Quaker Gluten-Free Oatmeal: Gluten Free Watchdog Updated Position StatementTricia Thompson
Bottom Line: Based on all of the information available to us, including Quaker’s testing and our own independent testing, Gluten Free Watchdog does not oppose the use of Quaker gluten-free oatmeal by the celiac disease (and non celiac gluten sensitivity) community.
- Gluten Free Watchdog supports the use of gluten-free oats by the celiac disease (and other gluten-related disorders) community that are produced under a robust gluten-free purity protocol. For examples of purity protocols see the post “Oats produced under a gluten-free purity protocol” available at:
- We do not in general support the use of regular commodity oats that are cleaned at the “end” of production via mechanical and/or optical sorting.
- What we have learned at Gluten Free Watchdog through speaking with three companies (General Mills, Grain Millers, Quaker) is that the processes used to mechanically and optically sort oats to be “gluten-free” are not the same among manufacturers. As a result, each manufacturer using this methodology must be assessed on an individual basis.
- The million-dollar question for each brand of mechanically and optically sorted “gluten-free” oats is whether testing of oat ingredients (e.g., oat groats, oat flour) and finished product (e.g., Quaker oatmeal, Cheerios) is sufficient to find gluten contamination if it is present. Adequate testing is a huge issue due in large part to gluten contamination in oats not being evenly distributed throughout a “lot” of oats.
- We are not necessarily opposed to the use of mechanically and optically sorted oats in the future if their gluten-free status is supported via a rigorous testing protocol.
- Based on all of the information available to us, including Quaker’s testing and our own independent testing, Gluten Free Watchdog does not oppose the use of Quaker gluten-free oatmeal by the celiac disease community. At this time we can not support the use of gluten-free Cheerios or gluten-free products made from oats sourced from other suppliers of mechanically and optically sorted oats (e.g., Grain Millers, La Crosse Milling).
- Ideally we would like to see all gluten-free oats produced under a robust purity protocol AND optically sorted to scan for any errant wheat, barley, or rye grain (in addition to rigorous testing for gluten contamination).
Reminder: If you believe that any labeled gluten-free food made you sick, please contact both your local FDA consumer complaint coordinator and FDA’s MedWatch.
- You can contact MedWatch online at https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/index.cfm?action=reporting.homeor via phone (800) 332-1088. Choose option #4 to speak to a representative.
- A listing of local and regional consumer complaint coordinators is available at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/
Background information on Quaker oatmeal: In October 2015, Quaker Oats debuted three gluten-free oatmeal products—Quick 1-Minute Oats, Instant Oatmeal Original, and Instant Oatmeal Maple & Brown Sugar. The oats used in these products are not produced under a gluten-free purity protocol; they are mechanically and optically sorted to be gluten-free. On November 19, 2016 we wrote in the blog post, Quaker Gluten-Free Oatmeal: Take Two https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/quaker-gluten-free-oatmeal-take-two/:
“After a lengthy and relatively transparent conversation with Quaker about their mechanical and optical sorting and testing protocols we are somewhat optimistic that “gluten-free” Quaker oats may be appropriate for individuals with gluten-related disorders. However, at Gluten Free Watchdog we must conduct our own independent testing before a complete assessment of Quaker gluten-free oatmeal products can be made.”
Testing summary: We have completed our testing of Quaker gluten-free instant oatmeal. All 20 extractions tested below 5 parts per million of gluten using the R5 sandwich ELISA Mendez Method (Ridascreen Gliadin R7001). We plan to test Quaker quick 1-minute gluten-free oats when they are available.
We would still like to see Quaker…
- Increase efforts to source oats from farms not growing barley and wheat and/or who routinely provide the cleanest oats.
- Take steps to evenly distribute (via homogenization) any gluten contamination within the 75-gram samples of possible non-oat groats before testing ONE 15-gram sub-sample.
- Use dedicated gluten-free packaging equipment.
For more information on oats please see the post, “The gluten-free oats situation & why it is such a sticky wicket” available at https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/the-gluten-free-oats-situation-why-it-is-such-a-sticky-wicket/
For a summary report on gluten-free Cheerios please see https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/product/gf-cheerios-combined-datasummary-statement/419
1-21-16 What’s the status of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats?
Hi Janet, Please see the statement from Bob’s Red Mill (see comments) https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/the-gluten-free-oats-situation-why-it-is-such-a-sticky-wicket/
would the method of testing have made any difference here?—you used the RIDA-R5-SANDWICH method; the Spanish researchers, Comino et al, have used the G-12 method and distinguished different degrees of immunoreactivity in different oat cultivars and found these to be directly proportional to their immunotoxicity—thus concluding that there are immunogenic /immunotoxic oat cultivars —so would the G-12 method possibly have resulted in higher gluten levels here than the R-5
You will find this interesting (scroll down to 4.4) http://www.wgpat.com/proceeding_27th.html
it is not entirely clear to me why specifically you DO NOT oppose the Quaker oat products compared to others when none are following the PURITY PROTOCOL—what exactly makes Quakers optical sorting process better—is it based solely on the measured final gluten levels you found but then is the R5 sandwich method entirely reliable in testing oats
Anthony, please see Quaker’s sorting and testing protocol available at https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/quaker-gluten-free-oatmeal-take-two/ and then compare it General Mills’ sorting and testing protocol available at https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/gluten-free-cheerios-take-two/
the Spanish and Italian researchers have demonstrated diversity in immunoreactivity and immunotoxicity among oat cultivars—is this taken into consideration in the PURITY PROTOCOL—-I have also read that HEALTH CANADA ENDORSES BUT DOES NOT REQUIRE the PURITY PROTOCOL but does require that the oats themselves to be used do not contain more than 20ppm before they are actually used—so what non-purity protocols are being used for these oats and how are they being tested and is that testing method reliable? Also why doesn’t the FDA at least adopt a similar policy of testing the oats prior to the final product given the limitations of such testing as you have well described
Anthony, what you are describing–the possibility of immunotoxicity among certain oat cultivars–is different from the issues of cross contact with wheat and barley. In my opinion, oats deserve additional study. It is interesting that Romer Labs suggests that a competitive ELISA may be more suitable for testing oats not contaminated with gluten. It may be the case that oats first need to be tested with the R5 to determine the lack of contamination and then tested with the G12. I am just speculating at this point.
