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The difference between a Wheat Free Label and a Gluten Friendly Label?


In Australia we can’t call any product containing oats gluten free!

Here in Australia, we do things a bit differently. We often celebrate and embrace this as our uniqueness, but in other scenarios, like this one, I believe we are creating enormous confusion, unrest and more importantly leading consumers to believe that ‘wheat free’ also means gluten free. We are lagging behind and this is potentially dangerous. 

It is true that we are unable to label oats as “gluten free oats “in Australia at the moment. This law was based on a study published in 2006 (a little out of date me thinks) and the study conducted using mainstream oats, nobody knew about the cross contamination. So, they got gluten reading when they tested the oats and concluded that oats contained gluten. Gluten is the word to describe the prolamin protein fraction in grains such as gliadin in wheat, hordein in barley, secalin in rye and the avenin in oats. Fast forward to 2021 after a number of studies completed overseas (here are the links) it has been discovered that oats are in fact quite different to their counterparts and in fact gluten is a combination of proteins which effectively is the gluten that helps food stay together or maintains it shape eg.bread. If you try and make a loaf of bread from just oat flour, guess what?  It falls apart. Studies indicate overseas that 1 in 100 Coeliac reacted to uncontaminated oats or gluten free oats, however of this study no one suffered any long-term effects. It is recommended here that a coeliac has an oat study prior to consuming our oats. 

Companies, like GF Oats, have been forced to be creative about how we label our products to help our customers find us.  See, the problem is that people want oats that is uncontaminated from gluten. It is a highly nutritious addition to a diet where people are avoiding gluten but are faced with having to feed themselves or their loved ones GMO corn, soy and refined sugar laden products that are also not a nutritious option for people. 

Consumers are craving our beautiful oats – we have the proof

We have proven by the growth we experienced in 2020, by importing over 100 tonnes of oats from our farmers in the USA. 

  • we have proven that over 11 years of operating
  • we have proven it by attracting farmers who are now interested in Australia in growing oats that is uncontaminated
  • we have proven it with the support of National Food Labelling standards placing pressure on the Coeliac Society to engage a team at Monash University to conduct a study, for 3 years on uncontaminated oats (which will be finalised 2021 and results published) and food bodies like the Grains & Legumes Association, Food council and the CSIRO all seeing the need for a label change around gluten free oats 
  • we have proven that oats is contaminated throughout the supply chain however like any food that is labelled ‘gluten free’ especially grains grown commercially this is difficult and expensive to produce 

What we know about Wheat and a Wheat Free diet

With the advent of agriculture, wheat has emerged as the most commonly eaten grain globally. Due to its unparalleled rise as a wholesome and nutritious food, wheat found a place as an ingredient in a vast majority of food products. However despite its exalted status wheat and wheat containing foods are a cause of allergies and irritation to many people across the globe. An increased prevalence of wheat allergy or wheat intolerance has created a sudden spurt in the demand of wheat free foods.

The interesting thing though is that there is NO food standards guidelines when it comes to labelling a product ‘Wheat free’ here in Australia with regards to Oats. So if you see a product which solely claims they are ‘Wheat Free’ – we don’t actually know what the gluten testing threshold is here. Does it mean it has <10ppm contamination, 20ppm contamination – there are no guidelines. So I see this as a real problem. 

Do people think that Wheat Free Oats also means that it is Gluten Free Oats???? Let us know? 

The difference between wheat free and gluten friendly.

Gluten is an ingredient found in many grains including wheat. In fact the gluten found in wheat is called gliadin. Some individuals, who are allergic to wheat, can eat foods which are wheat free but are made from gluten containing grains. Some such grains, which contain gluten and can be eaten as a part of wheat free diet, are rye, barley, spelt and oats. So, if oats are in fact ONLY labelled as ‘wheat free oats’ this could mean that they are cross contaminated with these other gluten containing grains. 

The term ‘gluten friendly’ has been coined on menus lately to communicate that a product may have been cooked in an environment that contains gluten containing foods. Essentially, they are trying to protect themselves and only cater for those who are allergic with the ‘gluten free’ claim as it is such a small group in comparison to the larger growing ‘gluten intolerance group’. 

GF Oats has decided to use the term ‘gluten friendly’ on their packaging communicating to our ‘gluten intolerance’ customers that these our oats are good to go for them. Coeliac patients are encouraged to follow the society guidelines. 

Remember that ‘wheat free‘ does not mean a product is ‘gluten free’ as other grains contain gluten. ‘Gluten free‘ does however mean a product is ‘wheat free’.

1 thought on “The difference between a Wheat Free Label and a Gluten Friendly Label?”

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    Jessie Passier

    Very interesting and informative article. I have been eating your Oats for about 3 years now and not had an issue as a diagnosed coeliac. I love being able to include them in my diet. Thank you for all your hard work in trying to improve awareness in the Australian public.

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