Category Archives: Politics

FDA FINALLY Rules on Gluten Free Labeling

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 8.10.05 PM

Call it bureaucracy in action, but a mere nine years after they were told to rule, the FDA finally laid down some rules on gluten-free labeling.  Officially, 20 parts per million and under of gluten will be allowed to be labeled as “gluten-free”. Up until now, it has been entirely voluntary and left to marketers to spin as they see fit.

Via National Geographic:

The regulation comes almost a decade after the FDA began requiring food packaging to list wheat and other major allergens under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004.

“Many people think that developing a labeling rule is an easy thing to do, but a lot goes into it,” says Felicia Billingslea, the FDA’s director of food labeling and standards. Years were devoted to researching a safe threshold for consumers with celiac disease. “We have a standard definition now, and it’s consistent internationally with Canada and the E.U.”

The rules also ensure that companies can’t label products “gluten-free” if they could be cross-contaminated by other foods processed at the same facility. Manufacturers have until August 5, 2014, to comply.

Sprouted wheat, as seen by a scanning-electron microscope

Sprouted wheat, as seen by a scanning-electron microscope

Some terms on food packaging may still confuse consumers—”organic” versus “all-natural,” “cage-free” versus “free-range.” But the “gluten-free” label now stands to ease the minds of millions suffering from serious food allergies.

“My son was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008, and now I can feed him and not worry about it. It’s something every mother would hope for,” says Geller.

Gluten Free Labeling Standards Finally Arriving?

gluten free label

Since 2005, the FDA has been tasked with coming up with nationally-recognized, across-the-board food labeling standards for gluten-free foods. To say they’ve taken their time would be an understatement. Eight years later, the issue is finally heading to the White House for approval, according to The Hill, a Washington D.C. political blog.

Via the FDA:“Establishing a definition of the term ‘gluten-free’ and uniform conditions for its use in the labeling of foods is necessary to ensure that individuals with celiac disease are not misled and are provided with truthful and accurate information with respect to foods so labeled,”

The issue is considered “economically significant”, which denotes that it has an impact of over $100 million on the nationwide economy.

The White House has a limit of 90 days to consider the FDA’s recommendation.

Has the Gluten-Free Diet Run Amok?

That opinion is certainly not shared by us at GlutenFreePDX, but many in the media are growing somewhat skeptical of the craze that gluten-free foods have had on popular culture. What do you think? Voice your opinion!


Via The Daily Beast:

As celebrities at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend nibble on gluten-free granola treats, somewhere in a delicious lab Dunkin Donuts chemists continue perfecting a new gluten-free donut. It’s just another week in our increasingly gluten-intolerant world.

Food Gluten Free Bread
Gluten-free french bread satisfies a desire for the crusty bread while avoiding gluten. (Larry Crowe/AP)

But as traditional dieting becomes less trendy —and an explosion of gluten-free products land on grocery shelves—some doctors worry that a growing number of people are diagnosing themselves with a gluten allergy in order to have a socially acceptable method to lose weight. Or even worse, to mask an eating disorder.

Back to the Start

Hope your week is going well, here’s a charming (and meaningful) ad to get you movin.

Love the handmade stop-motion look, and Willy Nelson’s interpretation of Coldplay’s song!  And speaking of Chipotle, here’s a look at their gluten-free offerings.

To Be Or Not to Be Gluten Free Beer

gluten free beer
What do you guys think?

Beer’s Great Gluten War Heats Up

Is the top selling gluten-free beer gluten-free enough? Are its competitors beer?

On May 16, the three Portland breweries which make gluten-free beer—Widmer Bros., Deschutes, and Harvester—stood shoulder to shoulder as Mayor Sam Adams declared it Gluten Free Beer Day.

Such innocent times!
A new ruling is complicating things in the burgeoning gluten-free beer market. Eight days after the celebration, the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (known as the “TTB”) handed down a verdict that could push one of the three brewers off the podium.
According to the TTB, wine, beer or distilled spirits “made from ingredients that contain gluten (cannot) be labeled as ‘gluten-free.’” This could spell trouble for Widmer, which has invested significant time and money in a new gluten-free beer.
Glutens are proteins found in grains such as barley, wheat, and rye—the base for beer— that have been blamed for a variety of autoimmune disorders. Doctors have long known some people have an extreme sensitivity, called celiac disease. Lately, gads of folks have either been medically or self diagnosed as celiacs or “gluten-sensitive.” Locally, it’s a big industry. Four dedicated gluten-free bakeries have sprouted up in Portland with a full baker’s dozen offering gluten-free breads and treats.

There’s big money at stake. The market for gluten-free foods in the U.S. and Western Europe was worth around $3.5 billion in 2010, according to one food research company. And since some estimate that 95 percent of celiacs are not yet diagnosed, while gluten-free products already sell like rice flour hotcakes, it’s clear why breweries want a piece of the buckwheat-crust pie.

