When beer “crafted to remove gluten” is wrongly advertised as “gluten-free”: How to report to the TTBTricia Thompson
If you come across a bottled malt beverage in the US market that has been “crafted to remove gluten” (e.g., made using malted barley but treated with an enzyme) yet is represented in advertisements from the brewer as “gluten-free” please email the TTB market compliance division at Market.Compliance@ttb.gov. Photos representing the issue are useful to include.
The regulation of beer is not straightforward. What follows is a primer that hopefully makes a complicated topic easier to understand. Please read it carefully.
When we know better we do better and that goes for me too. This post will be updated as I learn more about the convoluted world of malt beverage labeling.
First some background on who regulates what
- The TTB, under the Alcohol Beverage and Labeling Act of 1986 (FAA) regulates the labeling and advertising of malt beverages.
- Malt beverages are defined as fermented beverages made using BOTH malted barley and hops.
- Brewery products that are malt beverages must comply with the labeling and advertising requirements of the TTB.
- Brewery products made with malted barley but NOT hops must comply with labeling regulations of the FDA.
- Brewery products made using a substitute for malted barley (e.g., sorghum) and hops must comply with labeling regulations of the FDA.
- For more information see https://www.ttb.gov/rulings/2008-3.pdf
What the TTB rule says about the labeling and advertising of malt beverages
- Crafted to remove gluten
- Labels and advertisements for malt beverages may include truthful and accurate statements that a malt beverage was crafted to remove gluten.
- The following qualifying statement must also appear on the label or in the advertisement as part of the above statement: “Product fermented from grains containing gluten and crafted to remove gluten. The gluten content of this product cannot be verified, and this product may contain gluten.”
- Health claims
- “Statements, symbols, vignettes, or other forms of labeling or advertising claims that expressly, or by implication, characterize the relationship of the product, or any substance within the product, to a disease or health-related condition (such as celiac disease) are prohibited unless such statements comply with the – 11 – TTB Ruling 2014–2 requirements for specific health claims as set forth in the TTB regulations.”
- Gluten content claims
- “Labels or advertisements that state or imply, without an appropriate basis or the necessary qualification, that gluten testing methodologies are scientifically valid or validated for use in fermented products or that gluten testing methodologies can accurately measure the specific level of gluten in a fermented or distilled finished product (such as “contains x ppm”) will be considered misleading pending the establishment of a scientifically valid method of measuring gluten levels in such products that appropriately measures the amount of gluten and relates the quantified amounts of fermented material to 20 ppm intact gluten.”
- For more information see https://www.ttb.gov/rulings/2014-2.pdf
- Interstate commerce: Labeling and advertising requirements under the FAA act (including prior certificate of label approval) apply to interstate commerce and to products imported into the United States.
- State requirements: The labeling and advertising requirements under the FAA Act apply to interstate commerce of a malt beverage ONLY when the state receiving the malt beverage imposes similar requirements with respect to the labeling and advertising of malt beverages sold within that state. The TTB has previously advised GFWD “Under the FAA Act, States have the authority not to require Federal approval regarding the labeling of malt beverages that are sold within that State.”
- Intrastate commerce: A certificate of label approval from the TTB is not required when a malt beverage is bottled and sold exclusively within the same state in which it is bottled.
- For more information see https://www.ttb.gov/rulings/2013-1.pdf
- Breweries brewing malt beverages on premises but not bottling beer for consumption off premises
- Labeling and advertising provisions under the FAA act apply to bottled malt beverages in interstate commerce.
Confused? Join the club. My recommendation is to contact the TTB when you come across a bottled malt beverage advertised as gluten-free when it is made using malted barley and let them sort out jurisdiction. Please do not contact the TTB when such beers are labeled or advertised as gluten-free for the EU/UK market. Different labeling rules apply.
I’m not really clear on why we don’t have one point of contact whose job it is to determine who to contact. I mean, I shouldn’t have to know the law to report something that looks suspicious to me. I”m also not a regulator, so all I can say is, “This looks suspicious, check on it for me.” It’s all I should have to say. Two weeks later, I should get a reply like “We checked and … (whatever outcome). Thank you for notifying us.” Since I live in an ABC state, I guess I would also report it to them. Or shouldn’t I?
Something as arcane as this is bound to give cover to bad actors.
But as always, thank you, Tricia, for doing this research! If this is what we have, then ok, but I hope it improves.