Written by GMB Health Advisor, Dietitian Chloe McLeod
Oats. One of our favourite breakfast foods, be at as porridge, muesli or as part of a smoothie, or even baked into our favourite cookies. For those requiring a gluten free diet, oats can be tricky. Are they gluten free, or aren’t they?
Labeling laws in Australia
Australia has some of the strictest labelling laws in the world when it comes to gluten. Foods labelled as gluten free must:
- Not contain any detectable gluten
- Not contain oats or their products
- Not contain cereals containing gluten that have used malt or their products
Ingredients which have come from gluten containing grains need to be declared on the label, with low gluten meaning less than 200 parts per million.
This applies to all food sold or prepared for sale, or imported into Australia and New Zealand.
For these reasons, oats cannot be strictly labelled as Gluten Free in Australia, regardless of where they have come from.
Contamination Issues in Australia
Whilst oats themselves are gluten free, they are often processed on equipment that also processed wheat, rye and barley. These grains also happen to contain gluten, and as such, contamination of the oats with small amounts of gluten is likely.
Gluten Free Oates in the US
In the US, products can be labeled as gluten free if they contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The Australian Oat company Gloriously Free Oats take significant care to avoid contamination from gluten throughout their processing.
What is the difference between all the different types?
Wholegrain. Quick. Steel cut. Flavoured. Whats the difference? It all comes down to processing. Steel cut oats are oats as they come after they have been cut, without any rolling. Wholegrain or rolled oats are similar to steel cut, however they have been rolled flat. Logically, steel cut oats have a much lower glycaemic index (GI) than rolled oats.
Quick oats are rolled oats, however they have been cut up into tiny pieces so they cook faster. This also raises the GI, meaning they will digest much more quickly than either rolled or steel cut oats.
Flavoured oats are often quick oats, however there are now some brands providing flavoured wholegrain/rolled oats as well. These have had flavor added, usually through use of spices, fruit and sugar.
Gloriously Free Oats state that their oats are ‘uniquely uncontaminated from the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley’. These oats are a great option for those who can only tolerate a small amount of gluten. It is important to remember that oats labeled as Gluten Free in the US are not able to be labeled as gluten free in Australia. As such, it is important to remember that it is not recommended for people with coeliac disease to consume oats, due to the potential risk of damage.