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A Victory for Gluten-Free Beer

Celiac.com 09/11/2009 - When is a beer not a beer? When it's gluten-free. Until now.

Beer perpetually hovers near the top of most celiac lists of things they'd love to have if they could. Until recently, the regulation of labels for beer, wine and spirits fell to a little known government agency called the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Because their regulations relied on the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935, which defined beer as a beverage brewed from malted barley and other grains, gluten-free beers did not meet the strict definition, and could not therefore be labeled as 'gluten-free beer,' as no such standard existed.

That situation has changed, and the Food and Drug Administration is now charged with the regulation of beer labels. Because of this, gluten-free beer can now be labeled 'gluten-free beer' instead of 'sorghum beer' or 'beer made without wheat or barley', or some such silliness.

That's good news for the nation's estimated two million sufferers of celiac disease, and the many, many more who are gluten intolerant. For these folks, consuming any kind of product containing wheat, rye or barley can cause chronic diarrhea, arthritis, bone loss and a raft of other symptoms.

In people with celiac disease, the immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, which causes inflammation in their gut and interfers with the absorption of nutrients.

All traditional beers are brewed with malted barley and contain gluten. However, specialty micro brewers began making beer from malted sorghum, an African grain, and sometimes rice. Anheuser-Busch followed later with its own sorghum beer. Beers brewed with sorghum and rice are gluten free, which is great for celiacs, but was not in line with the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935, which defines beer as a beverage brewed from malted barley and other grains.

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So even though it looked, smelled and tasted like beer, the amber, foamy and distinctly beer-like beverage did not count as beer under the rules. Which is why last July 7, 2008, the FDA and TTB agreed that FDA would take over regulation.

The FDAs Guidance for Industry covers all non-barley beers. So, in a great development for all of the celiac and gluten-intolerant folks out there, these beers can now officially be labeled gluten-free once they've been tested and confirmed by FDA.

The guidelines give brewers of gluten-free beers until Jan. 1, 2012, to begin adding nutrition labels to their beverages, including a declaration of major food allergens, wheat.

Up until now, people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance could not be sure that their gluten-free beer was actually safe and gluten-free. Now FDA regulations have established a standard.

According to Elaine Monarch, executive director of the Celiac Disease Foundation, accurate labels will provide a measure of assurance for celiacs, and possibly make it easier for European gluten-free beverages to enter the market.

Gluten-free beer is a small, but steadily growing sector of the beer market, with a present market share of under 0.1%, according to Paul Gatza of the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colorado. Still, growth for some brands runs upward of 35% per year. The biggest gluten-free beer players are Anheuser-Busch, which makes Red Bridge, Lakefront Brewery's New Grist, and Bard's Tail.

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4 Responses:

 
Hallie
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said this on
14 Sep 2009 8:12:00 AM PDT
What a wonderful thing! Redbridge does taste exactly like beer to me, so why shouldn't it be called beer! Cheers!

 
Del
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said this on
21 Jun 2016 10:05:17 AM PDT
Red Bridge is good---was very glad when I found it ---- I just had the opportunity to enjoy the Bard's and it was very good also.

 
Joe
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said this on
01 Oct 2009 7:31:58 AM PDT
Will calling Redbridge & Bards beer is a good thing, what is the down side?
Question: Does gluten free "beer" have any alcohol?

 
Shar
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said this on
20 Jun 2016 8:26:20 PM PDT
NGB, for no gluten beer, from Trader Joes, is my favorite. It is made from Sorghum.




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George, i am sorry that you are not feeling well! ?? I am not a doctor, but just trying out drugs to stop your symptoms just seems like a band aid approach. It sounds like he suspects IBS which is really, in my opinion, "I be stumped". Has inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) (more lovely autoimmune disorders) been ruled out? This includes both Crohn's and Colitis. My niece was diagnosed with Crohn's finally with a pill camera after all other tests were given. The damage was not within reach of any scope. I am just throwing out suggestions. Hopefully, you and your doctor will figure it out soon!

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that happens to have a known trigger -- gluten. Flare-ups develop (antibodies) causing damage. Not just in the small intestine, but systemically. One gluten exposure can cause antibodies to increase for days or months! Antibodies are being measured during the celiac blood tests. If there is no gluten exposure, there will be no antibodies. These antibodies can come down in some people in as little as two weeks. Recommendations require gluten 2 to 4 weeks daily for the biopsies taken via endoscopy in order to be sure to catch damage, but 8 to 12 weeks for the blood tests. The endoscopy is considered the "gold standard" in helping to diagnose celiac disease, but there are other things that can damage the small intestine. So, the blood test helps solidify the diagnosis. So, if you want a good result on your endoscopy, you need to be eating gluten daily for two week prior at a minimum. I know it is tough and you are feeling sick. Wish there was a better way to catch active celiac disease.

Hi everyone, Just an update to my situation. I had thought that I might be getting better since I started adding gluten-free grain back into my diet but I was wrong. It seems that the Methscopalamine Bromide just delayed the effects, didn't stop them. I had to stop taking it because one of the side effects is to stop sweating, which I did. There were times when I felt hot and almost couldn't catch my breath. Anyway, my doc put me on Viberzi instead. I took 3 doses, 1 Tuesday evening and then 1 Wednesday morning and then again Wednesday evening. Each time I took 1, it seemed that about half an hour later I would develop severe abdominal cramping, pain in my neck, shoulders and upper back and a feeling like my insides were on fire. My face felt like it was hot and tingling. It wasn't warm to the touch but felt like it to me. Worse of all is it didn't work anyway, I still had diarrhea. I stopped taking Viberzi after reading the precautions pamphlet which said, "stop taking Viberzi and tell your doctor if you have abdominal cramping, pain which radiates to your shoulders or upper back." Go figure. Anyway, today is 3 weeks straight of diarrhea and still no diagnosis and not sure what he's going to want to do next. George

I'm still really new to all this but is it common to have trouble with sleep? I swear since my symptoms got really bad a few months ago I can't get 1 good nights sleep, like a 5 hour stretch is doing real good. Wake up at 3am wide awake almost every night. Told my doctor and they've recommended melatonin, that doesn't work. Tried chamomile and lavender tea, no help. Tried zzquil, that will knock me out but maybe for like an extra hour then I'm really drowsy the next morning from it. I don't know what to do.

I have 2 copies of DQ9. One from each parent.