One of our most frequently asked questions is “Are our oats gluten free?”
Can I first start by saying that it is NOT our intention here at GF Oats to cause anyone distress - goodness knows there are a lot of other things going on in the world to be distressed about? However, we aim to provide the Australian consumer, who demand our steamed rolled oats, that is free from the contamination from wheat, rye, or barley OR as certified in other countries ‘Gluten Free Oats’. We are currently importing and distributing throughout Australia and NZ – selling in excess of more than 200 tonnes of oats, so there is a market for people who need and want to enjoy the health benefits of a gluten-free diet and our beautiful product.
Did you know that our food labelling laws are strictly governed by a long list of standards set by the Food Standards Australia & New Zealand? Here in the manufacturing game, we nickname them (FSANZ). In this document there is a section outlining the details around labelling a product gluten free. This is Standard 1.2.8 Clause 16. This clause states that for a food to be labelled ‘Gluten Free’, it has to meet the testing of nil gluten detected or <5ppm gluten detected which effectively equals ZERO detected gluten.
It then says that no product that contains oats in Australia can be labelled as gluten-free oats. Now an interesting fact, this sub-clause was added in after a study published around 2006 that was conducted on contaminated oats. Yep, they did the study on oats that were contaminated with wheat, rye and barley. You see nobody knew that the oats were contaminated throughout the supply chain, they just knew that when they were putting the oats through the gluten testing machines, they were getting a gluten reading. So, they called it a day and concluded that oats contain gluten.
Fast forward to around 2017, and all of a sudden, we see a little * appear on our gluten-free tests that we do with every load of oats we bring into our supply chain. We publish these results on our website by the way, under our Compliance Page. When we inquired about this * we were informed that NATA – National Australian Testing Authority - had now approved the gluten-free test on oats.
Shortly after, a new amendment to the FSANZ sub-clause around oats was added. Any oats that showed <5ppm or nil gluten detected, could now be labelled as ‘Low Gluten’. This sounded great, but we did feel people would be confused about a ‘Low Gluten” claim, so we trialled it for 12 months, and yep, it caused more confusion that ever for our customers. So, based on our surveys we do regularly, we found that our customers knew that if they were Coeliac that they would only eat products that were labelled ‘Gluten-Free’, which is very reasonably what the societies around Australia would market and promote. At the same time, we started to see the term ‘Gluten Friendly’ being used throughout the hospitality predominately as well as Wheat Free, which we also used as one of our benefits but NOT the main one.
I have done a full blog on what the difference is between Wheat Free and Gluten Free and what Gluten Friendly Labelling Means, so you can check that out. However, we chose to use ‘Gluten Friendly’ as a way to describe the key benefit of our oats. There are no guidelines around what the terms “Gluten Friendly and Wheat Free” actually mean in the Food Standards industry. Our pure oats are definitely MORE than Wheat Free Oats as they test nil to gluten and wheat-free does NOT mean that and since we can’t call them Gluten-Free Oats we are in between a rock and a hard place in communicating to our customers. The best that we can do is call them Gluten Friendly Oats.
Now, there's already plenty of information here, but there's much more than we can fit into this post, so please check out our full article on this important topic, which goes much more in depth and has many excellent sources to give you the best chance at making informed choices about your diet.