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Good News For Celiacs: Barley-Based Beer Gets Association’s OK

The Celiac Sprue Association says two offerings by Omission Beer—craft brews made utilizing an innovative gluten removal process—are safe for those who have the disease to drink, even though they can't legally be labeled “gluten-free.”

The Celiac Sprue Association says two offerings by Omission Beer—craft brews made utilizing an innovative gluten-removal process—are safe for those who have the disease to drink, even though they can’t legally be labeled “gluten free.”

The largest celiac disease association in the country just gave an innovative new brew the thumbs up.

The mission of the Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) is to help those who suffer from the disease, an autoimmune disorder induced by the consumption of gluten-based products, such as wheat or barley. It’s done that for the beer lovers among them, who now can count a pair of new craft brews as CSA’s first approved that are made from traditional ingredients, such as barley and hops. More details:

About the beer: Omission Beer’s lager and pale ale, offered by the Portland, Oregon-based Craft Brew Alliance, take a different approach to getting rid of gluten than other beers on the market that are made from grains other than barley and hops. Instead, the beer is created using traditional ingredients—but during the process, the gluten is removed from the product, which is tested before it’s sold. While the beer cannot legally be called “gluten free” due to federal regulations, the manufacturer releases reports analyzing the gluten levels in the beers it produces, and they often fall below the Food and Drug Administration’s gluten-free standard of 20 parts per million. The beer is something of a pet project for Craft Brew Alliance CEO Terry Michaelson, who has  celiac disease.

Regulatory challenges: While many beers are marketed as gluten-free beverages, they generally are produced using sorghum, rice, buckwheat, or millet in place of the barley, the CSA notes. These beers, including Budweiser’s Redbridge Beer and Lakefront Brewery’s New Grist, are regulated by the FDA. On the other hand, “malted beverages” derived from barley and hops (such as Omission’s beers) are regulated by another agency, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Though malted beverages might have very low levels of gluten, TTB does not allow them to be labeled as “gluten free,” based on a 2012 decision [PDF].

Where the association comes in: In the case of Omission, CSA is offering up its own seal of approval, generally used for other kinds of foods, up for the beer. CSA’s seal, awarded based on heavy testing to meet standards considered among the toughest out there, is already on 1,100 products. But Omission’s two beers are the first traditionally produced beverages to meet its criteria for gluten levels, ingredient sourcing, training process, packaging, and sanitation. “We take very seriously our mission of ‘celiacs helping celiacs.’ Omission Beer clearly meets our strict standards as a risk-free choice for celiacs,” said the CSA’s executive director, Mary Schluckebier, in a statement. “As innovative manufacturing processes and gluten-detection methods emerge, the variety of food and beverage choices for celiacs and other gluten sensitive consumers is expanding. Omission Beer is an important—and delicious—example.”

Beyond brews, the CSA also runs a gluten-free resource directory that informs the public of food options that are safe for those who are gluten-sensitive.

(photo via Omission Beer's Facebook page)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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