‘Gluten-Free’ and ‘Crafted To Remove Gluten’ – what’s the difference?!
If you work in the international gluten-free industry, then the chances are you have come across the term ‘Crafted To Remove Gluten’, in relation to beer.
It is a difference that has an interesting story and was very confusing to us as producers of an award winning European gluten-free beer.
For the sake of simplicity we will compare the UK and US.
Brewing can be naturally gluten-free or via gluten removal:
The first step to understanding this difference contrast is to know the different ways of producing a beer that those with a gluten intolerance or allergy may be able to enjoy.
The initial option is to brew a beer with ‘non gluten containing ingredients’ (NGCI) such as sorghum or rice, rather than the traditional barley malt (which contains gluten). The other key beer ingredients – hops and water are NCGI so no issues there.
In our case with CELIA lager this choice of ingredients is simply not an option as our traditional batch brewing of pilsners adheres to the ‘Reinheitsgebot’ collection of rules which are primarily based on a 1516 Bavarian law that the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops.
Since substituting barley as one of the ingredients is not a choice, the only other option is to remove the gluten during production. This is where the phrase ‘Crafted To Remove Gluten’ originates. One method is to use an off the shelf product called Clarex. For a premium, craft organic lager like CELIA this was deemed not to be suitable for our 10 week traditional batch brewing and therefore a more tailored solution was required which led us to develop our own patented enzymatic process.
The technical part:
Once the gluten has been removed, each beer batch has to be tested by an independent third party for its gluten content. This is typically done with the R5 competitive ELISA test.
The gluten content is measured in parts per million (ppm) and EU regulations state that products with a gluten content of <20 ppm can be classified as gluten-free. CELIA is consistently <5ppm.
The US FDA, however takes a different view to the EU and deems that for fermented products (i.e. beer) there are no currently available validated methods that can be used to accurately determine if these foods contain < 20 ppm gluten. This is of course a different scientific and technical viewpoint to the EU authorities.
This means that a product such as CELIA that removes the gluten must be labeled under US rules as ‘Crafted To Remove Gluten’.
So there we have it – a modern day scientific disagreement that has implications for manufacturers and consumers. Below is an illustrative example of what this difference means for product labeling: