Oats Revisited: Quaker Gluten-Free OatsTricia Thompson
UPDATE October 21, 2022: We reached back out to Quaker Oats to reconfirm the information in this post. Their response: “We have NOT changed anything since the protocol was developed and therefore the graphic is still correct. We believe our stringent protocol and testing approach has served our consumers well and will continue to ensure these high quality standards.”
UPDATE: In light of the supply issues with oats, Gluten Free Watchdog reached out to Quaker Oats.
Question from GFWD:
“As you undoubtedly know, there are supply chain issues with oats, including oats designated for gluten-free products. Can you please let me know if Quaker is able to maintain the standards for gluten-free oats as illustrated in this graphic?”
Response from Quaker:
“I’ve talked with the plant and can confirm:
- We are still milling to our original specifications and following the Food Safety protocols that we shared a few years back and what is shown below.
- We have oats to run and will maintain production regardless of the supply chain issues seen in the industry.
I hope this helps to ease any concern in the GF community about the ability to get high-quality gluten-free oats.”
Due in large part to data published in the public domain by Quaker, the celiac disease community continues to learn about the nature of gluten grain cross contact in oats, including that:
- Grains of wheat, barley, and rye are unevenly distributed within a given amount of oats.
- Despite what may be the best efforts of suppliers, gluten-containing grains have been found in both final product purity protocol oats and final product mechanically and optically sorted oats.
- See https://www.somatopublications.com/oat-consumption-by-celiac-disease-patients-outcomes-range-from-harmful-to-beneficial-depending-on-the-purity-of-the-oats.pdf
Based on Gluten Free Watchdog’s social media accounts, this information is causing concern among folks in the celiac disease community. At Gluten Free Watchdog we are inviting various oat suppliers to provide information about how they are addressing the issue of errant gluten-containing grain in oats. Information will be posted as it is provided.
Quaker is up first…
What is Quaker doing to address these issues? Quaker provided the following graphic to Gluten Free Watchdog to help explain their process (clicking on the image at the top of the post will enlarge it for better viewing):
To help put the above information into some context, in January of 2019, the Gluten-Free Certification Organization instituted a new requirement for intact gluten-free oats. Processors must use an appropriate sampling method and visual inspection to demonstrate that oats contain less than 0.25 gluten-containing grains per kilogram (threshold of 1 gluten containing grain in 100, 40-gram servings). See https://gfco.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/JAOAC-Oat-Count-Paper.pdf
Question for the community:
- What represents tolerable risk to you, the consumer?
There was an informative Letter to the Editor of Journal of AOAC in response to Gluten-Free Certification Organization’s new requirements gluten-free oats.
Manufacture of Gluten Free Oats for Gluten Compliance at the Serving Level: An Attainable Industrial Standard
Yes, thanks for posting the link. For those of you interested in reading the letter, it can be downloaded free of charge at the link provided.
To answer your question, I feel much better about using Purity Protocol oats than I do about ordinary oats and even just plain certified GF oats. I also prefer my oats to be organic.
So I’m not sure what to think now. Are you saying that Purity Protocol isn’t any better than certified gluten free? I thought it was. Are you reversing your view on that? Is PP not something to look for anymore?
That article raised several red flags for me. It’s by Pepsico, and it says things I disagree with right in the first two paragraphs of the Introduction! I don’t think we should take that “study” seriously. It’s misleading to say that nutritional deficiency is a side effect of the GFD when it’s a direct effect of the disease itself. And they claim it leads to less dietary diversity, but GF flour uses at least 3 kinds of flours plus 1 or 2 gums and often increases the number of eggs a person eats as part of their bread. So that’s total bunk, both diversity and nutrition aspects are improved by GFD. They also focus on servings, not 100g measures. When I compare foods, especially for nutrition, I use 100g so food can be compared mass to mass. When you get into servings, it gets too messy. I don’t think I want the advice of a snack producer on the health of my diet. My “marketing with science “alarm went off.
At Gluten Free Watchdog we continue to be supportive of purity protocol oats from the following suppliers: GF Harvest, Avena, Montana Gluten-Free, and Glanbia. We are not opposed to the use of Quaker gluten-free oats but are not supportive of the use of any other mechanically or optically sorted oats.
