Wednesday, February 12, 2014

TTB Issues Ruling on Gluten-Free Claims on Alcohol

I'm not sure why I'm so incredibly excited, but I'm giddy about this announcement. I've never been one to get angry, but I've gotten to the point of extreme frustration with my fear that the TTB may have allowed "gluten-removed" beers such as Omission to label their products as gluten-free.

My opinion was that these companies could label their products as "gluten-removed," but it would be terribly misleading to state "gluten-free." I understand that they think their tests are reliable, and that these products are safe for individuals with Celiac Disease. I do not agree. I also don't see what the problem is with issuing a very truthful "gluten-removed" statement. If someone believes that the product is safe for them, they can consume it. If they don't believe it's safe, then they will choose another product.

The problem with the "gluten-free" claim on a "gluten-removed" beer is that there is the (in my opinion strong) possibility that they will determine that these products contain unsafe levels of gluten. What then? What if someone develops colon cancer after adhering to a strict gluten-free diet that wasn't actually gluten-free because they were drinking gluten-removed beer?

Who does it hurt to label it as "gluten-removed" anyway. Those who are very careful with their diet will not purchase it, which could decrease sales. I get that. I think it would hurt their sales even more if they were allowed to label the products "gluten-free," and then a reliable test was found that determined it was not gluten-free. I could see a complete boycott by the gluten-free community. I could see lawsuits galore. I don't think it would be right, but if they stick with the "gluten-removed" terminology, at least they could say, "we never said it was gluten-free" if testing determined it wasn't.

If you'd like to read the article, it is available at the TTB website, and can be found here.

For those of you interested in reading the "important" part of the article. You can go directly to the last paragraph of page 3, or I have it quoted here:

"TTB determined that it would be inherently misleading for alcohol beverages produced
from grains containing gluten or their derivatives to make a “gluten-free” claim or a claim of specific gluten content levels absent a means to verify the accuracy of that statement
through scientifically validated methods or other reliable means as might be revealed
through FDA rulemaking. However, for products that were produced using wheat,
barley, rye, or a crossbred hybrid of these grains, and were then processed, treated, or
crafted to remove the gluten, TTB announced that it would allow use of the statement
“[Processed or Treated or Crafted] to remove gluten,” together with a qualifying
statement to inform consumers that: (1) the product was fermented or distilled from a
grain that contains gluten; (2) the gluten content of the product cannot be verified; and
(3) the product may contain gluten. TTB believed that the qualifying statement was
necessary to avoid misleading consumers and because of the serious health
consequences associated with the consumption of gluten by individuals with celiac
disease. The ruling stated that industry members are responsible for verifying the
accuracy of any such labeling or advertising statement"

So there it is. At least for the time being, I agree with the TTB, and I'm incredibly happy with their decision.

I'll end with a photo I found on I'm sure Omission hates it, but this is the way a lot of people feel.

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