Is alcohol made from grain safe for people with celiac disease?

Melinda Dennis MS, RDN, LDN
Q: I recently purchased a Nima gluten tester. However, it says on the package that it cannot be used to test products with alcohol. I purchased Anthimmune organic elderberry syrup from Maine Medicinals, Inc.. It says gluten-free on the package but it contains up to 5% grain alcohol. When I spoke with the company, they said it was made from corn. Is this safe for celiac consumption? Thank you kindly!


Distilled alcohol, even if it is made from a gluten-containing grain, such as wheat, rye or barley, is considered gluten-free. This is because if an alcohol is distilled, proteins from the starting materials that provided the starch or sugar are removed in the distillation process. No protein carries over into the end product (the alcohol). Examples of pure distilled spirits are vodka, gin, whisky, brandy, rum, and tequila. In the case of the elderberry syrup product, the manufacturers identified the grain alcohol as coming from corn – this is, of course, also gluten-free.

The situation is very different for fermented alcohol. Whether a fermented alcohol is considered free of gluten protein depends upon the starting material. Some fermented alcohols are gluten-free (e.g. wine, true hard cider, and labeled gluten-free beer made without barley malt). and some are not gluten-free (e.g. beer and other malt beverages, flavored hard cider containing malt, flavored hard lemonade containing malt, and flavored wine coolers containing malt). To learn more check out our FAQs on Alcohol and the Gluten-Free Diet. 

Reviewed October 3, 2022.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Melinda Dennis, NCA's Senior Consulting Dietitian. This information is meant for educational purposes and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. This information can be printed and used in consultation with your physician or dietitian. No liability is assumed by NCA, Ms. Dennis or her nutrition consulting service Delete the Wheat, LLC. by providing this information..

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About Melinda Dennis MS, RDN, LDN

Melinda Dennis, Senior Nutrition Consultant for NCA, is an expert celiac dietitian and and Nutrition Coordinator for the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. Diagnosed with celiac disease in 1990, she specializes in the nutritional treatment of patients with celiac disease and gluten-related disorders.

Melinda lectures internationally and has written extensively on the nutritional management of celiac disease including the award-winning book Real Life with Celiac Disease. Melinda was the original founder of NCA in 1993 and so it is only fitting that she comes back to us in this capacity. We are truly honored to have her on our team.