FDA Rules Food Distilled from Gluten-containing Ingredients May Bear ‘Gluten-Free’ Label; TTB Yet to Update Own Policy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week ruled that all distilled foods, even those that include gluten-based ingredients, are gluten-free, allowing them to be labeled as such. The spirits industry is now calling on the TTB to update its policy to align with the FDA ruling.

FDA’s final rule acknowledges that ‘distillation is considered a process to remove gluten and it is unlikely that residual gluten may be present in the final distilled products’ and that ‘distilled product labeling may bear a ‘gluten-free’ claim and should be safe for people with celiac disease to consume.’

Currently TTB permits the use of ‘gluten-free’ statements only on labels of products made from ingredients that do not contain gluten, such as grapes or potatoes. TTB also allows products made from gluten-containing grains that have been processed to remove some or all of the gluten to acknowledge that the product was “[Processed or Treated or Crafted] to remove gluten.” These statements, however, require producers to provide a detailed description of the method used to remove gluten from the product and include further qualifications on their brand labels or advertisements that noted that the gluten content cannot be verified.  

In order for spirits producers to include “gluten-free” on their labels for products distilled from gluten-containing bases, TTB would have to update its 2014 Revised Interim Policy on Gluten Content Statements in the Labeling of Wine, Distilled Spirits and Malt Beverages.

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