Only a few months ago, Widmer Bros., a division of Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), the nation’s ninth’s largest brewing company, released Omission Gluten Free Lager and Gluten Free Pale Ale. Widmer is selling the beer locally, and plans roll it out nationwide soon.
Here’s the kicker: Unlike other gluten-free beers, which are typically made from sorghum and usually taste nothing like actual beer, Omission is made from traditional ingredients, including barley. The beers are then deglutenized enzymatically. The result is a beer that tastes like beer—unlike so many competitors—yet has allegedly imperceptible levels of gluten. Not zero gluten, just almost none, not unlike caffeine in decaf coffee or alcohol in non-alcoholic beer. Widmer isn’t the first to use this process; it’s just the first to do it commercially in the U.S. Development began six years ago and researched and tested full-throttle for the last two.
Adopting guidelines set forth by organizations within the World Health Organization, the FDA has said food labeled as gluten-free cannot exceed 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten. Omission beers are at 5-6 ppm. As a point of reference, Widmer Drifter Pale Ale comes back at 50-100 ppm.
There are new gluten-free beers coming out all the time.
Deschutes’s gluten-free beer, on tap only at its brewpubs in Portland and Bend, is made from brown rice and sorghum so it’s safe for “the most sensitive celiac.”
“It is interesting from a scientific standpoint to experiment with enzymes that break down gluten proteins in the brewing process to below testable limits… but we are not 100 percent confident that these beers would be safe for the most sensitive celiac to drink,” said Deschutes brewer Veronica Vega. “We will not put out a beer that will challenge the confidence our consumers.”

Portland is also home to the nation’s first dedicated gluten-free brewery, Harvester, which opened at the end of 2011 after three years of recipe development. In a press release, Harvester seemed happy about the new ruling, touting its “long-standing decision to use only inherently gluten-free ingredients in its beer.” For Harvester, this includes sorghum syrup, certified gluten-free oats, and Willamette Valley chestnuts. All four of their bottled offerings are quite palatable even to non gluten-sensitive cerevisaphiles.

TTB’s Tom Hogue said that the FDA continues to look into issues surrounding gluten-free labeling and that the 20 ppm of gluten standard is “proposed but not final.” The TTB’s ruling affecting Omission’s gluten-free labeling only pertains to interstate commerce, so beer labeled gluten-free in Oregon could be just “handcrafted” in California, Washington, and everywhere else it will show up.

TTB operates with the “best available information,” said Hogue, and gluten-free beers pose a problem. Whereas there are accurate tests for gluten content in bread, pasta and cupcakes, “Right now, no test will validate accurate gluten content of a fermented product, considering fermentation drastically, chemically changes that product.” He says the ban on gluten-free labeling for beer brewed from deglutenized malted barley is “subject to change as the science gets better.”
Widmer is confident in its product. It had better be, since the CEO as well as the brewmaster’s wife are both diagnosed celiacs. CBA also expects the rules to evolve as the science gets better, sooner rather than later.
CEO Terry Michaelson, who became director at Widmer in 1994 and was diagnosed as a celiac six years later, said the company is working closely with the TTB, knowing it has “to operate within the regulations that they have,” but confident that they will “evolve over time.”
“I don’t see (the ruling) as a negative at all at this point,” he says. “Work is being done on the science.”
Michaelson points out that despite Omission debuting in April, according to market research group SymphonyIRI data it’s already “the top selling gluten-free beer in the market place at this point.”
Yes, it’s selling better than four-year veteran Redbridge from Budweiser.
Whether the Bureau’s labeling restriction is lifted or not, bottom line, says Michaelson: “If someone is concerned at all, they shouldn’t drink it.”

One ironic quirk of alcohol-related bureaucracy is that the TTB gets to rule that deglutenized beers cannot be labeled gluten-free, but can’t make any rulings on the labels of “beers” made with sorghum or rice because, according to law, they’re not “malt beverages.”

That means the rice and sorghum beverages are only “beer” for the purposes of taxation.

The Gluten Free Frenzy

A well-written article on the craze, the trend, and the science behind the ever-growing Gluten Free universe.

Via US News & World Report:

[Overheard at dinner parties, buffet tables, and salad bars across America]


“Keen-wah. I don’t really know what it is either, but it’s supposed to be healthy, and it’s gluten-free. Here, try it.”

“Oh, cool. My sister-in-law is gluten-free. I’m thinking maybe I should do that—you know, to help with my IBS.”

For a substance largely unheard of until recent years, gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other products—seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. And why wouldn’t it be? A gluten-free diet has been touted as a cure for everything from obesity and rashes to autism and migraines. Gluten-free products now command their own keys on menus and sections in grocery stores. Previously exotic grains that lack gluten, like quinoa and amarinth, have become more mainstream. And manufacturers are promoting their gluten-free products., a “community and e-commerce site” owned by General Mills, provides tools for gluten-free living such as recipes and products, including its own Chex cereal, now in six gluten-free versions. Just last week, Frito-Lay entered the fray, announcing it would begin putting the gluten-free label on many of its already gluten-free products, including varieties of Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos, and Lay’s.

