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.
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.