Oats are complicated! Updated Position Statement on Oats from Gluten Free Watchdog
This statement may not be reposted without the express written permission of Gluten Free Watchdog, LLC
This post was updated on October 24, 2022.
***Note: What follows is the opinion of Gluten Free Watchdog. If you tolerate oats, whether you choose to eat mechanically/optically sorted oats or only purity protocol oats is your decision. You do not owe anyone an explanation. Please make decisions based on all available information.***
Gluten Free Watchdog…
- Is supportive of purity protocol gluten-free oats supplied by Avena Foods, Montana Gluten-Free Processors, and Bay State Milling/MGM (pertains to oat supply in North America only).
- Is supportive of manufacturers using gluten-free oats solely from the above purity protocol suppliers.
- Is supportive of mechanically/optically sorted gluten-free oats from Quaker Oats.
- Is not supportive of any other single ingredient oat products using oats sourced from suppliers of gluten-free sorted oats.
- Would like to see manufacturers of labeled gluten-free multi-ingredient products containing oats use purity protocol oats. However, products can be evaluated on an individual basis (please see below for questions to consider).
First some facts:
1. Oats are considered a naturally gluten-free grain. Note: Some people with celiac disease are unable to tolerate oats. Research is ongoing to determine the reason why.
2. Oats are highly likely to come into contact with wheat, barley, or rye anywhere from the field to the mill to the food processing facility.
3. Gluten-free oats are available for folks with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.
4. Gluten-free oats may be either purity protocol or sorted.
5. Despite what may be the best efforts of suppliers and manufacturers, gluten-containing grains have been found in both final product purity protocol oats and final product sorted oats.
PURITY PROTOCOL VERSUS SORTED OATS
Purity protocol oats:
1. Are produced following steps to control the presence of gluten-containing grain throughout the entire process of growing, harvesting, milling, and processing.
2. There is no standardized definition for purity protocol.
1. Sorted oats are traditionally grown (standard) oats that undergo a mechanical and/or optical screening at the mill to remove gluten-containing grain based on a variety of grain properties (e.g., size and color).
2. There is no standardized process for sorting oats.
WE HAVE BEEN COMMISSIONING TESTING ON OATS—STANDARD, PURITY PROTOCOL, AND SORTED–DATING BACK TO 2004
Why testing oats for gluten is so difficult:
1. Errant wheat, barley, and rye grain in oats is not evenly distributed.
2. If there is gluten in a product, hopefully it is captured in the smaller sample selected for testing.
3. It is also hoped that any gluten in the selected sample can be evenly distributed.
4. The protocol for testing oats for gluten involves grinding a larger than normal sample size and testing larger than normal sub-samples to hopefully “find” gluten if it is present.
5. When ANY gluten is found this is cause for concern precisely because it is so hard to find.
6. Regardless of testing difficulty, oat products account for almost half of the grain-based foods testing out of compliance with the gluten-free labeling rule (at or above 20 parts per million of gluten) at Gluten Free Watchdog.
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS WHY WE ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION WHEN IT COMES TO OATS
Purity protocol oats:
We remain supportive of the following North American suppliers of purity protocol oats (and manufacturers using oats solely from these suppliers): Avena Foods, Montana Gluten-Free Processors, and Bay State Milling/MGM. Our support is based on the protocols followed by each supplier, beginning with planting pure gluten-free seed. For more information on supplier protocols and a listing of manufacturers using oats from the above suppliers, see https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-produced-under-a-gluten-free-purity-protocol-listing-of-suppliers-and-manufacturers/. Note: This listing was updated on October 21, 2022.
Sorted oats are a bit trickier…
Quaker Oats gluten-free products: We remain supportive of Quaker gluten-free instant oatmeal, gluten-free old fashioned oats, and gluten-free quick oats. This is due to Quaker’s transparency, willingness to always answer questions from Gluten Free Watchdog, and most importantly their robust sorting and testing protocols. For more information, see https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-revisited-quaker-gluten-free-oats/. Note: The protocol described in this post was reconfirmed on October 21, 2022.
Other single ingredient labeled gluten-free oat products, such as oatmeal and oat flour (or products containing oats as a major ingredient, such as oat-based granola and other breakfast cereals): Other than Quaker oat products, we are not supportive of any single ingredient oat products using oats sourced from suppliers of sorted oats. This is due primarily to a lack of transparency on the part of suppliers and an inability on the part of Gluten Free Watchdog to vet sorting and testing processes.
General Mills Gluten-Free Cheerios and Lucky Charms: Gluten Free Watchdog cannot in good conscience support gluten-free Cheerios or Lucky Charms manufactured by General Mills using sorted oats. This is due largely to the testing protocol followed by General Mills. We truly wish General Mills would adopt a testing protocol similar to the one followed by Quaker Oats, a manufacturer also using sorted oats. For more information see Gluten Free Watchdog’s position statement on Cheerios available at https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/gluten-free-watchdogs-updated-position-statement-on-cheerios/.
Manufacturers of labeled gluten-free products containing oats as a relatively minor ingredient: Generally speaking, Gluten Free Watchdog would like to see manufacturers of labeled gluten-free foods use purity protocol oats. However, products can be evaluated on an individual basis. Questions to consider include:
- Is the product certified gluten-free?
- Has the product been independently tested and to what extent?
- Is the manufacturer transparent about the source of their oats?
- Is the manufacturer transparent about their testing protocols?
***PRODUCTS CONTAINING STANDARD OATS (oats that are neither purity protocol nor sorted) SHOULD NOT BE EATEN BY FOLKS WITH CELIAC DISEASE OR OTHER GLUTEN-RELATED DISORDERS***
© March 8, 2021. Updated on October 24, 2022. Gluten Free Watchdog, LLC. All Rights Reserved.