Gluten Free - Not so Fast for Alcohol

Gluten Free - Not so Fast for Alcohol

FDA says "Gluten Free food is >20PPM" 

This summer the FDA issued a final rule for labeling food as gluten free.  The finding established a voluntary food labeling standard for foods containing less than 20 part per million of the gluten antigen.  The FDA position however does not apply to beverage alcohol products.  For beer, wine and spirits FDA defers to the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Administration....TTB.  

Let's look at the FDA action a bit closer......the rule excludes alcohol products whose labeling is regulated by the TTB (distilled spirits, sake and wines that contain 7% or more alcohol by volume, and malt beverages that are made with both malted barley and hops). FDA notes in the final rule a commitment to work with TTB to harmonize labeling issues.
§ Conversations with TTB management indicate that TTB will not be following the FDA guideline at this time. They pointed out that the FDA ruling gave voluntary authority to label and that FDA does not require prior approval. The prior approval requirement for beverage alcohol places a higher standard on TTB.  When issuing an approval for a label TTB is asserting that none of the information on the label is false or misleading.  The inclusion of the term "Gluten Free" implies that there is a reliable test to make that statement.  The current test for the presence of the gluten antigens remains in question. 
§ TTB is likely to state that they are holding with their 2012 ruling on gluten free (http://www.ttb.gov/rulings/2012-2.pdf ) due to the fact that there has been no change in the validity of the test available to make a reliable determination of the gluten content.
§ TTB may in light of the FDA final rule evaluate label statements that educate consumers on the level of gluten in a product consistent with their position on false or misleading claims in general and health claims specifically.

 

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