By Van Waffle

A new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) ruling released October 13 allows a gluten-free label on spirits distilled from gluten-containing grains. This ruling follows a recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule. It affects most whiskeys, for example, which are generally made from barley, rye, or wheat.

"Because distillation removes protein if good manufacturing practices are followed, the TTB will permit ‘gluten-free’ claims on spirits distilled from gluten-containing grains.”

The ruling reads, “Because distillation removes protein if good manufacturing practices are followed, and because it is possible to verify the absence of protein or protein fragments (and thus gluten) in these products using scientifically valid analytical methods, the TTB will permit ‘gluten-free’ claims on spirits distilled from gluten-containing grains as long as good manufacturing practices are followed that prevent the introduction of any gluten-containing material into the final product.”

Such products no longer need to be identified as processed to remove gluten. The newest ruling does not require changes to previously approved labels. It only permits a gluten-free claim on a wider range of alcoholic products where appropriate.

This updates a 2014 rule that disqualified any alcoholic drink made from gluten-containing grains such as wheat, rye, and barley from bearing a gluten-free label, regardless of whether the end product contained any gluten. Inherently gluten-free items, such as wine made from grapes and spirits distilled from potatoes, were allowed to make a gluten-free claim and can still do so.

There is yet no valid test to measure gluten contamination in hydrolyzed or fermented foods, such as beer made from gluten-containing grains, according to the FDA. The TTB ruling agrees. Any specific claim about gluten content or scientifically valid removal in products, such as gluten-reduced beer, is considered misleading. They may be identified as processed, treated, or crafted to remove gluten, if the statement is truthful and follows FDA requirements. However, the label must also warn that gluten content cannot be verified, and the product may contain gluten. Producers must maintain records of their methodology to be available on request for evaluation.

The TTB says it encourages the industry to develop methods for removing and analyzing gluten content in fermented foods.

“Improving the quality of life for individuals with celiac disease is the priority of the Celiac Disease Foundation and we have always understood the central importance of the FDA in that effort,” states Marilyn G. Geller, Chief Executive. “We thank our colleagues at the FDA and the TTB for clarifying the safety of distilled spirits for those who must follow a gluten-free diet and for hearing the voice of the celiac disease community.”