Interim Policy on Gluten Content Statements in the Labeling and Advertising of Wines, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages

Gluten in Alcoholic 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 Labeling Definition in 2013 .  The TTB will likely review the current rulings in light of the FDA gluten-free regulation that 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.     and  the February 2014 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. 

CSA  encourages innovation in agriculture, processing and testing in order to expand food and beverage choices for people on a celiac diet. With validated elimination of celiac toxic amino acid sequences, products may now be able to qualify for the CSA Recognition Seal under the Innovation Category. With the FDA gluten-free labeling provision for ingredients "processed to remove gluten" consumers can expect refined processing and manufacturing systems for products with wheat, barley, rye or oats that remove the celiac toxic amino acid sequences. These processes can be validated with advances in commercial testing procedures and superior attention to detail in the growing or manufacturing process. The future holds promise for celiac special varieties of wheat, barley, rye and oats that are consistently absent of the celiac toxic amino acid sequences. Promoting advancements in food processing will spark innovation and increase choices for those with gluten related disorders. 
 
There is no TTB approved standard test to VERIFY fermented products are free of gluten. The FDA definition for labeling gluten-free guidelines or requirements for ingredients "processed to remove gluten" are expected later in 2014.

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.

  • TTB is responsible for the labeling of "malt beverages" or beers made with malted barley and hops, not the FDA.
  • FDA is responsible for the labeling of beers that are not made with both barley and hops, but are instead made from either malted barley and no hops or with substitutes for malted barley (such as sorghum, millet, rice, buckwheat and yes, even bananas, or combinations of these ingredients) with or without hops.

Examples of FDA regulated beers 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.   An example of a TTB regulated malt beverage would be Omission.

The FDA final voluntary gluten-free labeling ruling calls for enforcement discretion for FDA regulated beers that make a “gluten-free” claim and are: 1) are made from a non-gluten containing grain or 2) made form a gluten containing grain where the beer has been subject to processing that the manufacturer has determined will remove gluten as long as it meets the definition of gluten free.   So until the FDA rules on fermented and hydrolyzed food and beverages, these beers may be labeled as “gluten-free.”  As of yet, the TTB has not harmonized its labeling policy with that of the FDA.

An FDA definition of “gluten-free” provides a national standard for FDA regulated products, not necessarily the USDA and TTB regulated products.  A voluntary “gluten-free” claim on an FDA product label now means the product has less than 20 ppm gluten. Any evidence that the product contains 20 ppm or greater gluten will trigger a FDA misbranding violation.

TTB regulated beers with barley malt and hops may claim that the malt has been crafted/treated/processed to remove gluten in the final product, such as Omission beers.  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 if a gluten content statement is used it must be one of the following qualifying statements: 

  1.  “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.”
  2.  “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.”

What test detects gluten in fermented beverages? 
The first test for detecting gluten in fermented or highly refined products recently became commercially available. The RIDASCREEN® Gliadin Competitive is the first generation of reliable and accurate  tests applicable to fermented products. The expensive mass spectrometry process remains the gold standard in protein analysis. Mass spectrometry indicates protein sequences. Thus, mass spectrometry is able to validate the presence or absence of celiac toxic protein sequences in products.  The Celiac Support Association uses both the Competitive, G12, A1 and mass spectrometry to validate fermented and highly processed products are gluten-free.  

Which beers display the CSA Recognition Seal?   Omission Beer, from Portland, Oregon-based Craft Brew Alliance, is made with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, but undergoes an innovative process to remove gluten. The CSA Seal is approved for Omission Lager and Pale Ale products.    

Updated 2-24-2014