Is it OK to drink gluten-reduced beer that tests below 10 ppm?

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN

Q: You do not recommend drinking gluten-reduced beer if you have celiac disease, but Omission beer tests all of their batches for gluten, ensuring they are below 20 ppm. I drink Omission beer and enter their packaging date and batch # on their web site to get the gluten content from their testing. They also have the test done independently. Both data show <10 ppm. The enzyme they use in the brewing process eliminates nearly all of the gluten. I feel confident that some gluten reduced beers are ok to drink. Thoughts?

Answer


The amount of careful testing does not really matter as the problem is that there are no tests available to adequately detect gluten in hydrolyzed and fermented foods/drinks. Beer is produced by fermentation. As there is no test to accurately detect gluten in a fermented drink, there is no way of knowing how much gluten is present in gluten-reduced/removed beer. Therefore, it is not recommended for people with celiac disease.

What is the difference between gluten-reduced or gluten-removed beer and gluten-free beer?

Gluten-free beer: A beer where the starting material is gluten-free (such as sorghum) and then fermented. Manufacturers have to make sure ingredients are gluten-free prior to fermentation or hydrolyzation to be able to label a product gluten free. They also have to keep records that foods and ingredients that are fermented or hydrolyzed are free from wheat, barley and rye. They must also evaluate for cross-contact and have measures in place to prevent cross-contact.

Gluten-reduced or gluten-removed beer: A beer where the starting material is wheat, barley (malt), or rye that is then fermented and treated with an enzyme to break down the gluten protein into smaller parts. (Omission beer is made from malted barley and hops which is treated with enzymes to break down the gluten after brewing.)

In terms of beer labeling, most gluten-reduced/removed beer would fall under the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). They regulate alcoholic beverages that contain over 7% alcohol, as well as any malted beverage containing both malted barley and hops. The TTB does not allow products that have gluten-containing grains as starting materials to have a gluten-free claim.

They are also required to have the following disclaimer:

“Product fermented from grains containing gluten and processed to remove gluten. The gluten content of this product cannot be verified, and this product may contain gluten.”

The bottom line is, until there is a test available to adequately test for gluten in fermented foods you should avoid gluten-removed or reduced beer if you have celiac disease. Stick to beers that are labeled gluten-free where the starting material is a gluten-free grain.

Read more about labeling and fermented foods here: https://nationalceliac.org/celiac-disease-questions/labeling-fermented-and-hydrolyzed-foods/

Read more about alcohol and gluten here: https://nationalceliac.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-alcohol-on-the-gluten-free-diet/

Please note that gluten-removed beverages containing malt may be labeled gluten free in Oregon: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/reminder-gluten-removed-malt-beverages-can-be-labeled-gluten-free-in-the-state-of-oregon/

References:

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Food Labeling of Gluten-Free and Fermented or Hydrolyzed Foods. FDA Website: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/08/13/2020-17088/food-labeling-gluten-free-labeling-of-fermented-or-hydrolyzed-foods Published August 13, 2020.

Thompson T. Gluten-free labeling of alcohol. GF Watchdog Website: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/gluten-free-labeling-of-alcohol/ Published May 23, 2017.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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