| It's A Health Issue
Gluten Free / Gluten Reduced
by Christina Renello
Hello Bob -
While I love beer my problem is I'm glucose intolerant. My issue is
with beers that to many blur the line ”glucose reduced" and "glucose
free". Let me put it this way. If someone with a peanut allergy
walked into a restaurant and told the chef she/he couldn’t have
peanut oil, you wouldn’t hear the chef tell her/him that it’s peanut-
reduced and it’s totally safe because it’s only a small percentage.
The same concept applies to gluten-free. Either beers are, or aren’t
gluten-free. There is no in-between.
The emergence of gluten-free and gluten-reduced products may
appear to be two similar additions to the beer market, specifically for
those with gluten-intolerances, gluten allergies and even those with
Celiac disease and Ulcerative Colitis.. But for some who may be ill-
informed, there is still a potentially detrimental health risk of gluten-
reduced beers. And that's why I hope you use my article since this
need to be cleared up.
Gluten-Free (GF) and Gluten-Reduced (GR) are not the same.They
don’t even belong in the same conversation, let alone draft line or
store shelf, and to confuse the two is jeopardizing the health of folks
that need gluten-free products. Gluten-reduced beer is not gluten-
free, plain and simple.
GF beers are brewed using naturally gluten-free malted grains such
as corn, quinoa, buckwheat, and sorghum, to name a few. GR beers
contain barley, wheat, spelt, rye, and other gluten-containing
ingredients. GR beers are brewed with an enzyme that breaks the
gluten down to under 20 parts per million [or proprietary filtration
methods to achieve the same results]. Research on whether or not
gluten-reduced beers are safe to consume for Celiacs and gluten-
intolerant patients remain inconclusive. To me inconclusive means
don't take a chance.
The hardest part in all of this, is based on FDA standards, any
product containing under 20PPM of gluten may be called gluten-
free. The TTB and Brewer’s Association both make the distinction
between labeling beer GF versus GR clear, but this can still come
with confusion towards retailers, wholesalers and consumers. If you
were to find a section of ‘Gluten-Free’ beer at your local alcohol
retailer, you will see a mix of both GF and GR beer. Because of this,
many ill-informed people who need to avoid gluten for health
reasons, will not see the difference, and will consume GR products.
In some cases, these same consumers will still have symptoms.
GR beers tiptoe a dangerous line for those who consume them due
to any health-based reason. For those considering GR as a healthy
alternative to traditional brews, this is a myth, as GR beers will still
contain the same calories and alcohol and other, what may be
considered, ‘negative’ health effects. These beers will simply have a
low traceable count of gluten- only one component of a complex
Beers that use traditional gluten-containing grains are often treated
with enzymes that aim to degrade or remove gluten, or are
processed via filtration or similar techniques. The beer
manufacturers then test these with the only available technology,
which is an antibody-based technique. Unfortunately, the current
tests are not able to detect all forms of gluten, especially when it has
been hydrolyzed (cut up) as occurs naturally during brewing and
further results from the use of these enzymes. The gluten proteins
may also be modified during brewing or by treatment. As such these
gluten fragments become invisible to the test, but not to the body.
Some people might tolerate these, but others will not and is trouble.
This is about peoples’ health and brewers should appreciate that
lives that are at stake when making gluten-free beer. I know that a
lot of people, including some brewers, still laugh at the “gluten-free
segment,” and even the diagnosis, but the fact of the matter is that it
is a disease and people do get very sick.
Thanks for letting me write about this important issue. I hope more
and more people become aware of just how important this is to many
Thanks Christina for your article. You have brought an important health
concern to the attention of our many readers. I'm glad we could publish
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about anything
related to beer in any way just as Christina did. I select the best and
publish them here. So join in and get writing!
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