Gluten-free oats grown under a purity protocol could be at risk all because companies are more concerned about making money than they are about people’s health. That issue was highlighted in an article published this week about a company that produces pure gluten-free oats and the prospect that their 2016 crop might be put on hold. Why? Because they are losing business to companies that produce so called gluten-free oats but do not follow a purity protocol. Let me explain.
First, pure oats are considered gluten free, though around 5% of celiacs cannot tolerate them. However, oats are grown in fields where wheat and barley are grown and they are processed on the same equipment and transported in the same trucks, which all adds up to a dangerous amount of cross contamination.
So, in order to produce gluten-free oats that are safe for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, a handful of companies sprung up who grow oats in fields where wheat and barley are not grown and they follow a purity protocol to ensure that those oats are gluten free. You can see a list suppliers and manufacturers who use this kind of oats at Gluten Free Watchdog.
The introduction of pure oats was a great benefit to the celiac community, but things have changed. There is another way that oats can be labeled as gluten free, and that is using mechanical sorting (taking oats that are not pure and sorting out the grains of wheat and barley). While this has allowed companies to produce products that can be labeled gluten free according to the FDA, it has also brought products onto the market that are not truly safe, and many people have gotten sick as a result.
A big problem with these sorted oats and products that use them is how the testing is conducted. The FDA is not specific about this, only requiring products to be below 20 ppm. So companies use mean testing where they combine multiple batches, resulting in some high values being diluted.
Sorting oats is cheaper than growing oats under a purity protocol, so of course, it all comes down to a matter of money. Companies are using sorted oats to produce products at a lower cost and that is hurting the companies who grow pure oats.
It is likely that sorted oats are here to stay, but they have a ways to go before they would be considered safe in my book, if ever. I would much rather spend my money on oats grown by people who care about my health and aren’t just in it for the money.
So if you buy gluten-free oats or products that contain oats/oat flour please consider the source of those oats. And remember that just because the oats are certified by an organization does not mean they were grown under a purity protocol.
What are your thoughts on gluten-free oats?
I have addressed this topic before in my posts about gluten-free Cheerios, which you can find here: