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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Is Gluten-free Vodka a Gimmick?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: Karola Riegler Photography

    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.'

    Blue 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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    There seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there as to whether distilled spirits are truly gluten free. I appreciate a label that tells me one way or another. I would also like to try the flavored vodkas and if they are labeled gluten-free then it saves me a lot of research. Usually I just skip buying any flavored vodka because the research is too much of a headache.

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    I have celiac and must avoid all gluten. I have had severe allergic reactions to plain vodka that is distilled from corn. So I will pass on drinking vodka distilled from wheat, too. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. It is my common sense approach.

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    There seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there as to whether distilled spirits are truly gluten free. I appreciate a label that tells me one way or another. I would also like to try the flavored vodkas and if they are labeled gluten-free then it saves me a lot of research. Usually I just skip buying any flavored vodka because the research is too much of a headache.

    That's sure not what my stomach tells me but I really wish it was true!

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    There seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there as to whether distilled spirits are truly gluten free. I appreciate a label that tells me one way or another. I would also like to try the flavored vodkas and if they are labeled gluten-free then it saves me a lot of research. Usually I just skip buying any flavored vodka because the research is too much of a headache.

    That's not what my stomach says though I wish it were true.

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    Mind over matter can be a powerful thing. Distilled spirits are gluten free. Yet some convince themselves they are not. So, of course if you believe something, you should avoid it. Just don't pass on misinformation.

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    You didn't read the entire article posted on Scientific American before posting this article "sourced" from said resource.

     

    The only time "ideal distillation" happens is in a laboratory.

     

    Many suffering from celiac disease or GS cannot have any gluten protein period. Vodka still tests out at 5-7 PPM after distillation.

     

    The proof for me is the effect it has on me, which is the only science I need to know.

     

    You would think that a site dedicated to celiac disease would have the due diligence to at least read the entire article, which quite frankly ends as quite inconclusive despite the glamorous headline and random quote from a laboratory scientist.

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    You didn't read the entire article posted on Scientific American before posting this article "sourced" from said resource.

     

    The only time "ideal distillation" happens is in a laboratory.

     

    Many suffering from celiac disease or GS cannot have any gluten protein period. Vodka still tests out at 5-7 PPM after distillation.

     

    The proof for me is the effect it has on me, which is the only science I need to know.

     

    You would think that a site dedicated to celiac disease would have the due diligence to at least read the entire article, which quite frankly ends as quite inconclusive despite the glamorous headline and random quote from a laboratory scientist.

    5-7 ppm is gluten-free, and such low levels have not been shown to harm celiacs. Your statement "Vodka still tests out at 5-7 PPM after distillation" is incorrect, as I've spoken to many commercial testing labs who have never detected any gluten in vodka. Last, many vodkas, including Smirnoff, is naturally gluten-free because it is made from corn.

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    I don't know what's funnier, the fact that I've worked for years in organic and non-go grocery and know for a fact that 99% of ALL brewing/distilling styles leave alcohol gluten-free naturally, or the people with such a so called debilitating digestion disorder still choose to somehow stick poison ethyl alcohol in their bodies. Got news for you guys, many companies have already admitted they do this to raise their sales in the demographic of people who choose to shop "organic."

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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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