Glanbia Gluten-Free Oats: Another Source of Purity Protocol OatsTricia Thompson
August 23, 2017
Glanbia Agribusiness is a purchaser and processor of grain in Ireland. They have recently begun to sell their OatPure™ gluten-free oats to manufacturers in both North America and Europe, through their sister company, Glanbia Nutritionals. According to Glanbia, their OatPure™ oats are guaranteed to contain a level of gluten below 10 ppm. Also according to Glanbia, their oats have been licensed by Coeliac UK, the Coeliac Society of Ireland and the Spanish Federation of Coeliac Associations (FACE) to carry the crossed grain symbol. As a result, we thought it would be helpful to provide some information about Glanbia’s gluten-free oats. The following Q&A was provided by Glanbia and edited by Gluten Free Watchdog.
Note: Gluten Free Watchdog has had an extensive discussion with Glanbia. Based on the information provided to us, we have added OatPure™ gluten free oats to our listing of suppliers of purity protocol oats. Please note however, that Glanbia does not sell directly to consumers.
Q: Do OatPure™ oats follow a purity protocol?
A: We do more than follow a purity protocol. However, we no longer follow a 3-year break crop rotation with gluten-containing grains and oats. We’ve found that the combination of a 1 year break plus our inter row inspections to be a far more robust method of managing volunteer wheat or barley seeds. This process is discussed in more detail in the Field Purity Verification section of this article. In designing our gluten process, called OatSecure™, we have risk assessed each individual step in the process, which eliminates potential risks across our supply chain. This program is managed by our specialised agronomy team who audit & verify each of the stages mentioned below.
Crop Rotation: Glanbia operates and targets a 4 year crop rotation program where oats are scheduled after a specific break period and only after beans, OSR, fodder beet, maize, peas or long term lea.
Field Preparation: In this step we address the issue of dormancy in seed from previous years (called volunteer growth) and have designed a process to encourage volunteer growth. These plants, once germinated are removed before preparation of the field for our gluten-free oat seed.
Field Purity Verification: Gluten-free oat crops undergo rigorous inspection post-emergence to verify the “Field Preparation” step has delivered a pure field. This is called our “inter row positive release”* inspection and is a key “stop – Go” step in the OatSecure program.
*Inter row contamination:
From Glanbia research volunteer wheat and barley emerge in soils for several yrs after the actual intended crop harvest year. Our trials show that a 3 yr break crop does certainly reduce the quantity of volunteers but contamination is still a risk even after a 3 yr break. This inter row process is the only true way to provide assurance that recontamination of pure seed does not happen in the field. This process is verified internally through our Gluten Integrity program as well as independently by certification bodies that include the BRC Global Standards, NSF International, and the Association of European Coeliac Societies.
Q: What is the OatSecure™ process?
A: Through OatSecure™ we control every stage of the process and can demonstrate that our seeds are truly gluten-free and ensure that all equipment from farming to manufacturing is in a gluten-free closed environment. OatSecure™ is a 14-step closed-loop gluten-free supply chain. Our OatSecure™ process has been approved by NSF and is held up as an industry standard by retailers and celiac societies and industry specialists. Also, a leading retailer has specified to their suppliers that only OatPure gluten-free oats can be used in their gluten-free products. OatSecure™ begins with assembly of our own Glanbia specification seed in year 1. In year 2 we complete a validation step to validate this seed is pure. In year 3, this seed is used to produce our gluten-free crops. This process guarantees <10 ppm gluten. (* The most pure seed available contains gluten-containing grains that must be removed to produce pure seed to use in a gluten-free oat program)
- Seed Selection: From the start, our process is designed to avoid contamination in the first instance and maintain this purity throughout the process. We test and certify that our seed or starting material is gluten-free.
- Seed Harvesting: Seeds that pass our Glanbia gluten-free protocols are harvested and processed with equipment verified as gluten-free.
- Seed Intake & Storage: Our seeds are stored in 100% oats-only facilities that eliminate any chance of cross contamination.
- Seed Preparation & Seed Sampling: Seed testing in the sampling phase ensures zero tolerance for gluten contamination. We repeat our positive release process with our internal Grains Per Million (GPM) test method to certify our seed as “pure oats” and each bag is 100% traceable.
- Positive Release of Seed: Only seeds meeting our stringent GPM testing standards for gluten-free certification are released.
