Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. He has covered Health News for http://Examiner.com, and provided health and medical content for http://Sharecare.com. His work has appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate, among others.
Are vodkas and other distilled spirits labeled as 'gluten-free' just using the term as a marketing gimmick?
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.