New "gluten-removed" seal for Mike's products

New “gluten-removed” seal for Mike’s products

My most popular post of all time is one that asks the question “What?  Mike’s Hard Lemonade is Gluten Free?” When I first posted it in 2011, the company made gluten-free claims on their website.  

As the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rules emerged, Mike’s gluten-free terminology changed a bit. And I have tried to keep my post updated with their changes.

Now I think it is time for a new post. One main takeaway from today’s post is: technically, Mike’s Hard Lemonade cannot label itself as gluten-free.

This week, Mike’s Hard Lemonade announced it’s “crafted to remove gluten” seal got approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, aka: TTB (the federal agency that oversees labeling of spirits and beer made from malted barley/hops).  Mike’s is made from barley, but uses a process to “remove the gluten” and according to the TTB and the Food and Drug Administration, it cannot be labeled gluten free. 

As of last February, Tom Hogue, Director of Public Affairs for the TTB said “there is no test that will tell you what the quantity of gluten is in a fermented product.”  Hogue explained until a reliable test is created, there is no way to tell if the gluten-removal process really removes gluten to the point of safety which would be less than 20 ppm of gluten.  The FDA, in the meantime, is working on a ruling about fermented products and gluten-free labeling.

Is this kind of advertising okay for gluten-removed beer?

Is this kind of advertising okay for gluten-removed beer?

The subject is complicated.  In some cases, restaurants and liquor stores continue to put these gluten removed products under a gluten-free umbrella on menus or on store shelves (it happens at my neighborhood liquor store- photo of Omission beer another gluten-removed product– pictured right). The TTB told me it has no control over the point-of-sale marketing of a product.  So it is up to the consumer to be educated and make wise decisions based on their health needs.

A registered dietitian said in the news release: “The addition of the ‘Crafted to Remove Gluten’ seal on Mike’s packaging allows consumers to better identify beverages they may be able to enjoy based on the spectrum of their dietary needs.”  

In my opinion, if you have a gluten-related disorder, being educated on gluten-free versus gluten removed products is crucial to making a good decision for your health.

For more information on this topic, check out my interview with the TTB in this article.

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7 Responses to “Mike’s Hard Lemonade’s Gluten Removed Label”

  1. I’m not sure your claim that “There is no test to check fermented products for gluten” is true…

  2. Thank you Mike for your comment. Based on your comment, I just connected again with Tom Hogue from the TTB, he says at this time everything is the same as last February. The TTB has not been made aware of a scientifically validated test for gluten in fermented products. The FDA continues to work on their guidance with regards to fermented products and gluten. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for your response, Amy. I’m a little confused… are you saying the TTB doesn’t consider gluten tests like ELISA to be scientifically valid for fermented products or are you saying the TTB hasn’t seen these tests?

  4. It is a complex subject to be sure, and the TTB and FDA know about the ELISA test. But it is not a good method at detecting gluten in fermented and hydrolyzed products. My friend Tricia Thompson over at Gluten-Free Watchdog did this special report on the subject, which may help answer your questions.

  5. Thanks for the link. I think your statement that the ELISA test “is not good” isn’t accurate. I think the PC statement would be that it “might not be conclusive” in detecting all gluten in fermented beverages.

    You can argue back and forth whether the remains of broken down gluten in beer can or can’t be tested conclusively by ELISA, but I’m inclined to take a “proof is in the pudding” stance. The fact that everyone I’ve spoken to who has used Brewer’s Clarex in brewing beer to remove gluten said that the gluten intolerant people who drank the beer have absolutely no symptoms is most valuable to me.

  6. Thank you Mike!

  7. Hey Amy,

    One last comment. I asked the biochemist who studies enzymes who wrote that three part article I posted above how he would respond to people questioning the validity of ELISA tests on fermented beverages. Here is his response for posterity:

    I’m confident that the ELISA accurately measures the gluten (gliadin, horedein, etc.) content including the small digested peptides present. That said all tests have their limits, so can anyone accurately say there is absolutely ZERO gluten or fragments in the finished? No, but the level is extremely low and since the enzyme clearly works it most likely breaks down everything or very close to it. The antibody used is very specific for a common epitope in toxic peptides and the test we (and others) used will detect it down to less than 2 ppm. I’m not a medical doctor, but I believe that the possible trace levels of gluten remaining would be safe for many (if not nearly all) people with celiac disease. I do encourage people to err on the side of caution, to try small samples and discuss with your physician. I do know personally several people diagnosed with celiac disease that have no symptoms after drinking beers treated with Clarity Ferm or Brewers Clarax.

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