‘Gluten-Free’ Beer

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Retailer Aldi, have put out an urgent recall notice out for their Gluten Free Organic Pale Ale over concerns that labelling isn’t correct. Producers of labelling for the product failed to declare that it contains “de-glutenised barley” which can still be unsafe for some gluten-free diets.

Associate solicitor, Dawn Rose, comments on the importance of correctly labelling products and the issues arising around the sales of ‘gluten-free’ beer.

Beer Recall

Aldi, who were recently named Best Drinks Retailer, issued the recall promptly amidst concerns for anyone with an allergy to barley, an ingredient that is not currently advertised on the label.

A spokesperson for the retailer has warned customers to, “return the product to their nearest store where they will receive a full refund.” They also added, “we apologise for any inconvenience and thank you for your co-operation.”

The recall highlights a wider, on-going argument about the gluten-free labelling of beer in the UK as many argue that it can cause adverse effects to those allergic to gluten or those who suffer from coeliac disease.

Can Gluten-Free Beer Be Gluten Free?

The past few years has seen a rise in gluten-free beers come on to the market. They are made with de-glutenised barley and are therefore advertised as gluten-free. But all is not as it may appear.

Laws in the UK allow for retailers to label products gluten-free as long as the rate of gluten is less that 20 parts per million. This does not actually mean that the product is completely gluten-free. Whilst the amount may be tiny, it may still give some people a reaction and side-effects can include migraines and abdominal pain.

The U.S. government do not allow these types of beers to appear on their shelves because of the fear that the consumption of a large amount of these beers in any one sitting could result in allergic reactions. However, because of the significantly decreased risk, the UK government has a rising list of gluten-free beers entering the market.

Labelling Products Correctly

The recalling of products because of incorrect labelling is not uncommon but if a company sell a mislabelled product, they are breaking laws laid out by the government.

The law states that labels must be:

  • Clear and easy to read
  • Permanent
  • Easy to understand
  • Easily visible
  • Not misleading

It could be argued that because of the relaxed attitude towards de-glutenised barley, labels for these products are somewhat misleading.

Our Dawn Rose comments:

“Having an allergy to any ingredient makes shopping for food an incredibly difficult and sometimes stressful job. Many coeliacs are used to what products will and will not contain gluten, but retailers like Aldi are not making life easy.”

“Labelling products correctly is so important. It’s good that Aldi has been  prompt in their recall of produce that could pose a danger, but they are still putting people’s lives at risk which just isn’t good enough.”

“The UK government should seriously consider changing their mind about allowing gluten in gluten-free products. The whole concept makes no sense. If someone needs to avoid gluten for health reasons, this should be made easy for them to do when buying gluten-free products. Instead, as it stands, consumers have to study ingredients carefully, even when it is being marketed as gluten-free!”

Written by Dawn Rose.

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