Gluten-removed beer. It’s one of (sadly) many issues those in the Celiac Disease community don’t agree on. People can be seriously passionate about beer. I think those with Celiac Disease are even more passionate about it. Why? Once you’re told you can’t have gluten, beer is something you miss. When you’re told that someone is trying to make it more accessible, you get super excited. Amidst all the talk, what is gluten-removed beer and what does science say about its safety?
Definition of a Gluten-Removed Beer and How it is Tested
Brewers create gluten-removed beers with barley, a grain that naturally contains gluten. The creators of Omission (and many other gluten-removed beers on the market) add a chemical to “break down” the gluten through hydrolysis. Brewer’s Clarex hydrolyzes gluten proteins to make beers appear less “cloudy.” Here’s where the deeming a gluten-removed beer “gluten-free” gets tricky.
Brewers of these beers are using traditional testing methods to see if their product is under 20 ppm. However, ELISA testing isn’t created to do this type of testing. ELISA is looking for the whole protein fragment. So therefore, the results are going to come back as no gluten. There is another type of testing as well called mass spectrometry. This method hasn’t been approved as a valid form of testing. Up until this point, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has stated that this beverage cannot be labeled gluten-free, because it is made from grains that contain gluten.
To meet TTB standards, a gluten-removed beer must include this on their label or in advertising: “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.” (See this link, page 10.) Of course, if you never Omission’s advertisement, and it’s not on the label. you might not know this.
Gluten Intolerance Group Performs Study on Gluten-Removed Beer
That may change soon. The FDA took comments from the public about how we feel about fermented and hydrolyzed foods. There has yet to be any official statement. In the meantime, the Gluten Intolerance Group conducted a study, in coordination with the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. An issue surrounding the safety of these gluten-removed beers is that some claimed after drinking them, that they had no reactions. Some stated that they did. Therefore, GIG and Univ. of Chicago performed a lab based study. This study utilized serum from those who are diagnosed with Celiac Disease. They tested serum against traditional beer, naturally gluten-free beer and gluten-removed beer. They did this by reducing the beers down, extracting their residual proteins, and then pairing those proteins with patient blood serum. Using reagents they could determine if celiac antibodies bound to those proteins.
Intrestingly, their research validated the comments from those drinking gluten-removed beer. Serum from some patients reacted, some did not. Based on their research, GIG concluded they will NOT certify these beers as gluten-free, as they feel that it is a safety issue.
Many beers exist on the market, made from grains that do not and have never contained gluten-containing grains. I recommend drinking beverages from companies that have taken the extra time and energy to create a procedure and facility that is totally devoid of gluten. Brands most often noted include Bard’s, Glutenberg, Ground Breaker Brewing and Ghostfish Brewing. Ground Breaker and Ghostfish both took home top nods at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, winning the gold, bronze and silver medals between them. (*Moment of honesty- I’m not a beer drinker, but I enjoy a good crisp cider now and again.)
Until the FDA declares hydrolyzed and fermented items (which include hydrolyzed yeast and malt extracts) truly safe for those with Celiac Disease, I will dissuade my readers from consuming them. Registered Dietitian Tricia Thompson provides further insight here. I also appreciate the research done by GF Tracy and gfJules. As always, read labels and research what you are eating and drinking. In the end, we must all make our own decisions. I just hope I can help you make an education decision.
Join the GIG Webinar on Thursday, February 23rd at 1 pm to hear the research from their study yourself.