The Difference between a Wheat Free Label and a Gluten Friendly Label?

In Australia we can’t call any product containing oats gluten free!

It is true that we are unable to label oats as “gluten free oats “in Australia at the moment. This law was based on a study published in 2006 using mainstream oats, where nobody knew about the cross contamination. So, they got gluten reading when they tested the oats and concluded that oats contained gluten. Gluten is the word to describe the prolamin protein fraction in grains such as gliadin in wheat, hordein in barley, secalin in rye and the avenin in oats. Fast forward to 2021 after a number of studies completed overseas (here are the links) it has been discovered that oats are in fact quite different to their counterparts and in fact gluten is a combination of proteins which effectively is the gluten that helps food stay together or maintains it shape e.g: bread. If you try and make a loaf of bread from just oat flour, guess what?  It falls apart. Studies indicate overseas that 1 in 100 Coeliac reacted to uncontaminated oats or gluten free oats, however of this study no one suffered any long-term effects. It is recommended here that a coeliac has an oat study prior to consuming our oats.

With the advent of agriculture, wheat has emerged as the most commonly eaten grain globally. Due to its unparalleled rise as a wholesome and nutritious food, wheat found a place as an ingredient in a vast majority of food products. However despite its exalted status wheat and wheat containing foods are a cause of allergies and irritation to many people across the globe. An increased prevalence of wheat allergy or wheat intolerance has created a sudden spurt in the demand of wheat free foods.

The interesting thing though is that there is NO food standards guidelines when it comes to labelling a product ‘Wheat free’ here in Australia with regards to Oats. So if you see a product which solely claims they are ‘Wheat Free’ – we don’t actually know what the gluten testing threshold is here. Does it mean it has <10ppm contamination, 20ppm contamination – there are no guidelines. So I see this as a real problem. 

Gluten is an ingredient found in many grains including wheat. In fact, the gluten found in wheat is called gliadin. Some individuals, who are allergic to wheat, can eat foods which are wheat free but are made from gluten containing grains. Some such grains, which contain gluten and can be eaten as a part of wheat free diet, are rye, barley, spelt and oats. So, if oats are in fact ONLY labelled as ‘wheat free oats’ this could mean that they are cross contaminated with these other gluten containing grains. 

The term ‘gluten friendly’ has been coined on menus lately to communicate that a product may have been cooked in an environment that contains gluten containing foods. Essentially, they are trying to protect themselves and only cater for those who are allergic with the ‘gluten free’ claim as it is such a small group in comparison to the larger growing ‘gluten intolerance group’. 

GF Oats has decided to use the term ‘gluten friendly’ on their packaging communicating to our ‘gluten intolerance’ customers that these our oats are good to go for them. Coeliac patients are encouraged to follow the society guidelines. 

 Remember that wheat free does not mean a product is ‘gluten free’ as other grains contain gluten. ‘Gluten free’ does however mean a product is wheat free’.

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