Quaker/Pepsico has published several articles in the peer reviewed scientific literature. These studies should not be dismissed out of hand but read carefully. This research has contributed greatly to our understanding of the nature of gluten cross contact in oats. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814616312614 and http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijfs.13288/full. These articles are also discussed at https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/quaker-researchers-publish-a-second-study-highlighting-the-difficulties-associated-with-testing-oats-for-gluten-contamination/ and https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/must-read-study-courtesy-quaker-testing-oats-gluten/
The situation with oats is quite “messy” right now. What is true is that gluten containing grains have been found in both purity protocol and sorted oats. This is not surprising.
Thank you Tricia, for clarifying that PP Oats are still the right way to go. But I’ll agree to disagree on science published by corporations on their own products. I did take issue with specific things they said in the study, I wasn’t dismissing it out of hand. Their goal is still to produce products in the most profitable way possible within regulatory limits, while my goal is to not be the one who happens to eat the 1 in 20,000 servings that are unsafe. Actually I’m one of the more sensitive people to gluten so for me it’s probably 1 in (fewer) servings.
In general, I think what agricultural studies lack is the element of finances. How do we make farming oats exclusively so profitable for farmers and the rest of the supply chain, that it de-incentivizes the planting of wheat int he same areas? Sometimes studies are meant to be so “purely science” that that question is studiously ignored. But if we are to be confident buying and using oats, then it has to be answered. People who need allergen free food, or gluten free food shouldn’t be expected to take a health risk because science ignores finances.
And this is only going to get worse until it’s solved because of the allergen lawsuits. A college that offers a gluten free cafeteria or options will have a hard time explaining why the oatmeal makes students sick. This isn’t just an issue of farming or of 1% of the population.
I don’t have all the answers. But a new idea needs to develop. Maybe the subsidy structure needs to change. Or combinations of crops that support farmer profits can be developed. I’d be fine with a farmer who rotates soybeans and oats. But if you add a gluten grain to that mix, it ruins it for me. Can sorghum be a replacement for barley? Maybe, if more beer producers use it. Or can more farmers adopt gluten free methods of producing mushrooms? Is that profitable enough to compensate for the loss of gluten grains? I wish I had the answers. I don’t want farmers and colleges to get hurt because I can’t eat something. I’m still looking for the win-win scenario.
Like it or not everyone must understand that errant gluten-containing grain has been found in both purity protocol and sorted oats. Errant grain has also been found rather extensively in lentils. My guess is, if we studied other naturally gluten-free grains as extensively as we’ve studied oats, we’d find errant grain there as well. I could go on and on about oats and cross-contact with wheat, barley, and rye as it is something I’ve studied since 2004. I’ve had more conversations about oats with suppliers, farmers, etc than on any other topic. My responsibility is to look (with an unbiased eye) at the totality of the information I’m privy to (both on the record and off) and provide my best recommendation on oat consumption as it relates to folks with celiac disease. This recommendation is fluid (and it may not always be popular).
Interesting, thanks for the info. I am so sensitive, I find I cannot eat anything that is not a single ingredient item. But I still have trouble with rice, and packaged foods somewhat. I have found if I only fresh fruits and veggies, and meat I feel the best. It’s nice to know I am not crazy for feeling I am reacting to oats, and other possible things.
Hi Jamie, Have you met with a dietitian specializing in celiac disease? If you need a recommendation, please let me know.
Sam’s club shows their hot ribs as gluten free on their website. I bought two slabs and my celiac son could not find gluten free on the label and it said may contain wheat.. I called them and was told to trust the label… well dinner was bad for my son as he could not eat the ribs…grrr. I told Sam’s club if was false advertising…. same for their members mark shredded cheese.
Sorry to hear this Kathy. It is important to make decisions based on the actual product label versus what is included on a manufacturer website. Hopefully Sam’s Club has corrected any outdated information on their website.
I would like to hear your thoughts on the processing ingredient, many manufacturers are using in their gluten free items, microbial transglutamase, which doesn’t even need to be listed, as an ingredient, since it is used for processing.
