Celiac.com 12/19/2013 - There's a bit of controversy following an interim ruling by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) that has permitted a number of companies to advertise certain products as 'gluten-free.'

Photo: Karola Riegler PhotographyBlue Ice vodka’s American Potato Vodka became the first spirit to receive gluten-free labeling in May 2013. The 'gluten-free' label, says Thomas Gibson, the chief operating officer for 21st Century Spirits, Blue Ice’s parent company, assures American Potato Vodka consumers that it is 100-percent gluten free.

So are vodkas and other distilled spirits labeled as 'gluten-free' just using the term as a marketing gimmick?

The reality is that, unless gluten is added afterward, all pure distilled vodkas and spirits are, in fact, gluten-free, even those fermented with wheat or wheat-based ingredients.

Because of the distillation process, the resulting alcohol does not contain detectable gluten residues or gluten peptide residues, says Steve Taylor, co-director of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, and one of the country’s leading gluten testers.

Taylor calls gluten-free vodka a “silly thing. … All vodka is gluten-free unless there is some flavored vodka out there where someone adds a gluten-containing ingredient."

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics maintains that all distilled spirits are gluten-free unless gluten is added after distillation.

So, I guess the good news is that people with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity can choose vodka that is gluten-free but not labeled 'gluten-free,' or vodka that is gluten-free and which is also labeled 'gluten-free.'

Doubtless, many people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity will still choose potato and other non-wheat based vodkas. Taylor agrees, noting that many people with celiac disease are extra-cautious, but that their concerns are "not science-based" when it comes to vodka.

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