So I will admit, gluten free beer is not my forte. In fact any beer is not my forte. My daughter has celiac and she is 14 — plus I am not a beer drinker — so I just haven’t had to delve much into this realm..yet.
However, some big developments happened in the gluten-free world this week that readers of The Savvy Celiac should hear more about.
CSA gives Omission Beer the Organization’s Recognition Seal
Tuesday, a news release went all over the internet saying “Celiac Sprue Association [CSA] Recognizes Omission Beer as Risk-Free for Celiacs”.
How can that be? Omission beer is made with barley (an offending grain for people with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity). Omission’s website says it goes through a process to remove the gluten. It says each batch is tested “by an independent lab using the R5 Competitive ELISA to ensure the gluten levels meet our standards. Although scientific evidence supports the testing, the evidence is not conclusive. All Omission beer test results can be viewed at: www.omissiontests.com“.
So when the news came out about the CSA calling the beer “Risk Free for Celiacs” it spread FAST; both in support and against the rating. Mary Schluckebier, Executive Director of CSA, emailed me a statement Thursday, defending the recognition seal, but stepping away from the term “risk free”,
“CSA supports celiac disease management as an exercise in constant risk assessment and personal decision-making. “Risk-free” standing alone in the headline was confusing since CSA Recognition Seal designates the most risk-free choices in the marketplace. Few things in life are risk free.” – Mary Schluckebier -Executive Director CSA
She explains in the statement that the risk free assessment is not an endorsement. “The CSA does not endorse any product,” Schluckebier says. To learn more about the CSA Recognition Seal requirements, click here.
Is Omission Gluten Free?
Omission beer is a self-proclaimed gluten “removed” beer made with malted barley. According to this week’s news release it “undergoes an innovative process to remove gluten”. According to the TTB which oversees this area, Omission cannot call itself gluten-free. The company can state “Processed or treated or crafted to remove gluten” because it is made with barley.
Gluten Free Dietitian Tricia Thompson, owner of Gluten Free Watchdog, wrote about the controversy last summer in her newsletter. In the newsletter, there were concerns raised by Health Canada, Steve Taylor, PhD, who is also the Co-Director of the Food Allergen Research and Resource Program and an author of the R5 Competitive ELISA validation study. They worry about fragments or pieces of gluten left in the beer that could remain undetected by the R5 Competitive ELISA.
Thompson’s newsletter quotes a statement from “An author of the competitive R5 ELISA validation study” as saying, “In personal email correspondence I was advised that the detection of gluten fragments by the R5 anitbody is still under discussion because LC-MS [liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry] can detect fragments in beers that have been found to be gluten free by ELISA.”
This week’s news release said, “CSA also reviewed detailed results and analysis from recently conducted mass spectrometry testing which showed that the trace amounts of gluten remaining in the beer did not contain any toxic amino acid sequences. ”
I have emailed Omission Beer for a statement and have not heard back from them at this time. I will update this post if I do hear from them.
Late last night as I was turning in for the night, I checked Twitter one more time and saw a post from @glutendude on Twitter with an alarming headline from AssociationsNow.com…I got the same article in my inbox this morning.
The headline reads, “Good News for Celiacs: Barley-Based Beer Gets Association’s OK”
By purely looking at the headline alone (pictured right or linked here), I believe this could mislead gluten-free people into thinking all barley-based beer is okay.
The article itself tells the same story as the press release and has the facts from CSA and Omission as they stand today. But let’s face it many of us NEVER get beyond the headline.
Technically, the headline is not wrong. It is true that Omission Beer which has barley in it got the recognition seal from the CSA. BUT — if you don’t read past the headline, it could very easily lead to misinformation being spread around.
Bottom line is: barley is still an offending grain for people with celiac and gluten sensitivity. The “OK” from the CSA for Omission doesn’t change that. Whether it is Omission or the next beer down the line that makes the same claim, a person who is on a strict gluten free diet should question it, learn as much as they can about it and then make an informed decision before consuming it.