The reason is that a toddler has been eating gluten free, but is now loosing weight.
We need to assess every item he eats, and what exactly is in it.
I know that Germany and Switzerland,have warnings on their gluten free items, that this ingredient,may not be suitable for Celiac sufferers.?
Need your opinion?
Here is the text of an email sent to subscribers to Gluten Free Watchdog in January 2019. There are no updates at this time.
Dear Gluten Free Watchdog community,
Some of you may have seen the recent news articles about the enzyme microbial tissue transglutaminase (mTg), its use in food, and celiac disease. These stories stem from a review article published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics entitled, “Microbial Transglutaminase Is Immunogenic and Potentially Pathogenic in Pediatric Celiac Disease.” The entire article can be accessed at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fped.2018.00389/full#B66
What follows is some hopefully helpful information that may address some of your concerns.
One section of the review article entitled, “Academic and Authoritative Warnings on the Potential Harmful Functions of mTg Usage by the Processed Food Industries”, appears to be causing a lot of concern. In this section, quotes from various other articles are presented, including the following from an article published in 2007, “mTg can enhance the immunogenicity of gluten and should not be used in food products intended for consumption by CD patients.” BUT (and this is key) folks on gluten-free diets are not eating gluten-containing foods. As a result, gluten shouldn’t be present to be immunologically enhanced by mTg.
Coeliac UK also stated something very similar in an interview with Food Navigator https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2019/01/07/Protein-glue-processing-aid-could-trigger-coeliac-disease-say-researchers#
The review article also contains some information about the labeling of mTg that is not quite accurate for the US, namely that it does not need to be declared on a food label.
Here is some information from the USDA https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/safety-of-transglutaminase-tg-enzyme/safety-of-tg-enzyme:
What is microbial transglutaminase? According to the USDA, “Transglutaminase is an enzyme approved for use as a binder to form smaller cuts of meat into a larger serving of meat. It is a natural substance derived from fermented bacteria, a non-toxigenic and non-pathogenic strain of the organism Streptoverticillium mobaraense, and it is often used in a blend of binders to form a bond between meat and poultry proteins, holding smaller pieces.”
How would a consumer know if they purchased a product that has been processed with TG enzyme? Again, according to the USDA, “Products formed from pieces of whole muscle meat, or that have been reformed from a single cut, must disclose this fact on their label, as part of the product name, e.g., “Formed Beef Tenderloin” or “Formed Turkey Thigh Roast.” The enzyme must also be listed in the product ingredient statement along with any other ingredients used in the product formulation. TG enzyme is not considered a processing aid that would be exempt from labeling. There are no exemptions to the USDA’s mandatory labeling requirement for this product.”
Microbial Transglutaminase also may be used in foods regulated by FDA.
The manufacturer Ajinomoto has self-determined GRAS. See https://wayback.archive-it.org/7993/20171031023409/https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/NoticeInventory/ucm154631.htm
This ingredient may be purchased on Amazon. Search Moo Glue and Ajinomoto Activa.
When the government reopens I will reach out to both USDA and FDA to ask about the labeling of this ingredient.
If you have any questions, I will try to point you in the right direction. My advice is to stick to original sources of information (published research, USDA documents, FDA documents, etc.).
Tricia Thompson, MS, RD
Founder, Gluten Free Watchdog, LLC
Im still confused. Are Quakers gluten free oats celiac safe? I cant have anything that has any cross-contact, at all
Quaker oats are sorted oats versus purity protocol oats. At this time (January 2020), based on the totality of information available to Gluten Free Watchdog, we remain supportive of the use of purity protocol oats for persons with celiac disease and gluten-related disorders who tolerate oats. With the exception of Quaker gluten-free oats, we are NOT supportive of the use of any other product containing mechanically/optically sorted oats, including gluten-free Cheerios, gluten-free Lucky Charms, and gluten-free and certified gluten-free products from manufacturers sourcing oats from Grain Millers or La Crosse Milling.
Are Quaker Oats still considered safe or only the purity protocol oats, I’m confused?
Here is our latest statement on oats https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/gluten-free-watchdog-special-2023-statement-on-the-use-of-oats-in-the-gluten-free-diet/