Thank you very much for reminding me about that WPGAT study; I had copied those papers based on your previous reference to them and had even read and highlighted 4.4—but , of course forgotten about it already; so they favor the competitive method over the G-12? ( although I do not understand differences in measuring cross reactivities among the different methods)—-is bottom line that even though there are oat cultivars containing immunoreactive and potentially immunotoxic epitopes that their levels would not be high enough to be clinically significant—yet we know that there are celiacs who cannot tolerate oats—so wouldn’t such epitopes likely be to blame?
I am not quite sure of the “why.” This would be an interesting conversation to have with Romer. I imagine the article is referring to a competitive using the G12 antibody versus the R5 antibody. I am also wondering if the independent study referred to at the end of the study has been conducted.
Thank you very much for your references to the differences in the Quaker vs. General Mills methods—-I certainly recall your strong disapproval of the General Mills methods —-after reading the Quaker method I would wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier and cheaper to use the purity protocol—-or are there too few growers who use it? Also thank you for pointing out my failure to distinguish testing for immunoreactivity in oat cultivars vs checking for wheat or barley contamination in oats—it still seems the Romer labs preferred the competitive assay even in the pure oat cultivars although I was not clear on the explanation but I did like your speculation on first testing for contamination with the competitive and then with G-12 for immunoreactivity—sounds very comprehensive to me—should push for this—especially if combined with purity protocol—although some expert would say not worth it for the 10% of celiacs intolerant of oats( even pure oats)
According to some there are not enough “purity protocol” oats to meet demand. Perhaps this is true for a product like Cheerios. According to the purity protocol folks they are no where near capacity. My preference is still for purity protocol oats.
The Quaker “extraction method ” sounds reminiscent to the Omission Beer barley removal method—I don’t believe that has been published yet—although it sounds like you are more optimistic about Quaker
In my mind they differ–Omission is trying to remove barley protein from a barley protein ingredient. Quaker is trying to sort out wheat, barley, and rye from oats. Omission contains hydrolyzed gluten protein which is difficult to test for and quantify. What I like about Quaker versus Cheerios is their testing protocol. Quaker tests individual packets/tubes of oats. If any extraction is above 12 ppm gluten the entire lot is discarded. They do not average the results and decide the lot is good to go.
Thanks again for your corrections—yes I ‘m sure you are correct that the Romer study was referring to a G-12 competitive, not a R-5, that makes much more sense —you are much sharper in such matters than I —I am easily confused. Have not come across any comparative studies by an independent party —you would see it sooner I’m sure—–maybe , probably not done yet—trying to raise the money!!
yes , the comparison between Omission and Quaker was more figurative than literal—-also when you first criticized Cheerios—it was very clear then (even to me) their methods appeared doomed to failure )—it sounds like Quaker read your criticisms and made sure not to make same mistakes , at least you should take credit
Thank you for looking out for safe GF products. To confirm, you do support Quaker GF oatmeal for those with celiac?
Hi Lisa, Gluten Free Watchdog supports the use of gluten-free oats produced under a robust purity protocol. We do not in general support the use of commodity oats “cleaned” at the backend of product via mechanical and optical sorting to be “gluten-free”. That said, of the millers who sort oats for their own use (Quaker and General Mills) or supply sorted oats to gluten-free manufacturers (Grain Millers, LaCrosse Milling), Quaker appears to be doing the “best” job in terms of sorting protocols, testing procedures, etc (this assessment is based on information provided by the millers to GFWD). At this time, we recommend against the use of products using sorted oats from General Mills, Grain Millers, and LaCrosse Milling. We do not recommend against the use of sorted oats by Quaker. Hope this helps.
Have you tested Quakers gluten free one minute quick oats yet? (1/2/2018)
Yes. Subscribers to Gluten Free Watchdog can view these results at https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/product/quaker-select-starts-gf-quick-1-minute-oats/639
If you do not subscribe to GFWD, information is available at https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/gluten-free-quaker-oats-testing-with-the-nima-sensor-r5-elisa-g12-elisa/
so if i have celiac can i eat quakers oats?
Folks with celiac disease should not eat any oat product, including standard Quaker oats unless they are labeled gluten-free. As stated in the post, based on all of the information available to us, including Quaker’s testing and our own independent testing, Gluten Free Watchdog does not oppose the use of Quaker gluten-free oatmeal by the celiac disease community. That said, the brand(s) of gluten-free oats you choose to eat is a personal decision. For more information on oats see https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-and-the-gluten-free-diet-qa-part-1/ and https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-and-the-gluten-free-diet-qa-part-2/