‘Low Gluten’ Beer: Is It Safe for Coeliacs?

‘Low Gluten’ Beer: Is It Safe for Coeliacs?

ABC Science reporter Genelle Weule recently wrote an article regarding low gluten beer and its suitability for coeliacs in Australia. This is a great article which explains how much gluten is present in low gluten beer, why it can vary substantially between products, why commercially available gluten free tests might not be accurate and why coeliacs can drink it in many countries in Europe and the US, but is not recommended in Australia.  

To be classified as gluten free in Australia, any gluten free product, including beer, must contain ‘nil detected’ gluten. However, the classification for Gluten Free in the UK, Europe and the US is less than 20 parts per million of gluten (<20ppm). This can cause confusion for coeliacs for a few reasons: 

1) Many gluten free beers imported from Europe, UK and US may be marked as gluten free (either in English or another language, depending on where the beer comes from) when in fact they are not according to Australian standards. Technically they are supposed to be re-labelled to indicate the presence of gluten, but I’ve not seen any evidence of this; 

2) Many coeliacs believe low gluten beer may be safe to drink, however, it is not classified as gluten free by Coeliac Australia and is not recommended for consumption. Interestingly, any beer that is <20ppm is safe to drink according to coeliac organisations in the UK, Europe and the US and many ‘low gluten’ beers claim to meet this threshold. 

So is it safe? 

Gastroenterologist Jason Tye-Din of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute said there had been discussions about bumping the Australian labelling standards up to the level used overseas (i.e. <20ppm) but "there has been inadequate data to guide what really has been a safe threshold of gluten for people with coeliac disease".

3) Thinking of gluten testing beer yourself? Beware! Commercially available gluten free tests may not pick up all the gluten in the beer and therefore provide a false low reading.  Michelle Colgrave of the CSIRO explains "They're good at measuring intact gluten, and they are specifically good at measuring intact wheat gluten, but they are not good at detecting protein that has been degraded into fragments by the brewing process. Our research, and research that has occurred in the US, has shown that for the most part, a lot of those protein pieces remain, but the tests can't see them. It is unclear whether or not those protein fragments are still toxic, Dr Colgrave said. There are a few relatively inexpensive gluten free test kits available in Australia, so be aware of this when making your purchase.

Still confused? Us too. We think the most informative statement has be that of Dr Tye-Din who stated “there has been inadequate data to guide what really has been a safe threshold of gluten for people with coeliac disease". All things considered, the choice is yours.

Source: ABC News, by science reporter Genelle Weule. Posted Sat 15 Dec 2018. Read the full article here: Looking for a low-gluten beer? Here's what you need to know

The Truth About ‘Low Gluten’ Beer

1 comment

  • Ben

    Coeliac Aust seem to only recommend brands that are sponsors.
    Have you looked at Burleigh brewing. They claim that there is almost no gluten detectable in their products. Not sure if it’s all, or just some. I have been drinking the Burleigh big head. No effects..
    I experienced a similar problem with Aust asthma..they only support brands who pay their exorbitant sponsorship deals.

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