the beer
- TTB is responsible for the labeling of beers made with malted barley and hops
Gluten technically represents specific protein fractions in wheat. However, the term “gluten” commonly refers to storage protein fractions in wheat, but also in barley, rye their derivatives and crossbreeds. These protein fractions are in lesser amounts in oats. These protein sequences are toxic to people who have celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The only treatment is elimination of “gluten” for life. A gluten-free lifestyle is a medical necessity for those who have celiac disease. “Gluten” containing products are safe for consumers without these specific health conditions.
A federal FDA definition of “gluten-free” will provide one national standard so consumers will know all products with a “gluten-free” claim will have no more than a specific amount of gluten. Regulation scheduled announcement is expected later this year.
FDA regulated beers free of barley are sorghum, millet, rice, and yes, even bananas, or combinations of these ingredients. Examples include: Budweiser's Redbridge Beer, Bard's Tale Beer, New Grist Beer, Sprecher Brewery Mbege and Shakparo Beers, Schnitzerbräu Gluten-Free Beer, New Planet Beer, Celia Saison and Green's Gluten-Free Beers.
TTB regulated beers with barley malt claim that the malt has been processed to render the final product gluten-free. Under the TTB May 24, 2012, ruling these products cannot use the “gluten-free” claim. However, labels and advertisements may include truthful and accurate statements, and how a product may represented with specific qualifying statements:
- “Product fermented from grains containing gluten and [processed or treated or crafted] to remove gluten. The gluten content of this product cannot be verified, and this product may contain gluten.”
- “This product was distilled from grains containing gluten, which removed some or all of the gluten. The gluten content of this product cannot be verified, and this product may contain gluten.”
How Is FDA Proposing to Define ‘Gluten-Free’?
In 2007, FDA proposed to allow manufacturers to label a food “gluten-free” if the food does not contain any of the following:
- an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains
- an ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten
- an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten
- 20 ppm or more gluten
FDA proposal describes current analytical methods that can reliably and consistently detect gluten at levels of 20 ppm or more in a variety of foods. Later this year the agency is scheduled to issue a final rule that defines “gluten-free” for labeling food products, including dietary supplements.
What test detects gluten in fermented beverages?
Recently the first reliable and accurate test for detecting gluten in fermented or highly refined products became commercially available. The RIDASCREEN® Gliadin competitive is the first generation of tests applicable to fermented products. The expensive mass spectrometry process remains the gold standard in protein analysis.
Which beers display the CSA Recognition Seal?
To date, the CSA Recognition Seal program has received inquiries from beer companies about procedures and requirements of the program, but no company has completed an application and earned the certification.
The CSA Recognition Seal certification program is for any product that is free of wheat, barley, rye and common oats — their crosses and derivatives with verification testing sensitive to 5 ppm. The source ingredients rather than the term gluten-free make the CSA certification program suitable to a wider range of products that interest the gluten-free community. In addition to the ingredient assurances, HACCP plan details we would require validation through testing procedures.