- Storage & Traceability of Seed: Our packaged seeds are bagged and stored in 100% oat-only facilities before sowing until our agronomy team approves the growers and their fields to use the seed.
- Grower Selection: Our growers are carefully selected and certified based on location, crop rotation and ability to engage in gluten-free agriculture. All of them go through a rigorous selection and training process before they’re permitted to grow our OatPure™ gluten-free oats.
- Land Selection & Preparation: Farmers work with Glanbia expert agronomists to ensure fields are gluten-free ready. At Glanbia we have our own standard and definition for “Fields Gluten Free Ready” and we verify only land on the correct rotation is used.
- Sowing: A member of the Glanbia team physically inspects sowing equipment. Only when the equipment is signed off can the seed be distributed to the farmer.
- Crop Management: Our agronomists support farmers throughout the growing season. Regular visits and detailed crop inspections are conducted to monitor the health and purity of the crop.
- Harvesting: Only crops that have passed the final stage of inspection are harvested and at this point Glanbia certifies the oats gluten-free. Every truck that transports Glanbia oats is dedicated to transporting only gluten-free oats and carries traceability information linking back to the harvest field, grower, seed bags, and origin of the seed, etc.
- Oat Intake and Gluten-Free Assessment: Oats are transferred to the oat only intake facility. Glanbia completes a robust verification step to provide the outright assurance of our gluten-free oats.
- Drying & Storage: We dry our oats within hours of receipt. Our drying process significantly reduces the levels of any pathogens that naturally occur on grains coming directly from field. This is a key step also in managing the development of any mycotoxin during storage. Post drying oats are stored in 100% oat only storage.
- Oat Out Loading: Our oats are further assessed and tested at this stage and out-loaded into trailers certified for use with gluten-free products. From here the oats are delivered to our state of the art oat milling facility.
Q: How are OatPure™ gluten free oats different from oats that are cleaned at the back end of production with optical cleaners?
A: The control we have over our oat production is critical to consistently delivering a guaranteed gluten-free oat with full traceability and integrity so manufacturers can have complete confidence in the quality and safety of Glanbia’s OatPure™ gluten-free oats. The key difference between our oats and those cleaned at the back end is we start with a pure product, and our process is designed to stop the contamination – the more commonly used processes focus on how to decontaminate oats at the last stage of the process. These types of processes do not provide the same levels of assurance and integrity. Gluten contamination can happen at any stage of the process. This can put individuals with celiac disease at risk of exposure to gluten. Our process ensures gluten testing and monitoring from seed selection, to farming, to harvesting, to transport and milling.
Q: Do any celiac organizations recognize OatPure™ as a gluten free standard?
A: Glanbia Nutritionals’ OatPure™ gluten free production protocols have been recognized as the standard of excellence by the European gluten free industry. Due to our exceptional gluten free purity, OatPure™ oats have been licensed by Coeliac UK, the Coeliac Society of Ireland and the Spanish Federation of Coeliac Associations (FACE) to carry the crossed grain symbol. The oats offer gluten free integrity at max 10 parts per million (ppm), which is more stringent than the legislative maximum permitted level of 20 ppm for gluten free labeling.
Q: How can the gluten free community help?
A: The gluten free community can help by spreading the word that not all “gluten free” oats are grown nor processed the same. Producing a truly gluten-free safe product requires monitoring at every stage of the process from farm to table. Oats cleaned via mechanical and/or optical sorting can be labeled “gluten-free”, but in actuality many are not truly gluten-free and may be unsafe for people with celiac disease. People with celiac disease need the information to make the best decisions regarding their health and choosing the brands they can trust.
Q: What should consumers do to ensure they are purchasing products that are truly gluten free?
A: Consumers should ask questions. OatPure™ oats ensures that there is less than 10 ppm gluten contamination throughout the entire process compared to backend cleaning. There are different types of gluten-free products and not all are created equal. If you start with stringent testing and a monitored process you will end up with the safest quality product. We recently participated at the Association of European Coeliac Societies’ (AOECS) annual conference. This brought us closer to understanding the needs of those living with celiac disease, highlighting a growing concern that as the volume of gluten-free products grows, standards may be lower across the range of products claiming to be gluten-free. Consumers need truthful information from manufacturers so they have a solid understanding of the ingredients that are going into the products they are purchasing. Ask about the source of your oats.
Thank you to Glanbia from Gluten Free Watchdog for your transparency.