It’s all relative, of course. Gluten-free Cheetos may be a safe bet for someone with a gluten allergy, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a dietician who would recommend that anyone opt for a packaged-food snack over a piece of fruit, regardless of his or her response to gluten. In other words, branding a product “gluten-free” does not necessarily confer on it a gold star of health. Meanwhile, as Americans hunger for ways to eat right and live well, the gluten-free frenzy has raised more questions than answers.

For starters, a gluten-free diet is recommended for people with adverse medical or clinical reactions to gluten. They include those with celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten prompts antibodies to attack the small intestine. About 1 percent of the U.S. population has this disease, says Dr. Alessio Fasano, pediatric gastroenterologist and founder and director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research. An even smaller group—between .01 and .03 percent of the population—has a wheat allergy, he says. But an estimated 6 percent of the country, or 16 to 18 million people, are considered “gluten sensitive,” a new category defined by Fasano and others in a paper published this year in the journal, BMC Medicine.

While tests can check for celiac disease and wheat allergies, there is no test yet to screen for gluten sensitivity, an inflammatory response with symptoms such as gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, joint pain, and depression. A matter of days on a gluten-free diet can help people make that determination. So if, for example, your terrible bloating and mad dashes to the bathroom after eating pizza subside on a gluten-free diet, then you may be onto something. Of course, it could also be the dairy destroying you, but that’s for another article.

If it seems like the gluten-free craze has surfaced suddenly, that’s because it has. “During the past 50 years we have witnessed an ‘epidemic’ of [celiac disease] and the surging of new gluten-related disorders, including the most recently described [gluten sensitivity],” according to the recent BMC Medicine article.

Why now? Put simply, food has evolved faster than we have. “Apparently the human organism is still largely vulnerable to the toxic effects of this protein complex, particularly due to a lack of adequate adaptation of the gastrointestinal and immunological responses,” the article states.

Today’s genetically-engineered wheat contains far more gluten than what our great-grandparents ate— in that time, the amount of gluten in wheat has climbed from 4 to 14 percent, Fasano says. Plus, it’s used everywhere, as fillers and additives in everything from sausage to ice cream, he says. “You eat more gluten than you can imagine.”

Continue Reading…

May 16 is Gluten Free Beer Day in Portland: Follow Up

Wednesday, May 16 at 9:30 a.m., Mayor Sam Adams will declare it to be Gluten-Free Beer Day in Portland, Ore., and every May 16 henceforth. In an official ceremony held at City Hall, Adams will deliver the following proclamation to supporters and brewers of gluten-free beer, including Omission Beer, Deschutes Brewery and Harvester Brewing. Following is an abbreviated proclamation:

  •          Whereas, May marks the annual Celiac Awareness Month, recognized by most celiac organizations and research centers across the country and throughout the world;
  •          Celiac disease is one of the most common chronic diseases in Western countries;
  •          According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, more than 3 million Americans have celiac disease and must monitor gluten intake, equating to 1 in 133 Americans;
  •          More than 95% of Celiacs are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions;
  •          A 100% gluten-free diet is the only existing treatment for celiac disease today as there are no pharmaceutical cures;
  •         Portland, Ore., home to nearly 50 craft breweries, where the people of Portland know and appreciate great craft beers, is leading the effort to create gluten-free beer for those affected with gluten sensitivities;
  •         The City of Portland acknowledges and applauds the efforts to declare this day in celebration of local breweries that are doing their part to bring awareness to a disease that affects many, and providing beer products specially crafted to be gluten-free for all to enjoy;
  •         Now, therefore, I, Sam Adams, Mayor of the City of Portland, Oregon, the “City of Roses,” do hereby proclaim May 16, 2012 to be Gluten-Free Beer Day in Portland, and encourage all residents to observe this day.

Via @PDXMaggie

Via @PDXMaggie


About Omission Beer

Omission Beer is a new brand of gluten-free craft beers, available only in Oregon. Brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Ore., Omission is the first craft beer brand in the United States focused exclusively on brewing great tasting craft beers with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, that are specially crafted to be gluten-free. Each batch of Omission Beer is tested using the R5 Competitive ELISA test, to ensure that every batch contains well-below the international standard for gluten-free of 20 ppm gluten. Drinking is believing.

About Deschutes Brewery

Deschutes Brewery jumped into the gluten-free brewing scene back in 2007 and always has a gluten-free beer on tap at both its Bend and Portland pubs. After brewing 48 different batches, the goal remains to brew a great beer that is gluten-free, rather than brewing a great gluten-free beer. Although a silver and a bronze medal from the Great American Beer Festival hang on the pub walls from their process, Deschutes Brewery continues to work with different styles to serve the gluten-free world.

About Harvester Brewing
Harvester Brewing is the nation’s only dedicated gluten-free craft brewery, founded in 2011 in Portland, Ore. Harvester’s northwest-style ales are handcrafted from Willamette Valley chestnuts, sorghum, certified gluten-free oats, pure cane sugar and Willamette Valley hops. Harvester’s beers are made without barley, wheat, rye, corn, or dyes. Harvester Brewing’s facility is entirely gluten-free, no gluten containing items are allowed on the premises.