IMPORTANT UPDATE October 2014: Mike’s has new labeling that calls itself a gluten-removed product and no longer makes the gluten-free claim as stated in this post. Click here to learn about it’s “crafted to remove gluten” seal. Read TSC update from October 16, 2014 here.
IMPORTANT UPDATE June 2011: Since doing this post in late April (with the detailed response from the company quoted below), the company is now stating as of June 2011 that only the Mike’s Lite and Cranberry Lite are now gluten free.
Okay, I always knew that beer would be off the table when my daughter turned drinking age (well except for a few gluten free beers) and wine was okay…..But what else would she be able to have? I’m not trying to drive her to drink or anything, but I think we all can admit one of the first things we thought of with a celiac diagnosis is “no more beer”.
Well, Mike’s Hard Lemonade gave me the shock of my life this week when I saw on their website the claim that the malt beverage is gluten free.
Mike’s Hard Lemonade Gluten Free Claim
How is that possible? I never thought that was celiac safe — it says “malt” right on the label. Here is what their website states:
Mike’s Hard Lemonade Co. products available in the US are made with a premium malt base (fermented barley and hops like traditional beer) that is then further processed using a highly specialized, multi-stage filtration process. Highly sensitive tests from an independent lab analysis indicate that mike’s® products do not contain any traces of gluten protein (including hordein).
Again, it even uses the word barley, why would anyone who’s gluten free drink this? But yet again I wondered how they could make this claim– which is pretty bold if it’s not true. I was so intrigued I had to ask The Savvy Celiac Fans on Facebook. It was a good conversation. Most everyone was hesitant to try it or adamant they wouldn’t try it. But some were definitely curious.
One person said, “Haven’t tried it yet, but I used to LOVE Smirnoff Ice prior to diagnosis (a little over 3 years ago). I thought Smirnoff Ice tasted better than Mike’s, but… if I KNEW it was gluten free I’d give it a try :-)”. Another person mentioned, “I stay away from any Malt as well, but it kinda makes sense. I may give it a try someday. But most likely not.”
And finally another person raised this good point, “I can’t get past the malt, either. I’m sorry, but I find it difficult to believe that anything that says “malt beverage” is GF. This is just one more reason why we need the FDA to get on the ball with GF labeling laws!!!!”
Mike’s Gluten Free Detailed Response
So I set out to ask Mike’s about their claim and the kind of testing they did. I just got a response back. Here it is in its entirety:
“Mike’s hard lemonade products available in the United States are lemon malt based beverages (fermented barley beer malt) yet highly sensitive tests indicate that mike’s products do not contain any traces of gluten. As you can imagine, it’s pretty exciting and unique to be able to remove gluten as we have so we cannot elaborate on our filtration process.
Our products were sent to the Food Allergy Research Program at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln to be analyzed using the R5 ELISA test which is currently the industry recognized test for gluten. To be considered gluten free, products must test below 20 ppm (parts per million). In this test one ppm is equal to one milligram of gluten per kilogram of sample. The lowest the R5 ELISA test can quantify is 5 ppm. Our mike’s hard lemonade products tested below the limit of quantification, meaning less than 5 ppm, less than the 20 ppm needed to quality as gluten free.
Because the R5 ELISA tests cannot quantify below 5 ppm, nor can we completely guarantee the absence of gluten from other beverages produced in the same bottling facilities, please consult with your doctor if you are extremely sensitive so the best decision can be made for you in the very slight chance that there would be unquantifiable traces of gluten in the product.”
IMPORTANT UPDATE October 2014: Mike’s has new labeling that calls itself a gluten-removed product and no longer makes the gluten-free claim as stated in this post. Click here to learn about it’s “crafted to remove gluten” seal
IMPORTANT UPDATE June 2011: Since doing this post in late April (with the detailed response from the company quoted directly above), the company is now stating as of June 2011 that only the Mike’s Lite and Cranberry Lite are now gluten free. See info on the Mike’s Web Page Now.
Of course the labeling law is an issue, how can they make this claim if there’s no standard set in the US for what gluten free is. That whole labeling law issue will be taken up at the Gluten Free Labeling Summit on Wednesday in Washington. Editor note: As of August 2014, companies had to begin complying with FDA’s gluten-free labeling rule.
What do you think??