Are oats gluten free?


Erin Dwyer - Research Dietitian, 02 March 2020

When we asked our instagram and Facebook audience what questions they would like answered, a common one was ‘What is the deal with oats?’. This is a great question as it is not 100% straight forward so let us clear it up.... 

But first, please remember, a low FODMAP diet is NOT a gluten free diet. When following a low FODMAP diet we are concerned about the ‘fermentable carbohydrates’, gluten is a protein so unless you have Coeliac Disease OR Non Coeliac Gluten sensitivity (NCGS) there is no need to worry about gluten. You can read more about this here

If you do have Coeliac Disease or NCGS, then oats are controversial. Gluten is the overarching name for the protein in wheat (gliadin), rye (secalin), barley (horedin) and oats (avenin). Currently you can test for each specific protein, except for avenin, the protein in oats. Therefore, the Australian Food Standard Code does not allow ‘Gluten Free’ labels on oat products in Australia. In Europe and the USA however, oats not contaminated with gluten-containing grains can be called Gluten Free. 

What do we mean by not contaminated? 

Sometimes referred to in international regulations, pure ‘non-contaminated' oats are oats that have not been processed in facilities with rye, barley or wheat. 

Why can the USA and Europe call them gluten free? 

In Australia, our testing for gluten is more specific than in other parts of the world, we test to 1-3 parts per million (ppm), whereas the USA and Europe test to only 20ppm, therefore we pick up the presence of gluten more often than other countries, so essentially Australia's rules are stricter. 

Current Recommendations for those with Coeliac Disease 

The current evidence suggests that most people with coeliac disease can tolerate uncontaminated or wheat free oats, however there are some will react to oats and it may or may not cause noticeable symptoms. Therefore, the recommendation from Coeliac Australia is if you would like to include oats in your gluten free diet then you should do so under medical supervision, with a gastroscopy and biopsy taken prior to commencing a daily intake of 50-70g oats for 3 months, then following with another gastroscopy with biopsy to assess your individual reaction (if any) to oats.(Rashid, M. et al., 2007)

If you are currently following Step 1 of the low FODMAP diet, be sure to check the app for low FODMAP serve sizes of oats - in their different forms (groats/rolled/quick) they do have different FODMAP content.

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