Why mechanically and optically sorted “gluten-free” oats continue to keep me up at night
If you are new to the gluten-free diet and are unfamiliar with the cross contact issues associated with oats and the differences between purity protocol and mechanically/optically sorted oats, please see the following articles before reading this post 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/
Many labeled gluten-free foods contain oats supplied by providers of mechanically and optically sorted oats. Recently a consumer reached out to me regarding the labeling on a gluten-free snack bar containing oats. The label read, “”Contains … wheat** **Trace amounts are unavoidable in field grains. Oats used in this product are certified gluten-free.”
There are a few issues with this labeling statement that are concerning:
- “Contains … wheat” Contains statements are supposed to pertain ONLY to ingredients. Wheat is not listed as an ingredient in this product. If the manufacturer considers this product to contain wheat then wheat should be listed as an ingredient and the product should not be labeled gluten-free. Note: Contains statements are not the same as “may contain” statements.
- “Trace amounts are unavoidable in field grains.” Standard oats are highly likely to contain errant wheat and barley grain. This is precisely why certain farmers developed purity protocols over a decade ago to minimize cross contact between oats and gluten-containing grain. Maybe this manufacturer would feel more comfortable sourcing oats from a supplier of purity protocol oats?
- “Oats used in this product are certified gluten-free.” How much testing is done by the oat supplier and manufacturer to ensure that a product that “Contains wheat” because “trace amounts are unavoidable in field grains” is gluten-free?
At this time (October 2018), 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. Generally speaking, we are NOT supportive of the use of products containing mechanically and optically sorted oats. The one exception is Quaker gluten-free oats secondary to their extensive sampling and testing protocols.