Regular Oats, Mechanically-Sorted Oats, Wheatfree oats, Certified Gluten-free Oats and the Purity Protocol… What These Labels Tell You About GF Oats…
When it comes to eating strictly gluten-free, it can be very difficult to determine which – or any – brands of oats can be safely consumed. There’s a lot of complex language and buzzwords that get thrown around, and today we’ll be looking at how to determine which oats are suitable for the coeliac diet, and which oats are not. You’d think it would be simple, but unfortunately, oat terminology is a little more complicated than it appears.
The most common oats you’ll find are Regular Oats. These oats are on every grocery shelf and will not claim to be gluten-free. These oats have been grown without a gluten-conscious diet in mind and most likely have been harvested, processed and transported using equipment that had been used to process gluten-continuing grains such as wheat, barley and rye. You might wonder how much cross-contamination can occur when the oats themselves are gluten-free, but tests have proven that these contaminated regular oats can contain as much as 1807 parts per million gluten, meaning that regular oats should only be consumed by people who are not sensitive to gluten.
What is the difference between Oats labelled Wheatfree and GF Oats? It is important to remember that a wheat–free claim on products is not the same as gluten–free. The adoption of oats that are labelled “Wheatfree Oats” here in Australia, has come about due to the fact that we are unable to label any product that contains oats gluten free here in Australia due to an outdated labelling restriction. GF Oats Australia has never solely adopted the label of their oats as “Wheatfree”, instead preferring to share it as one of the benefits because essentially GF oats are certified gluten free around the world and each batch meets Australians strict threshold of nil gluten tested. Please refer to our Compliance page for testing results published on each load. Our farmers are also certified with the “Oats Purity Protocol” identifying their oats as amongst the purist in the world. A gluten–free diet for those who have an allergy or have gluten/wheat sensitivity requires them to eliminate barley and rye in addition to wheat from their diet. A “wheatfree claim” can essentially contain contamination from wheat, rye or barley. The farmers growing wheatfree oats do not source their seed stock from pure uncontaminated sources and do not have exclusion zones around their farms to prevent cross-contamination. Also, processing plants are not dedicated to just gluten free grains, so cross-contamination is a concern. So please be mindful and aware.
Mechanically/Optically Sorted Oats are another category of oats that are grown identically to regular oats, but during processing, they are sorted by machine or by hand to remove gluten-containing grains. As we know, however, gluten contamination occurs during the very act of processing and transportation, and many consumers react to these sorted oats. Unfortunately, these oats are used in many products that are labelled as gluten-free, and worse – these products can even be certified gluten-free. There have been many challenges in the US from manufactured products using these oats reading high gluten levels. Some certifications are even made by Coeliac organisations! How can this be? It’s all due to the term Certified Gluten-free Oats, which is a little like something of a catch-all phrase. This labelling is assumed by consumers to mean that the products contained are 100% gluten-free and suitable for coeliacs, but as this term is regularly applied to sorted oats, the potential for gluten contamination is alarmingly present.
So, are there any types of oats suitable for the true gluten-free diet?
There are, but only as labelled as gluten free oats outside Australia and additionally labelled with the Oats Purity Protocol certification. GF Oats are Purity Protocol Oats certified meaning they are grown in exclusively allocated fields from pure seed stock, then harvested, tested, processed and tested again by independent labs, all of which is done in facilities and using equipment that is proven to have had no contact with any potential gluten contaminants, making these oats the truly safe option for the gluten-free diet.
Nowadays, many companies proudly extoll the virtues of their oat-containing products. Labels are plastered with messages proclaiming the benefits of their oats, a healthy superfood, packed full of protein, fibre and minerals, and then to cap it all off, there’s a snazzy little label proclaiming that the product is ‘certified gluten-free’. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Of course not. But if you can’t find any references, either on the product itself, or on websites or other resources, to purity protocol oats, then it is likely that the product has been made with sorted oats, and the gluten-intolerant consumer should therefore proceed with caution.
So, how do we at GF Oats do just that? We ask questions, we raise awareness, we have strict testing and compliance when each load is received and provide as much transparency as possible so that consumers know exactly what to look for in the murky language that surrounds gluten-free certifications (particularly as that language varies from country to country), and how to safely identify oats that have been grown, harvested and processed in the purest conditions, versus those that have not.