Craft Brew Alliance one step closer to being able to label Omission Beer “gluten-free”

omission beer bottles

(Portland, OR) – Craft Brew Alliance got some good news on Friday with the FDA formally establishing a definition for “gluten-free” for the purpose of food labeling.

Most relevant to CBA, the new FDA ruling allows products that are made with a process that removes gluten to be labeled as “gluten-free” if the product tests under 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten.

There has been some banter among gluten-free beer producers as to whether CBA’s Omission Beer and/or others like it should be allowed to carry the “gluten-free” on labeling as they are made using a process that removes gluten as opposed to being made without gluten at all.

The TTB, which regulates the beer industry at the federal level, ruled in May of last year that CBA and others making beer with such a method had to label their products with the phrase, “(Processed -OR- Treated -OR- Crafted) to remove gluten,” along with a special disclaimer that they may contain gluten.

That could change with the FDA ruling. An FAQ accompanying Friday’s release states that the “FDA will continue to work with USDA and TTB on the issue of gluten-free food labeling to harmonize the requirements for foods labeled gluten-free among agencies whenever possible.”

Craft Brew Alliance was so pleased with the news that it issued a same-day press release of its own applauding the FDA “for bringing U.S. rules in alignment with the global standard for gluten-free. Our beer tests well below the 20 ppm standard.”

The FDA ruling takes effect 30 days out from Friday.

Below, check out the FDA press release followed by the Omission Beer press release.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today published a new regulation defining the term “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling. This will provide a uniform standard definition to help the up to 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can be effectively managed only by eating a gluten free diet.

“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health.”

This new federal definition standardizes the meaning of “gluten-free” claims across the food industry. It requires that, in order to use the term “gluten-free” on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

The FDA recognizes that many foods currently labeled as “gluten-free” may be able to meet the new federal definition already. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.

“We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with celiac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free’” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

The term “gluten” refers to proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross-bred hybrids of these grains. In people with celiac disease, foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. Such damage limits the ability of celiac disease patients to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other very serious health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature, and intestinal cancers.

The FDA was directed to issue the new regulation by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which directed FDA to set guidelines for the use of the term “gluten-free” to help people with celiac disease maintain a gluten-free diet.

Omission Brewing Company today announced support for the FDA’s new gluten-free labeling standard as an important step forward in providing clear, consistent guidance to gluten sensitive consumers, including celiac disease sufferers. With the new labeling rules issued today, the FDA has officially adopted the widely accepted standard of 20 ppm gluten, which has been in place in many countries around the world for several years.

“With the new standard in place, celiac disease sufferers — like me and many of our team members — and others with gluten sensitivity can now make confident and better informed choices.”

Omission Brewing is the first craft beer brand in the United States focused exclusively on brewing great-tasting craft beers with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, specially crafted to remove gluten. Omission’s product line includes a lager, pale ale, and a new IPA launching nationally in August.

Using the most advanced and scientifically sound gluten detection method available, Omission Beer tests well below the 20 ppm standard. As an industry leader in transparency for gluten sensitive consumers, Omission posts independent laboratory test results online for every batch of beer packaged.

The gluten detection test used by Omission, the R5 Competitive ELISA, has been validated by the AACCI, the leading global cereal grains research organization, and by the American Society of Brewing Chemists. In addition, recent mass spectrometry analyses of Omission Beer confirmed that the protein fragments left in Omission Beer do not contain the known toxic amino acid sequences that cause reactions in gluten intolerant consumers. This research further supports the results consistently seen from the R5 Competitive ELISA testing.

“At Omission Beer, we applaud the FDA for bringing U.S. rules in alignment with the global standard for gluten-free. Our beer tests well below the 20 ppm standard,” said Terry Michaelson, CEO of Craft Brew Alliance, makers of Omission Beers. “With the new standard in place, celiac disease sufferers — like me and many of our team members — and others with gluten sensitivity can now make confident and better informed choices.”

“We recognize that scientific research regarding testing is evolving, and we are encouraged that teams of scientists at two leading industry groups have validated the gluten detection method that we use. We will continue to work cooperatively with regulators, and transparently with consumers, to provide complete information about how we make and test Omission Beer.”

Omission looks forward to sharing information regarding scientific research of gluten testing methods and policy with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the regulatory agency that ultimately will determine how the FDA guidelines will apply to its products.

Michaelson and several members of the Omission team have celiac disease and gluten intolerance, including the wife of the company’s brewmaster, Joe Casey, whose condition helped inspire the creation of Omission.

More details about gluten detection testing of Omission are available at: www.omissionbeer.com.

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8 thoughts on “Craft Brew Alliance one step closer to being able to label Omission Beer “gluten-free”

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  3. After drinking a couple of Omission beers I broke out in full body hives. The beer and wine store that I bought it from warned me about it because two of their other customers had reactions. They moved it out of the gluten free section. I thought it was ridiculous and explained to them the testing that the company does etc. but as I stated earlier I had a reaction. I could just be extremely sensitive but either way it should not be labeled gluten free. I have celiac and would not recommend drinking Omission Beer if you are truly allergic to gluten and/or have Celiac Disease.

  4. I know quite a few Celiacs who drink Omission on a regular basis, as well as homebrew made with Clarity-Ferm, to no ill effect. But of course there are clearly documented cases of people having moderate to severe reactions to Omission and other “gluten-reduced” products.

    As with many food allergies and auto-immune disorders, people with Celiac have different tolerances to gluten; the only way to know for sure if one is extremely sensitive and cannot consume even the generally accepted <20ppm limit is to try it and see.

    In an ideal world only truly gluten-free products should be able to carry that label, but in the real world it's nearly impossible to guarantee that for many production food items. (This is similar to how the FDA allows most food items to carry trace amounts of things like insect parts, etc.) There needs to be a limit under which something can be realistically labelled gluten-free; whether that limit is 20ppm (which is generally accepted in Europe) or something less is the real question.

    And they shouldn't limit themselves to one label; create a standard for "gluten reduced" as well, and require the PPM to be clearly listed on the label.

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