Not all oats are created equal. Also know that not all Celiacs can digest oats, even if they are Purity Protocol.
Oats were originally not allowed at all on the gluten free diet because all oats were grown (and processed) with wheat. Starting in 2008, some farmers started growing pure oats, following a “purity protocol,” which what many Celiacs look to as the standard for safety in consuming oats.
Purity Protocol Oats:
- Crop rotation includes only gluten-free grains.
- Fields are inspected by the company growing them as well as a third-party. This happens during planting and prior to harvesting.
- Harvested oats are processed and packaged using dedicated and certified gluten-free packaging lines.
- The end-product (oats, oatmeal, oat bran, oat groats, etc.) is tested (usually R5 Eliza) and must meet the FDA’s standard of containing less than 20ppm of gluten.
Please note that according to Gluten Free Watchdog, there is no standardized definition for PP oats. The above is what you may generally expect, but I recommend review what each PP oats company does in their process before purchasing their products.
Mechanically Separated Oats:
- Crop rotation can include wheat or other gluten-containing grains (usually barley).
- Harvesting and processing is automated by using machines to sort oat seeds by size, shape, and color. These machines are expected to remove wheat and barley seeds from oats during this processing.
- Processing happens on shared lines.
- Sorting is not 100% accurate. Not only may gluten-containing grains be left behind, but dust as well. Hello cross contamination!
Why it matters:
Cross contamination means you are ingesting gluten. And for most of us, it doesn’t take very much to do us in.
To make things more confusing, gluten-free products can be labeled gluten free, and certified by a third party, but that does not mean that the oats in question were grown following Purity Protocol. These products could (and likely do) contain mechanically sorted oats. Some manufacturers will tell you, if you ask, who their oat supplier is, but they are not required to share this information. In my experience, if a company is trying to push a new gluten free product (*cough*OREOS*cough*) and refuses ingredient transparency to the very community of people the product is purportedly for, this is a huge red flag.
So which companies do use Purity Protocol oats?
Glanbia Nutritionals’ OatPure™ Gluten-Free Oats – UK based (ingredient supplier to manufacturers only, not consumers)
Only Oats (Canada)
Also, the Gluten-Free Watchdog keeps a good list of suppliers, and updates it (with dates when companies are re-confirmed to still be under PP). You can find that list here.
Companies known to use mechanically separated oats:
Bob’s Red Mill (Everything I’ve read says they use a mix of PP and mechanically separated oats, which leads me not to trust them. How do I know which I’m getting? I’ve never seen the PP designation on any of their GF products.)
General Mills – this really came to light with their very problematic “gluten free” Cheerios
Grain Millers – you can read their policy here. You’ll see that they claim to have the “purest oat products possible,” but they are not, as they are gluten-removed oats. Just like General Mills. So if any company you’re dealing with says they’re using Grain Millers oats, they are not safe.
Companies I am waiting to hear back from (still as of 31 January 2023!):
Nairn’s – contacted 4/11/2021 – Their website has extensive information about gluten free safety, but nowhere do they use the words “Purity Protocol”.
Glutenfreeda – contacted 4/11/2021 – Their packaging says “gluten free oats” but that doesn’t mean PP oats.
Companies that refuse to be transparent and/or do not respond to questions, and are probably using mechanically separated oats:
Mondelez (They own the Oreo brand. And Enjoy Life as of 2015.)
Glutenfreeda was purchased by Flagship Food Group in 2017, and this brand is now double-branded with LilyB’s and Glutenfreeda. There is no indication anywhere that they still use PP oats. The Gluten Free Watchdog says on their site that they reached out in 2020. I assume they never heard back because their list of PP companies does not include Glutenfreeda. I wrote to them on 4/11/2021. I will update if I hear anything.
Do you have companies to add to any of the above lists? Please comment and let me know! Does anyone know of any oat milks which use Purity Protocol oats?
I’ve never found any, and this has eliminated all the non-dairy milks I know of now that they all seem to have oat milks in their line. While I generally use dairy milk, some of my recipes call for non-dairy milks for friends and family. But I don’t want to contaminate my kitchen equipment with products with gluten CC! This is also why I no longer recommend Coffeemate as they’ve introduced an oat-milk creamer, and were evasive when I asked questions. I am in the US (east coast). While I will certainly list safe oat milks for other countries, I’d definitely like to find one that is safe and accessible where I live.