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Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Gluten-free beer can be labeled as such under FDA
As seen in USA TODAY

When is a beer not a beer? When it's gluten-free.

And as of Monday, it's also when the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which regulates the labeling of beer, wine and spirits, handed off regulation of said cold, sudsy brews to the Food and Drug Administration.

That's good news for the nation's estimated two million sufferers of celiac disease, for whom consuming any kind of gluten can cause chronic diarrhea, arthritis, bone loss and a host of other symptoms. Their immune systems react to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, causing inflammation in their small intestine, interfering with the absorption of nutrients.

Beers brewed the traditional way, with malted barley, contain gluten. But small craft brewers and then Anheuser-Busch began making beer from malted sorghum, an African grain, and sometimes rice. Both are gluten free. That was great for celiacs but didn't fit in the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935's definition of beer, which was a beverage brewed from malted barley and other grains.

So that amber, foamy and distinctly beer-tasting beverage didn't count as beer under the regs. Which is why last July 7, 2008, the FDA and TTB agreed that FDA would take over regulation.

On Monday, FDA issued its Guidance for Industry covering these non-barley beers. And to the benefit of the one in 133 Americans who can't eat anything containing gluten, these beverages can now officially be labeled gluten-free once they've been tested and confirmed by FDA.

"For the longest time I couldn't put gluten-free on the label, because there wasn't a definition" under TTB regulations, says Russ Klisch, whose Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee makes a sorghum beer, New Grist.

A friend whose father had the disease told Klisch how much his dad missed having a beer now and then, and then it turned out Klisch's brew master's father also had it. These people needed beer, they decided.

Now his New Grist is distributed in 30 states and two Canadian provinces. He sells about $500,000 worth a year and sales are growing about 35% a year.

Sorghum beer has a slightly different flavor from normal beer, with a twang that some describe as "spicy citrusy." "If you ever have a Belgian beer, this is somewhat similar to a Belgian beer," Klisch says.

Brewers of gluten-free beers have until Jan. 1, 2012, to begin adding nutrition labels to their products, including a declaration of major food allergens, which includes wheat. That's the information people with celiac disease have been waiting for.

Up until now, they couldn't be certain that a beer that claimed to be gluten-free really was. Under FDA regulations, there's a standard for it.

Gluten-free beer makes up less than 0.1% of the beer market, says Paul Gatza of the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo. The biggest players in the gluten-free beer market are Anheuser-Busch's Red Bridge, Klisch's Lakefront in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Bard's Tale from Norwalk, Conn., he says.

Celiacs have been buying these gluten-free beers for years, says Elaine Monarch, executive director of the Celiac Disease Foundation in Studio City, Calif. But accurate labels will be nice and the new FDA regulations may make it easier for European gluten-free beverages to enter the market, she says.

The only bad news for the brewers is that the IRS doesn't care what this stuff is made from — it's still taxed like beer, at $18 a barrel.

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Blogger I Am Gluten Free said...

I'm a big fan of Budweiser's Gluten Free Redbridge Beer. I actually like it more than (what I remember of) non-GF beer. I'm eager to try the other GF beers as well!. I've had the luck of ordering the Redbridge in restaurants that serve it in a cold, frosty mug - it's fantastic!

Twitter: ellensrecipes

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such an informative piece about control, GFF. You've walked the most uninformed through a vital (GF) lesson. Is FDA, Food & Drug, listening? Let's hope so. Will they require food-safer [for GF] labeling for all gluten containing products, not only wheat, as is required today? Will medicines be required to disclose gluten? We're staying tuned ... as it vitally will affect millions who MUST be gluten free. Thank you!

I really love your site and all you are sharing here. This is very helpful! I work part-time for the author, Tina Turbin who has a Gluten-free site and Gluten-Free blog. I really think you two should be introduced. I know she recommends other bloggers on her blog page in a special section and I think you would be one she would most definitely be interested in referring. Could you e mail me back please and let me know if you would be interested in referring her link and her referring yours. I will let her know and you two can take it from there. She also reviews products and companies, does interviews and writes numerous Articles. I really think you’d like her! Thanks, Rosie

Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Erin, I love your blog, I want to eat :-)))

I wish you a pregnta, as is the maximum allowed of gluten in products in NY? 20ppm think, but I'm not sure, Could you confirm please.
thank you very much
sonia gluten free

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