Gluten Intolerance, and the importance of food labelling

I woke up this morning, to my husband telling me that from the 18th of January 2016 gluten free beer in New Zealand will no longer be allowed to use the label gluten free.

I think I replied with something like “what the fuck?! You’re kidding, right? What else are they going to call it, and how the hell will we know if we can drink it or not?!”

No, he wasn’t, just beer (i.e. it won’t be labelled suitable for people with coeliacs), and we won’t. 

According to the Ministry of Primary Industries ‘Guidance for Alcohol Beverage Claims and Statements‘ released 6 May 2014, no food containing more than 1.5% alcohol by volume will be able to advertise itself as being gluten free due to it being a ‘nutrition content claim

A “nutrition content claim” is defined by MPI as:

a claim that is made about the presence or absence of a biologically active substance, dietary fibre, energy, minerals, potassium, protein, carbohydrate, fat, salt, sodium or vitamins; glycaemic index or glycaemic load that does not refer to the presence of alcohol and is not a health claim. “Gluten free” is captured under the definition of nutrition content claim.

Seriously?! Anyone with eyes, who knows how to read an ingredients list or a nutritional facts label knows that gluten free doesn’t necessarily mean better for you. Also, why just alcohol? If you’re going to after things for making nutrition content claims, why not add anything with a fuck tonne of sugar to the list? I’m kidding, please don’t.

It may not seem like a big deal but as someone who is sensitive to gluten and is married to someone with coeliac disease, the labelling of food and drink is important, and while beer should technically be gluten free, you can’t always guarantee that it is.

I don’t know why MPI have decided a brewer slapping a gluten-free label on a beer is making a nutrition content claim. It could be because there are people who may think that because something is gluten free that it’s healthier for you and drink a shit tonne thinking that it’s better.

What I do know, is that it will mean I won’t be able to have a beer after work. It will mean those who are intolerant to gluten will switch to drinks that have higher ABVs (cider, wine, spirits), and if brewers continue to brew gluten free beers it’ll be nasty shock for those who drink a gluten free beer unwittingly.

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