An often asked question, with a tricky answer, are oats gluten free? Well yes, technically they are, but no, in Australia they are still not considered safe for those with Coeliac Disease to consume. Really it comes down to a personal choice and the individual's reaction but always make sure any oats you buy are specifically marked gluten free.

Who says oats aren't safe on a gluten free diet

In Australia oats are not considered to be safe for those with Coeliac Disease. Please see the statement on the Coeliac Australia website which states that FSANZ defines wheat, rye, barley and oats as gluten containing grains, as they have been proven to trigger a reaction in those with coeliac disease. It goes on to say the Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) for Coeliac Australia believe oats should be excluded from a gluten free diet until there is more definitive research.

Yet despite all this we go to other countries and see gluten free oats on the menu and supermarket shelves. Now we are even starting to see them imported to our own supermarket shelves.

Why oats aren't considered to be gluten free in Australia

There are two issues that inhibit authorities in Australia from changing their stance on oats and whether they can be considered gluten free.

Contamination
Oats can be easily contaminated throughout the growing process. They are grown in rotation with gluten containing cereal crops and they are also harvested, transported and stored using the same equipment as gluten containing grains (wheat, rye and barley).

Wheat and barely in particular are such a huge part of our national cereal cropping industry that it is, at this point, very hard to produce gluten free oats in Australia.

Gluten is found in oats through contamination although some Coeliacs can't tolerate oats at all
Protein structure
In Australia it is believed that 1 in 5 people with Coeliac Disease will have a negative reaction to gluten free oats. At the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Centre in America they say 1%, but let's put that to the side for now and have a look at why someone with Coeliac Disease might have a negative reaction to oats.

Gluten containing grains contain these specific gluten proteins

Oats contain avenin which has a similar molecular structure to gluten proteins. This is what experts believe might be causing the harmful reaction in some people.

Why would those with Coeliac Disease want to add oats back into their diet?

Oats are of high-nutritional value, providing a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fibre (the soluble fibre is believed to help reduce cholesterol). All of which can be found lacking in a standard gluten free diet and gluten free flour alternatives. Plus, being able to eat oats also adds a bit of variety to breakfasts and baking, making the gluten free diet just a little bit more exciting for oats lovers out there.

Are oats gluten free?

What about the 4 in 5 who can eat oats?

Despite oats not being considered safe in Australia, gluten free oats are available.

Gluten free by definition, when used in relation to oats, is the absence of contact with wheat, barley and rye in the growing, harvesting and packaging processes. In other words they haven't been cross contaminated.

If you want to try adding oats back into your diet make sure they are gluten free. It is advisable not to trial it before your body is well on its way to recovery and should be in consultation with your doctor or dietician.

And the 1 in 5 who have a negative reaction to oats?

Unfortunately for those of you who try oats but have a negative response you will have to remain restricted by the gluten free diet mantra all Coeliacs know so well... "I can't eat wheat, rye, barley or oats". There are so many alternatives out there now, try our chia seed and coconut milk pudding or our gluten free quinoa porridge. You won't even miss oats after you try these. Yum!