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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Distillery Under Fire for Labeling Vodka and Gin as "Gluten-free"

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo shows Japan's Yamazaki distillery. Photo: CC--Toukou Sousui

    Celiac.com 06/18/2015 - An Irish distillery has run afoul of regulatory authorities over labels that tout its gin and vodka as "gluten-free." The artisanal, Cork-based, St Patrick's Distillery claims it is a common misconception that all gin and vodkas were gluten-free.

    The company claims that, since its products are made with gluten-free ingredients, its labels are accurately distinguishing its vodka and gin from other products made with wheat. However, after numerous complaints, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland plans to follow up on the distillery's claims.

    The FSAI points out that all distilled beverages are gluten-free, calls the claims misleading, and says the company could be in breach of strict Irish food-labeling laws.

    A spokesperson for th FSAI said: "Under the Food Information for Consumers Regulation, the food information must not mislead the consumer by suggesting that the food possess special characteristics when, in fact, all similar foods (in this case, vodka and gin) possess such characteristics."

    Niamh O'Connor, who runs Cork Nutrition, said she that she was incredulous about the company's claims.

    "It is an absolute indisputable fact that distilled spirits are gluten-free, even if gluten-containing grains are used as a raw ingredient," said O'Conner. "Therefore…all gin and vodka products are gluten-free so one cannot label their own product as "gluten-free."

    Ireland's Coeliac Society, which supports people with the food intolerance, described the claims from St Patrick's Distillery as "unhelpful".

    "Wine, spirits, and cider are gluten free," said the society's Gráinne Denning.

    In addition to labeling their gin and vodka as "gluten-free," the company also refers to their new range of spirits as being lactose free. Of course, all distilled spirits are naturally dairy free and lactose free.

    What do you think? Are such labels helpful, or misleading?

    Share your thoughts below.

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    In this environment of cross-contamination and blurring boundaries between food categories, there should be no obstacle for any food producer that is sure that his food is gluten free, to label it as such.

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    Oops. I meant to say a PhD chemist, not physicist, in my above comment. Here is the link to explain why ALL alcohol made from glutenous grains contains gluten:

    This view does not represent the scientific consensus, or the view of most celiac support organizations. It is nearly universally proven and accepted that distillation removes all traces of gluten, and that all pure distilled spirits are gluten-free, unless gluten is added after distillation.

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    Sue is absolutely correct. I had a terrible experience with one shot of a root beer flavored vodka (not from consuming too much, I should add) and researched later (since the label indicated nothing) only to find that the additive did contain gluten. Similar with other foods that should be "naturally" gluten free, all spirits are NOT created equal. If something is truly gluten free, and the manufacturer wishes to attract a consumer who cares about such things (like me and my non-celiac family members and friends who support my special needs), PLEASE feel free to label it as such!!

    You answered your own question. The culprit for you was flavoring added after the fact, NOT the pure distilled spirit, itself. Pure spirits are gluten-free. Additives and flavorings may not be. Buyer beware!

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    I would also like to have the ingredients on the all labels. Distilling has no effect, which I found out the hard way that not all vodkas are made from potatoes. I had a horrible reaction to a drink and it has taken weeks to recover from it. Label label label!

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    CAUTION! NO! Not all pure spirits are Gluten Free! See my below explanation. Labels help and so I say; PLEASE ALLOW THEM TO LABEL IT! It is so much easier!

    I would love to add a very relevant comment in here about BOURBON. someone mentioned the barley mash in whiskey being added back in earlier - this is TRUE more times than not with Bourbon.

    Often made from corn or corn AND wheat / barley - bourbon is NOT necessarily gluten free. Why? Because they ADD THE SOUR MASH BACK IN for flavour! This is what makes a bourbon, well a bourbon, and not whiskey. This means, that even pure, distilled bourbon can gluten - and LOTS of it!

    Bourbon is a spirit. Just like Whiskey, vodka, gin and rum. However, because of the practice of adding the sour mash back into the distilled product before bottling bourbon is often NOT gluten free.

    This is for PURE bourbon, bourbon that has had no added "flavouring", and nothing else added. As the sour mash being added back is not considered an added flavour, but rather just a part of the process.

    I think it is VERY helpful to label products that are Gluten Free as Gluten Free! Eliminate the guess work.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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