Good news: the FDA finally told US consumers what gluten-free means. Bad news: it’s 2013 and thousands of Americans have gluten allergies, so shouldn’t this have been figured out by now? Regardless, the final, super-official threshold is 20 parts per million of gluten, as of Friday afternoon. A formal definition of what’s gluten free and what’s just gluten lite obviously has far-reaching effects across the food and dining industry, but it’s particularly relevant to Portland-based Omission Brewery.
Instead of using naturally gluten-free grains like buckwheat (for the uninitiated: gluten is a protein that naturally occurs in wheat, barley, and rye), Omission “uses a scientific process to reduce gluten content down to levels safe enough even for those with mild gluten allergies.” Under previous FDA regulations, Omission wasn’t allowed to bill itself as “gluten-free,” merely “processed,” “treated,” or “crafted” to remove gluten. Now they’re officially as gluten-free as any product that’s literally made from wheat can be.
The problem, Food Republic points out, is that 20 ppm of gluten is 20 ppm more than some severely allergic beer drinkers can tolerate, meaning the FDA’s new definition of gluten-free could lead to misleading or even dangerous packaging. Luckily, there are plenty of 100% gluten-free brews out there, including Harvester Brewing and New Planet Beer. And Omission’s founders have a built-in incentive to stay allergy sensitive: the CEO, Terry Michaelson, has Celiac disease himself. Kudos to the FDA for getting its act together, and Omission for the gluten-free stamp of approval.