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Gluten-free beer made from barley - would you drink it?

Posted Dec 29 2010 12:00am 1 Comment

According to their website, “Estrella Damm Daura is the result of a long collaborative research process between Damm and the CSIC (National Scientific Research Council) gluten unit, using the most advanced technology. It is the first beer in Spain to guarantee a gluten content below 6 ppm (products with a gluten content below 20 ppm are suitable for people with coeliac disease). Estrella Damm’s research and strong social commitment have made this breakthrough possible, which comes as excellent news for all those with coeliac disease.”

For those of you who don’t understand what this parts per million business is about, this is how I understand it: The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963  by two agencies of the United Nations the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop food standards. This commission revised the gluten-free standard in 2008 to be 20 parts per million. This means that in order for a food to qualify as gluten-free by the Commission’s standards, its gluten levels must test at 20 ppm or less. Think of it as dividing a piece of bread into a million crumbs no more than 20 of those crumbs can be gluten for it to be called gluten-free. If you like percentages better, this translates to .002%. Keep in mind that this is a standard set by that commission only, and it is up to the countries to adopt it if they choose. Here in the U.S. we have adopted no standard yet anyone can put “gluten-free” on a label and it officially means nothing. The FDA is working on setting a standard and is considering whether to adopt the Codex standard or to make the ppm even lower.

So, let’s take this beer. Their detectable level of gluten is 6 parts per million. Divide the beer into a million sips 6 of those impossibly tiny sips would be gluten, or .0006% of the beer. Logically and rationally and statistically it seems like this beer could pose no problem. But psychologically, would one drink a beer made from barley, an evil grain in the gluten-free world? Anecdotally, I know of people who react to the tiniest bit of gluten, so would they react to this seemingly negligent amount?

And you might be wondering… did I drink it? I had two sips of one bottle, my husband drank the rest. I didn’t notice any reaction and neither did he (he is gluten-sensitive). Although I did like the taste, my fear of barley overshadowed the enjoyment of finding a really great gluten-free beer.

I wonder if gluten testing has been conducted on commercial beer here in the U.S. I know of one gluten-sensitive friend who drinks Budweiser with no problem. I am certainly not advocating drinking beer if one has celiac or is gluten-sensitive! But I am curious about how much the gluten content varies between brands. As for me, I’m sticking to Redbridge .

Comments (1)
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Hi Alison,

 I wonder if you or those that read this post are familiar with Homeopathy. The reason I ask is that Homeopathy is based the principle of like cures like at the molecular level. I bring this up because of Homeopathies efficacy at a minute level. This means that an amount so small that current science cannot detect it, has an impact on your over all health. We know this to be true from double blind studies and it's use on animals and small children, neither with any expectation of change. If one can understand this principle, then you can quickly see that even 1 ppm for a Celiac is 1 part to many. This may not be true for a gluten sensitive person, but if you have Celiac, even if you don't feel sick, your intestine is at war. If you are Celiac, how you feel is an "okay" barometer but not an infallible one and not to be solely trusted. Try the many different varities of Gluten Free Beers on the market in the US that are truly "Gluten Free" and stay away from the "evil gluten"!!

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