Tequila: Gluten Free? Organic? Kosher?
A conversation with Jesús Hernández, Altos Tequila’s Maestro Tequilero
For several years now, there has been a worldwide trend promoting the consumption of gluten-free, organic, and kosher foods. However, these concepts can be confusing for consumers. The tequila industry is no exception.
These days, everyone is talking about gluten-free, organic and kosher. There seems to be a frenzy of people searching (and willing to pay) for organic fruits and vegetables, gluten-free breads, pastas, and cookies, and meats packaged with a kosher label.
This trend, however, of finding the safest foods meant to improve our quality of life can cause a lot of confusion if we aren´t sure about the meanings of the terms and how our lives will actually be affected by eating these foods.
This is why we decided to find some real information about the meaning of these concepts as applied to the one product we love most: agave!
Tequila is gluten-free
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, and their derivatives. People who are intolerant of this protein present an immune reaction called celiac sprue that deteriorates the proper functioning of the small intestine. According to the Mayo Clinic, the disorder can cause diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, swelling, gas, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, vomiting, and anemia. For these reasons, it is best [for those with intolerance] to eliminate these grains and their biproducts from the diet.
According to the Codex Alimentarius Commission*, made up of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO), “foods labeled as “gluten-free” should not contain wheat, rye, barley, or oats, and their gluten level should be below 20 milligrams per kilo.”
Jesús Hernández Soto, Altos Tequila’s Maestro Tequilero, tells us that the agave plants used to make tequila 100% agave are not part of the grain family, aren’t processed around any type of grain and can be considered as gluten-free. So now you know—the next time you drink tequila 100% agave, you can be sure it will be gluten-free.
*Global reference for consumers, producers, processors, control agencies, and international food merchants. Their standards seek to avoid contamination and health problems for the consumer.
Altos Tequila does not have kosher certification but could meet the necessary requirements
Kosher is a Hebrew term meaning “apt,” “adequate,” or “appropriate.” In fact, the kosher laws are spelled out in the Talmud and other texts from the Jewish tradition. These laws have been applied over centuries and govern kosher certification.
There is a list of basic categories of foods that are not kosher. These include certain animals like pork, rabbit, eagle, owl, catfish, and sturgeon; as well as seafood, insects, and reptiles. In addition, kosher meat and poultry species must be slaughtered in a certain way, and meats and dairy products should not be processed or eaten together.
When a food has kosher certification, it means that quality control was performed by a Rabbi to guarantee that it meets the required norms and specifications.
The Rabbi visits the place where the foods are made and/or processed, inspects the raw materials, verifies the production process, and ensures that all has been elaborated in a clean and pure way. He also classifies meats, dairy products, vegetables, and fruits. Finally, he authorizes the company to seal their products with the kosher label, ensuring the consumer that it meets all of the kosher requirements.
Altos does not have kosher certification because the elaboration process has never been verified by a Rabbi. However, Jesús recalls that around 15 years ago, the company was interested in entering the Israeli market and even scheduled a visit from a Rabbi to the distillery, but the inspection never happened.
Obtaining a 100% organic agave is almost impossible, but Altos does meet demanding quality standards
According to the Codex Alimentarius Commission: “Organic agriculture is a holistic system of production management that promotes and improves the health of the agroecosystem, and in particular the biodiversity, biological cycles, and the biological activity of the soil. It also seeks to use cultural, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to synthetic materials, in order to achieve each specific function within the system.”
Organic certifications focus on criteria such as giving up the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Jesús tells us that for weed and pest control in the agave fields, organic, mineral- based pesticides and fertilizers are used. These products are light, residue-free, and approved by Mexican and European regulations.
Do organic tequilas exist? Jesús asserts that obtaining a 100% organic agave is very complicated and practically impossible. “There are very few recognized farmers who have been cultivating agave organically, and, the results have been poor,” he says.
“One thing to keep in mind is that agave has a very long life cycle, an average of seven years. This means that the plant has a lot of natural enemies. Therefore, it is necessary to help the plant by using light contact pesticides that do not leave a residual effect, and herbicides that control weeds, as approved by the FDA.” Jesús Hernández, Altos Tequila’s Maestro Tequilero
Jesús concluded by saying that while many tequilas on the market “claim to be organic,” this does not mean that they necessarily use organic agaves. “Sometimes it’s just a word game,” he explains.
- Altos Tequila distillery meets all of the quality guarantee norms: ISO 9000, ISO 14000, ISO 18000, and ISO 22000.
- All of the fertilizers that we use are of mineral origin.
- Everything we use to cultivate agave has been approved mexican regulatory agencies and follows european regulations too.
- Alto tequila contains no allergenic products.