TTB revises labelling rule on gluten-free spirits

15th October, 2020 by Nicola Carruthers

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has updated its policy to allow producers to label their spirits as ‘gluten-free’ if they are made from gluten-containing grains, a move said to provide “greater flexibility” for the industry.

The updated policy on labelling spirits as ‘gluten-free’ provides consumers with “additional clarity”

The move comes three months after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that distilled foods made from gluten-containing grains can be labelled as ‘gluten-free’.

As the rule applied to distilled foods, spirits could only use the gluten-free labelling if they were made from ingredients that do not contain gluten, such as grapes, corn or potatoes.

Following the FDA move, trade body the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus) urged the TTB to follow suit and incorporate the rule into its policy.

The TTB updated its rule this week (13 October) in response to the FDA’s changes. It was welcomed by Discus who said the revision provides “additional clarity for consumers”.

“We commend the bureau for their quick action in updating their ‘gluten-free’ labelling policy for distilled spirits and for appropriately and conclusively acknowledging that the distillation process removes gluten from distilled spirits products,” said Chris Swonger, Discus CEO and president.

“This move provides additional clarity for consumers and allows for more information to assist them in making informed decisions about what products meet their dietary needs. This policy update also provides greater flexibility for industry members in labelling their products.”

The TTB said it had updated its policy on gluten content statements on labels and in advertisements for distilled spirits, wine and malt beverages regulated under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act.

The revised ruling will see TTB continue to authorise the term ‘gluten-free‘ if the product would be entitled to make the labelling claim under FDA’s regulations.

TTB said it will allow spirits to be labelled ‘gluten-free’ as long as good manufacturing practices are followed that prevent any gluten-containing material from entering the final product.

Furthermore, TTB will continue to permit labels and advertisements for products fermented from gluten-containing grains to state that the product was processed to remove gluten. The TTB said compulsory documentation will be needed to prove the claim.

Gluten-free marketing has been an issue of contention in the spirits world as the distillation process removes gluten from the final product. Health professionals and charities, such as Coeliac UK, advise spirits can be consumed as part of a gluten-free diet.

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