Saturday, August 31, 2013

Good Intentions Gone Wrong? Gluten-Removed Beer

A friend of mine shared this blog with me a while back. It's the story of a man who meets someone who is on a gluten-free diet, but has been unable to find a gluten-free beer that they can truly enjoy. He is a home brewer, so he sets out on a quest to make a great tasting gluten-free beer.

While I appreciate the extensive amount of research he did on how to use substitutions for barley and still create a great tasting product, but he made one VERY large mistake. He used malted oats. I would be perfectly fine with the use of certified gluten-free oats, but he doesn't once mention going to the trouble of finding them. This leads me to believe he incorrectly assumes that wheat, barley, and rye are the only gluten-containing products.

Why do I bring this up? There is currently a lot of controversy regarding various "gluten-removed" beers such as Omission. The largest issue at hand is whether or not they can label this type of beer as "gluten-free." My personal opinion is that I don't understand why they want the gluten-free label. What is wrong with using full disclosure and informing consumers that their product is made with gluten-containing grains and processed to remove the gluten? That is what the Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) currently requires. I understand that they will lose some customers who could possibly safely drink their beer, but the alternative is giving consumers the (possibly) false impression that the product is safe when it is not.

If you'd you like to read a thorough (and somewhat long) description about this issue, click here. The link gives a much clearer understanding of what effect the current FDA labeling law has on gluten-removed beers.

The issue at hand is that there is no scientifically proven method of testing a product that has been processed to remove gluten in the manner that gluten-removed beers are. The most common method of testing products for gluten is the ELISA R5 test. Unfortunately, this test is meant to test for the whole protein. The process of removing gluten from beer includes adding an enzyme that breaks the gluten protein down into fragments and these fragments are supposedly removed. The ELISA test is unable to detect gluten fragments that could cause a reaction. The way I see it, there could easily be enough "fragments" that go undetected to cause horrendous reactions for those sensitive to gluten.

I have not been successful in finding the article, but I once read an article describing the testing of multiple regular and gluten-free beers. In this test, a few of the regular beers tested as gluten-free. Why? Because the tests are unreliable when it comes to testing this type of product.

I realize that business owners main purpose is to make money. I would hope that the manufacturers of Omission truly believe this product is safe even if their desire to make more money is clouding their vision. Considering the long term repercussions of consuming gluten when you have Celiac Disease, I hope they will soon discover that they are doing the right thing by not labeling their product as gluten-free until a scientifically proven test proves one way or the other. (I highly doubt their product will test as gluten free considering the number of individuals who have gotten sick consuming their product.)

It seems that just as the home brewer I mentioned originally had good intentions, lack of knowledge and stubbornness can easily cause good intentions to go wrong.

What are your thoughts on gluten-removed beer?

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