The difference between Wheat Free, Gluten Free and Gluten Friendly

01/10/2020

Why we changed our benefits from Wheat-free to Gluten-friendly

Top 3 questions we often receive from the many people who use our products is: are oats gluten-free? what does wheat free oats mean? what does gluten friendly oats mean? Let’s dig in…

It’s time to debunk the myth that oats cannot be gluten-free. At the end of the day, what determines whether oats are gluten-free or not is the way they are grown, processed and prepared for sale. Pure oats when tested report nil gluten. People thought that oats contained gluten but it was the cross-contamination that was is the problem throughout the supply chain. The problem in classification arises with commercialised oat products and products that are labelled Wheat Free is that that are commonly cross-contaminated with grains such as wheat, rye and barley.

GF Oats Australia are the number 1 supplier of oats that is tested nil gluten in Australia. We supply premium quality foods to people who follow specific dietary protocols. We manufacture and supply our product in an array of flavours and sizes to suit every table.

Our signature range is Steamed Rolled Oats. We presently source from International growers and are the only oats in Australia that are tested, certified and guaranteed to meet the strict Australian standards with regards to nil gluten. These results are recognised by NATA (National Australian Testing Authority) and are openly displayed for every batch, on our Compliance page. We pride ourselves in being “The Oats that you can Trust”.

Terminologies like Wheat Free means that they are simply free from wheat contamination, it does not necessarily mean from any other glutinous grains, so we moved away from presenting this as a benefit on our packaging, as this DOES NOT reflect what our product is when customers are trying to avoid gluten. Gluten Friendly seemed like the next term that is being coined in the industry to reflect that a product is safe for people who are avoiding gluten. You are starting to see it on menus as they are hesitant to label something gluten-free when there may be a chance of cross-contamination in a kitchen, which is fair. For us here due to labelling laws around oats, this is the best that we can do.

We’re here to explain why some oats, like GF Oats Australia, are free from gluten contamination and why other mainstream oats contain gluten.

So, at the end of the day, are oats are gluten-free?

Pure oats that are tested nil gluten and are free from the cross-contamination from wheat, rye and barley and super safe for most people with gluten intolerance.

However, mainstream oats are contaminated with gluten because they are processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that studies analysing regular oat products identified levels of gluten far exceeding the standard for gluten-free food.  One study in 109 oat-containing products on the market in North America and Europe found that the products contained over 200 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, on average. This far exceeds the <10ppm limit in the US and here in Australia <3ppm. This is the reason Kylie advises her customers who have gluten or wheat intolerance to switch their oats from mainstream oats.

In 2007, a range of gluten-free oats launched onto the American market that were labelled and certified as gluten-free oats. Kylie, the founder of GK Gluten Free Foods reached out to the company inquiring about this product.  The farmers were the Smith family. They were a family of Coeliac’s and their son Forest, had completed a school-based study around oats to prove that in their raw form they were, in fact, gluten-free and that the oats became very contaminated throughout the supply chain. As a coeliac, Forest tackled the question, are oats gluten-free only to discover that when grown in isolation, they are in fact gluten-free.  Most farmers also grow wheat, rye or barley and processing plants also predominately process these grains. The family were also passionate about supplying the gluten-free market with a healthy alternative to the GMO corn, soy and sugar-laden products currently widely available. GF Oats approached them in 2009 and after much due diligence imported 1 pallet of oats.

The oats had barely hit the Brisbane wharf before Kylie was contacted by a number of people alerting her to the Australian labelling laws which had a subclause in the gluten-free labelling section stating that any product that contained oats could not be labelled gluten-free. The Australian food standard differs from the regulations in Europe and the USA, where oats can be marketed as ‘gluten-free’. More accurately, these ‘gluten-free’ oats are the equivalent of oats labelled ‘wheat free’ in Australia.

This clause had been added to the Food Standards gluten-free labelling laws, 1.2.7 Schedule 4 Nutrition, Health and Related Claims that prohibits any product containing oats in Australia to be labelled gluten-free. This conclusion was based on a study in the early 2000s which was conducted on oats once again, which was contaminated. Thereby the conclusion was that oats contained gluten. I have since confirmed this with the Leading researcher currently completing a study on are oats gluten-free funded by the Coeliac Society at Monash University, as part of the request by the Food Labelling Standards, for the gluten-free oats clause to be adjusted to line up with the rest of the world’s certification around gluten-free oats. Further to this, the largest independent research study on oats conducted in the US in 2017, identified that 1 in 100 Coeliac patients may still react to the Avenin in oats, which is the naturally forming protein.

GF Oats – Gloriously Free Oats, comply with these standards and have worked closely with this Queensland Health Department to ensure that the wording that we use to communicate our brand to our customers is effective. It is a tricky one, but one that we have been complying with since 2009. Unfortunately, customers that have Coeliac disease are drawn to oats as they are advertised and referred to openly on the internet as gluten-free oats. Adding to the dilemma around whether or not oats are gluten-free. Also, customers find gluten-free oats in most other countries around the world.  Customers are searching for oats because of the health benefits in a diet that is very restrictive. This of course causes much confusion with these customers here in Australia as they are not eating oats due to the contamination and advice from Coeliac Australia around gluten-free oats.  It’s our mission to answer the question, are oats gluten-free? Our team at GF oats are here to provide researched information to support and develop our understanding of the GF status of oats.

Kylie’s is very passionate about health around food intolerances as her family all suffered from multiple food intolerances and many family members have been diagnosed with Coeliac disease. She found herself confused and constantly asking herself, are oats gluten-free? When Kylie turned to off the shelf manufactured products, she found they were loaded with the common alternatives GMO corn and soy and to make them taste great, they load them with sugar and dairy. She believed this would cause people many other dietary and health problems down the track.

Today Kylie and the GF Oats team are importing 20 tonnes of oats a month and supplying over 3000 stores across Australia and New Zealand. They are still only able to labels their oats are Gluten Friendly, even though their oats test nil gluten they cannot be labelled gluten-free in Australia until the study is finalised at Monash, those results published and presented to the Food Labelling Standards of Australia.

The decision to include oats should be made on an individual basis. However, it is factual and proven that oats don’t actually contain gluten but rather they contain a protein called avenin and are therefore naturally gluten-free.

However here at GF Oats Australia we don’t label the product gluten-free oats but the benefits of our brand are Gluten Friendly, Vegan, Steamed Rolled Oats, Uncontaminated, Wheat Free, Certified Organic.

We hope this article has helped you answer the question, are oats gluten-free? and helped develop your understanding of the processing and manufacturing processes that impacts the gluten levels in oats.

 References: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gluten-in-oats#4

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