Gluten-free Beer vs Gluten-removed Beer
Safe Grains vs Barley
New Planet vs Omission
Health vs Profit
There was a very, very interesting article recently on the current state of gluten-free beer. And more specifically, on Omission beer’s fight with the FDA to be able to label itself “Gluten Free”. You can read the article here.
Here’s a quick recap on Omission Beer. Instead of using gluten-free grains to brew their beer, they use barley, a big celiac no-no, and then remove the gluten using a proprietary technique so it falls below the 20ppm threshold. Their method produces a more traditional tasting beer. But scientists say it leaves tiny gluten fragments behind and that it may not be safe for those with celiac disease. And recent tests done in Canada on other “gluten-removed” beer found gluten in these beers too.
Because Omission is made with gluten, they cannot label it gluten-free in the United States. It also must carry a warning that no tests exist to verify gluten in beer, at least until the FDA rules on the issue. The bureau ruled last May that affixing a “gluten-free” label to a product made with barley, rye, wheat or crossbreeds would be “inherently misleading.”
(Ironically, they can label it gluten-free in Denmark, Canada and within Oregon, where the beer is brewed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…our labeling laws just suck.)
What is Omission beer’s response to all of this? They say, and I quote, “There’s no denial that we’re going to find pieces of protein [gluten] in the beer. Those don’t go away. But those pieces are small. That’s our view on it.”
When I blogged about Omission Beer in January, it quickly became a hot topic of discussion, generating over 150 comments. The verdict seems that most celiacs who take their health seriously will not risk it. And many of the ones who did came to regret it.
Now Craft Brew Alliance, who brews Omission Beer, is lobbying Congress to push the FDA to allow them to label their beer gluten free. Here’s a blurb from the article which states it quite eloquently:
Craft Brew’s full-court press leaves federal regulators balancing the health of a small number of consumers against the moneymaking interests of a politically connected business. In this case, the health of 3 million people with celiac hang in the balance with the nation’s ninth-largest brewer fighting to maintain $160 million in annual sales in an increasingly competitive beer market.
Now of course, Congress has gotten itself involved. Oh joy. Note dripping sarcasm.
Five congressmen, naturally all from the Northwest where Craft Brew Alliance is located, sent the FDA a letter saying they were being “unnecessarily rigid”.
That’s right folks…keeping celiacs safe is unnecessarily rigid. How dare the FDA worry about our health when there are profits to be made.
Here is what I want: transparency and honesty. I know, when it comes to big business and the government, I’m kidding myself.
The fact is I’ve heard from many of my fellow celiacs who have tried Omission or Daura. Almost all of them say “never again.”
There is enough evidence that these gluten-removed beers pose a risk to those who cannot tolerate gluten. So there is no way in hell they should be able to label themselves gluten-free.
Here is what I say to these brewers: If you want to make a gluten-free beer, then make a damn GLUTEN FREE beer. Rise to the challenge. Be creative. Don’t try to change the laws at my community’s expense so you can make more money.
Other companies are managing to make truly gluten-free beers that taste just fine. There is a microbrewery called Harvester Brewing that makes the most amazing gluten-free beer. They make an IPA, a pale, a dark and an experimental ale. And they make their beers in a dedicated gluten-free facility, more than I can say for the folks at Omission.
While Omission beer is willing to accept that their beer is making some celiacs sick, James Neumeister, the owner of Harvester Brewing, says that if he heard that gluten-intolerant drinkers were having unpleasant reactions to his beer, “I’d have to be committed. I’d be a nervous wreck.”
How about that? A company with a conscience.
That’s who I want making my beer.
What about you?