How much gluten is in Oreo cookies?

Oreo cookies are a popular cookie made by Nabisco that consist of two chocolate wafers with a sweet creme filling in between. Oreos are enjoyed by many people, including those who follow a gluten-free diet. But how much gluten is actually in Oreo cookies?

Do Oreos Contain Gluten?

The short answer is yes, Oreo cookies do contain gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Since Oreo cookies contain wheat flour, they are not considered gluten-free.

According to Oreo’s website, their classic Oreo cookies contain the following ingredients:

Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate {Vitamin B1}, Riboflavin {Vitamin B2}, Folic Acid)
High Oleic Canola Oil and/or Palm Oil and/or Canola Oil
Cocoa (processed with alkali)
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Baking Soda
Soy Lecithin

The first ingredient listed is wheat flour, which clearly indicates the presence of gluten. Other varieties of Oreos also contain wheat flour. So while the exact gluten content may vary slightly between different Oreo products, all Oreos contain gluten and are not gluten-free.

Measuring the Gluten Content in Oreos

So Oreos contain gluten, but how much exactly? Quantifying the precise gluten content in Oreos requires scientifically testing the cookies.

One analysis conducted by the Gluten Free Watchdog tested four different flavors of Oreos – Original, Double Stuf, Mega Stuf, and Thins. They tested multiple samples of each variety using the R5 ELISA test, which detects the presence of gluten protein fragments.

Their results found that the gluten content ranged from 840 parts per million (ppm) to 1,260 ppm among the different Oreo varieties. The original Oreos contained 1,010 ppm of gluten.

Another study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition also examined the gluten content in Original Oreos. Using the R5 ELISA test, researchers found the cookies contained 784 ppm of gluten.

These studies show that while the exact number varies slightly, Original Oreos appear to contain approximately 800-1,000 ppm of gluten.

U.S. Regulations on Gluten-Free Labels

In the United States, foods labeled as “gluten-free” must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten, according to regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Anything containing over 20 ppm of gluten cannot be labeled as gluten-free and is not considered safe for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

With Original Oreos appearing to contain 784-1,010 ppm of gluten based on independent testing, Oreos clearly contain far too much gluten to be labeled gluten-free under FDA regulations.

Gluten Thresholds

In addition to the absolute cut-off of less than 20 ppm to be labeled gluten-free, there are a few other important thresholds to be aware of:

  • 20-100 ppm – Very low gluten but not gluten-free
  • 100-200 ppm – Low gluten
  • 200+ ppm – High gluten

At 784-1,010 ppm of gluten, Oreos would fall into the high gluten category according to these thresholds. The amount of gluten present in Original Oreos is well over the maximum threshold to be considered gluten-free.

Are Oreos Safe for People with Celiac Disease?

For people with celiac disease, consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine. Even tiny amounts of gluten can cause issues for those with celiac.

Some celiac organizations establish thresholds for the maximum amount of gluten that can be safely consumed per day. For example:

  • Celiac Disease Foundation – 50 mg per day
  • Celiac Sprue Association – 50 mg per day
  • University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center – 10 mg per day

Based on the University of Chicago’s strict threshold of 10 mg daily, it would take just 1/100th of an Oreo cookie to reach this limit. Even half of a single Oreo exceeds the Celiac Disease Foundation and Celiac Sprue Association’s threshold.

Clearly, Oreos are not safe for people with celiac disease due to the high gluten content. Consuming Oreos would involve a very high risk of causing intestinal damage and other symptoms in people with celiac.

Presence of Gluten Traces

In addition to the high gluten content in the wheat flour itself, Oreos may contain trace amounts of gluten due to cross-contact during manufacturing. The facility and equipment used to make Oreos likely also processes other wheat-based products. Some amount of gluten traces may get into the Oreos through dust or residue on machinery.

Oreo does not claim their products are gluten-free or free of gluten traces. The gluten content numbers discussed earlier only account for the main ingredients, not traces that may inadvertently get into the cookies during processing.

So in addition to the approximately 800-1,000 ppm of gluten in the wheat flour, Oreos likely contain at least small amounts of gluten traces as well.

Can People with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity Eat Oreos?

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) do not experience the same severe autoimmune reaction as those with celiac disease. However, gluten still causes uncomfortable gastrointestinal and other symptoms in NCGS.

There is no medical consensus on a safe threshold of gluten intake for NCGS. Some people report reacting to tiny traces, while others can tolerate small amounts. The amount of gluten that triggers symptoms varies greatly between individuals.

For many people with gluten sensitivity, Oreos would likely cause issues due to the high gluten content. However, the reaction really depends on the individual and their specific tolerance levels.

Those with NCGS may be able to handle a small portion of an Oreo, but would likely experience problems if they ate a whole serving. It’s impossible to generalize since reactions vary so much between people.

Trying an Elimination Diet

For those with suspected NCGS, removing gluten from the diet for several weeks then gradually reintroducing it can help determine individual tolerance thresholds. Keeping a food and symptom journal is recommended.

People who eliminate gluten then reintroduce Oreos might realize they react more strongly than expected to a food they previously tolerated well. This indicates their sensitivity level and can guide their dietary choices moving forward.

Oreo Products Safe for a Gluten-Free Diet

While Original Oreos and most types contain gluten, Oreo does offer a couple gluten-free options:

  • Gluten Free Oreos – These are made with gluten-free ingredients to be suitable for gluten-free diets. They substitute rice flour for the wheat flour.
  • Oreo Thins – While they do contain wheat, Oreo Thins tested at 8 ppm of gluten in one analysis, which falls under the FDA gluten-free labeling threshold of 20 ppm.

So people who must strictly avoid all traces of gluten do have two Oreo options that may work for them. However, those with celiac disease should use caution and check with their doctor before trying either of these.

Gluten Free Oreos would be the safer choice over Oreo Thins for most people with celiac, since Thins may still contain trace amounts that could trigger issues.

Importance of Avoiding Cross-Contact

Those consuming the gluten-free Oreos should still take care to avoid cross-contact with other Oreo products containing gluten. Crumbs from regular Oreos could contaminate the gluten-free ones if stored side-by-side, for example.

Risks of Cheating with Oreos for People on Gluten-Free Diets

For those sticking to a strict gluten-free diet, eating regular Oreos once in awhile may seem like no big deal. However, in reality, cheating here and there with foods like Oreos can be damaging.

Consuming hidden sources of gluten can:

  • Cause symptoms like pain, diarrhea, bloating
  • Lead to malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies
  • Increase the risk of other autoimmune diseases
  • Cause damage to the nervous system
  • Increase the risk of intestinal cancers

While an occasional slip up won’t cause permanent harm, making a habit of it and frequently consuming snacks with hidden gluten can prevent healing of the intestines and cause persistent issues.

It’s best for those with celiac disease, NCGS, or on a gluten-free diet for any reason to be consistent about avoiding Oreos and other products that contain gluten or may have cross-contact with gluten.

The Bottom Line

Oreos are not gluten-free. Most varieties contain approximately 800-1,000 ppm of gluten, which is well over the FDA threshold for labeling items gluten-free.

Oreos are not safe for people with celiac disease due to the high gluten content. Those with NCGS may be able to tolerate a small portion, but many will likely experience issues after eating Oreos.

The two Oreo products suitable for gluten-free diets are Gluten Free Oreos and Oreo Thins. However, care is still needed to avoid cross-contact when choosing gluten-free Oreo options.

Overall, it’s best for people following gluten-free diets to avoid regular Oreos containing wheat. Safer gluten-free swaps or treats high in nutrients should be chosen instead when an Oreo craving strikes.

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