Gluten free oats should be a staple of your gluten-free lifestyle, but unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation about oats and whether there are gluten free oats safe for celiacs and others with gluten sensitivity. While there are some people who truly cannot tolerate oats, the majority of folks can add oats to their diets safely, so long as the oats are truly gluten free. So what does it mean for oats to be “truly gluten free?”
To be truly gluten free, oats need to be grown and harvested and packaged in dedicated areas. Oat groats are so similarly sized to wheat and barley, in particular, that farmers often maximize efficiencies by using the same equipment and rotate crops through the same fields — leading to rampant cross-contamination.
Until recently this wasn’t such a big problem, as buying “gluten free oats” usually meant that you were buying certified gluten-free, and “Purity Protocol” oats, meaning:
- Planting pure seed stock with pre-planting field history audits
- All equipment inspected and approved for gluten-free production
- Each field inspected prior to harvest by the company and a third party
- Harvested seed only stored in dedicated gluten-free grain storage
- Processed in a dedicated and certified gluten-free oat mill
- Packaged on a dedicated and certified gluten-free packaging line
- Third party audits showing the final product is certified gluten-free
However, large companies have recently gotten into the mix, offering mass-produced foods to gluten free consumers by using cheaper, regular contaminated oats, and attempting to optically or mechanically sort out most of the gluten grains in order to represent to consumers that their oats contain less than 20 ppm gluten (the new FDA standard for gluten free labeling). Unfortunately, we’ve seen many instances already where consumers have been made sick by these products because they are not clean enough. These large companies are not opening their doors to independent auditing, inspection, testing and certification, so there is no way to really know how safe the oats are, except that we know they’re making people sick.
Fortunately for those of us who follow a gluten free diet for medical reasons, there are still Purity Protocol Oats available, so we can enjoy oats safely. But the future of these oats remains unclear because the demand for these oats is drying up as companies realize they can buy contaminated oats, attempt to separate most of the gluten out of them, and sell them as “gluten free” for a profit. If you want to continue to have a choice — continue to be able to buy truly gluten free oats — there is something you can do to help.
Johnna from In Johnna’s Kitchen has organized a “cash mob” of sorts to support Gluten Free Harvest, a celiac family-run farm growing Purity Protocol Oats, and a farm that is struggling. A recent article in The Powell Tribune reported that GF Harvest’s planting of their 2016 oats crop is tentatively on hold due to flagging sales.
As a reader, you probably already know that Gluten Free Harvest are the oats I trust and the oats that I offer here on my site. Ever since I met the family farmers who literally walk the fields during the harvest to stop the combine so they can pull out any undesirable plants that could contaminate their crop, I knew that I could trust them to provide the safest, highest quality oats to me and to my customers. To learn more about these certified gluten free oats and how they are grown and processed, as well as why I chose GF Harvest Oats to sell through my site, listen to Jules’ Gluten Free Voice podcast interview with Seaton Smith from GF Harvest.
Gluten free oats belong in your diet as much as they do in everyone else’s. Actually, people following a gluten free diet have added reason to want certified gluten free oats in their diets. For one, the beta glucans found in oats reduce bad LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, and they lessen both glycemic and insulin response. But those same beta glucans bolster immune system defenses against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Know anyone in the gluten free community who could use a little extra immune system strength?
The fiber in the organic quick gluten free oats from Gluten Free Harvest also works on your body’s behalf, long after your yummy breakfast (or oat-rich dessert like cobblers or cookies!). Oats’ fiber gives you a fuller feeling, longer, so you’re less likely to feel hungry and snack. Also, one study showed 59% of elderly test subjects had discontinued their use of laxatives after just 6 weeks of daily oat bran consumption. Early oat consumption by young children has even been statistically linked to a reduction in the likelihood of the development of persistent asthma. To read more about whether gluten free oats are safe in your diet, hop to my article here.
Forrest Smith, co-owner and marketing manager of GF Harvest, in a Gluten Free & More interview with Erica Dermer (Celiac and the Beast), urges us all to ask our favorite brands to use purity protocol oats, “Call every company that makes a gluten free oat product and ask them if they are only using purity protocol oats in it. They might not tell who you the company they are buying from, but they should be able to answer this question…Tell them that you are not willing to take the risk of eating sorted oats so you will not be buying this product anymore.”
Do your part to help save a celiac family farm and ensure that we all have the choice for Purity Protocol Oats in the future. Thank you!