In Beverages, Food allergens

For anyone who suffers from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, beer has long been off-limits. Fortunately, this has changed in recent years and celiacs now have access to an increasingly broad range of gluten-free beer that tastes just as good as normal beer. However, manufacture is very complex. We have compiled the biggest challenges for breweries – and how to overcome them.

1.       Choose gluten-free ingredients or remove gluten

Basically, you have two options to brew a gluten-free beer. One option is to use gluten-free cereals for brewing, such as rice, corn, sorghum, buckwheat or quinoa. The second option is to use conventional cereals and remove the gluten peptides through technological processes – usually using enzymes which break down the gluten and render it harmless. However, this method is not uncontroversial. While some say the taste is far superior to naturally gluten-free beer, others warn that the gluten might not be completely removed.

2.       Know your laws and limit values

If a beer is gluten-free in the UK, it does not mean that it is gluten-free in Australia, too. Brewers who want to market their products internationally must know the local laws. If you want to label a product as “gluten-free” in the EU, it must not exceed the limit value of 20 ppm. This limit value also applies to the USA, with one restriction: Gluten-removed beers must not be labeled as “gluten-free” even if the gluten content is below the limit value. Such beers are only allowed to be labeled with „processed/treated/crafted to remove gluten” in the USA (see TTB regulation 2014-02). Legislation in Australia is even more restrictive: Here, foods labeled as “gluten-free” must not contain any detectable gluten by the most sensitive universally accepted test method. Foods containing less than 200 ppm may be labeled as „low gluten“. In Canada, „gluten-free” means that a product does not contain wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, barley or triticale (see FDR regulation B.24.018).

3.       Test for gluten

Testing beer for gluten content is a challenge for many breweries. The worldwide accepted and officially recommended test method for gluten in food is a sandwich ELISA based on the R5 antibody. However, there is a problem when testing beer: Fermentation breaks down gluten to peptide fragments. Since at least two epitopes are necessary for a sandwich ELISA, these single peptide sequences cannot be reliably detected, potentially resulting in false negatives. A competitive ELISA such as RIDASCREEN® Gliadin competitive solves this problem; this test is also the “AOAC Official Method” for fermented foods.

4.       Prevent cross-contamination

When producing gluten-free and gluten-containing beer in the same brewery, there is a risk of cross-contamination. This is why gluten-free beers should ideally be brewed in a dedicated facility. Gluten-free and gluten-containing ingredients should also be separated during storage and transport. Regular and thorough cleaning of all equipment is obligatory.

Questions?

Would you like to learn more about our testing solutions for breweries? Our beverage analysis experts will be happy to support you!

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