The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that distilled foods made from gluten-containing grains can be labelled as ‘gluten-free’, a move welcomed by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
- Owen Bellwood, thespiritsbusiness.com 1
The FDA ruling covers fermented foods, or foods that contain fermented ingredients, which are made using gluten-containing grains such as rye, barley and wheat.
According to the ruling, which will come into effect on 14 September, “distillation is considered a process to remove gluten and it is unlikely that residual gluten may be present in the final distilled products”.
From the FDA: “Can foods made from distilled ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains be labeled as “gluten-free”? 2
- Yes. Because proper distillation is capable of removing all proteins, including gluten, it would be considered a process to remove gluten. Thus, an ingredient that is derived from a gluten containing grain that has been properly distilled would be allowed to be used in a food bearing the “gluten-free” claim because the ingredient would meet the requirements of 21 CFR 101.91.
- The 2020 final rule clarifies that, in most cases, it is unlikely that gluten will be present in a distilled ingredient because distillation is a purification process that separates volatile components like alcohol and flavors from nonvolatile materials like proteins and sugars. However, this would depend on the adequacy of the distillation process (e.g., transfer of gluten into the distillate may occur under poor manufacturing practices). Protein testing using scientifically valid methods to measure the protein content can be done to confirm that no detectable protein is present and thus no gluten in distilled ingredients.
As such, producers will be able to label their products as gluten-free without providing detailed descriptions of how they removed the gluten.
Discus president and CEO Chris Swonger said:
- “We commend FDA for this consumer-friendly ruling that will allow ‘gluten-free’ labelling claims to be included on distilled foods made from gluten-containing grains, and urge TTB to act swiftly to align policies allowing the same for distilled spirits products.
- Allowing distillers to include a ‘gluten-free’ statement on products made from gluten-containing grains will provide additional clarity for consumers to make informed choices about which products meet their dietary needs.”
As the new rule applies to distilled foods, spirits can still only use the gluten-free labelling if they were made from ingredients that do not contain gluten, such as grapes, corn or potatoes.
The TTB also allows spirits that have been further processed to remove some or all of the gluten to list themselves as gluten-free.
As a result, Discus is urging the TTB to implement a similar ruling to allow distillers to label distilled spirits made from gluten-containing grains as ‘gluten-free’.
Gluten-free marketing has long been an issue of contention in the spirits world as the distillation process removes gluten from the final product. Health professionals and charities, such as Coeliac UK, advise spirits can be included in a gluten-free diet.
- 1 https://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2020/08/fda-ruling-allows-gluten-free-labelling-on-spirits/
- 2 https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/questions-and-answers-gluten-free-food-labeling-final-rule