Gluten-free labels have become increasingly common in the grocery store, even on drinks and snacks that shouldn’t contain gluten, to begin with.
However, if you’ve made a joke about gluten-free oats, you might want to retract that remark.
Although oats do not inherently contain gluten, research shows that the great majority of the packages in grocery aisles have enough to harm someone with celiac disease.
Few people understand why this is, but now that we’re squeezing milk from our oats, it’s worth learning more about this enigmatic link between oats and gluten.
How can oats not be gluten-free if they don’t contain gluten?
There are two types of gluten-containing foods:
1.Gluten-containing cereals (wheat, barley, and rye) and products manufactured from them that aren’t gluten-free
(some food in Europe is sold with gluten-free wheat starch, for instance, which has the gluten taken out)
2. Foods that are supposed to be gluten-free yet become contaminated during manufacturing.
Oats come into the second group because they’re frequently cultivated alongside or in rotation with wheat
And then processed on the same machinery as gluten-containing cereals.
This isn’t an issue for the great majority of farmers.
Even if a few wheat seeds (or rye or barley seeds) sneak into your oats.
They won’t have a big influence on the taste or texture of the finished product, especially if it’s going to be flour.
What is the maximum amount of gluten that might exist?
It’s easy to believe that people are unduly concerned about gluten contamination.
What’s a smidgeon of barley in a field of oats?
If you have celiac disease, though, that one gluten-containing seed is really important.
In the United States, the standard for calling anything “gluten-free” is 20 parts per million of gluten in the whole product.
That means there must be less than 20 gluten-containing grains per million oat granules.
That’s why research on the gluten content of typical commercial oats has consistently concluded that they’re unsafe for celiacs.
Contamination was discovered in 71% of 109 samples in a 2008 investigation.
Another study focused on Canadian oats (many of which end up in the United States) and detected gluten in 88 percent of the 133 samples examined.
If you’re gluten-intolerant or have celiac disease, you shouldn’t eat any oats that aren’t expressly labeled “gluten-free.”
So, how can you make gluten-free from oat?
That means the remainder of oat processing must be done on specialist machinery in buildings that never encounter gluten-containing grains.
That means most of the oats grown in the United States include gluten—just it’s too time-consuming and expensive for most producers to do otherwise.
Although more companies are making gluten-free oats, there is still debate among celiacs about how safe each approach is.
To physically eliminate impurities from the oat supply, most major producers, such as Bob’s Red Mill and General Mills, utilize a mechanical (also known as optical) sorting process.
Some celiac sufferers say that this isn’t good enough since the sorting isn’t comprehensive enough.
Wheat seeds, like oats and rye and barley seeds, are practically never seen since they are usually always processed into flour first.
This makes sifting them out with a machine extremely difficult.
Manufacturers obtain gluten-free certification by evaluating around 20 samples and averaging the findings.
However, this might result in certain batches having gluten levels over the 20 ppm standard.
The manufacturer passes the test as long as the average is low enough.
However, many producers may not have this problem because all of their samples are beneath the limit.
You just can’t know for sure.
Many celiacs consume gluten-free oats without issue.
But if you’re concerned, you may only eat oats grown using the purity procedure, which includes cultivating them completely apart from any gluten-containing cereals.
It’s all a matter of how cautious you want to be.
Oats are a complex problem, but if you can get them into your diet.
They’re a great source of whole grain fiber, which we could all use a bit more of.