Is Bob’s Red Mill gluten free oats really gluten-free?

Gluten-free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people opting to avoid gluten for health or dietary reasons. For those following a gluten-free diet, finding safe and reliable gluten-free alternatives to common foods containing gluten can be challenging. One popular product is Bob’s Red Mill gluten free oats, which are a frequent staple in many gluten-free kitchens.

What is gluten and why do some people need to avoid it?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For most people, consuming gluten is not a problem. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten can cause serious health issues.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity involves similar gastrointestinal and extraintestinal symptoms after consuming gluten, without the same immune response and intestinal damage seen in celiac disease.

For both celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the only effective treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet, avoiding any foods and products containing gluten. Even small amounts of gluten can trigger symptoms and promote intestinal damage in those with celiac disease.

Why are oats a concern on the gluten-free diet?

Oats do not naturally contain gluten. However, they are often processed in facilities that also process wheat and other gluten-containing grains. This can lead to cross-contamination, resulting in small amounts of gluten ending up in the final oat products.

Additionally, some farmers grow oats in rotational cycles with wheat or barley. This can also increase the risk of gluten cross-contamination in the oat supply.

For these reasons, conventional oats are generally not considered safe for gluten-free diets. Oat products labeled as “gluten-free” have been specially processed to avoid cross-contamination with gluten.

Are Bob’s Red Mill gluten free oats really gluten-free?

Bob’s Red Mill is one of the most trusted brands when it comes to gluten-free oats and other gluten-free whole grains. The company takes many steps to ensure their gluten-free oats live up to their name.

Here are some of the measures Bob’s Red Mill takes with their gluten-free oats:

  • They source their oats from certified gluten-free growers. These farmers only grow gluten-free grains and practice thorough cleaning of equipment between harvests.
  • The oats are transported in dedicated gluten-free trucks to avoid cross-contamination.
  • At the mill, gluten-free oats are processed on dedicated equipment separate from any wheat or gluten grains.
  • Extensive testing is done regularly, both in-house and by third-party labs, to verify gluten-free status.
  • Allowable gluten threshold is less than 20 parts per million (ppm). This is the same standard the FDA uses to designate gluten-free products.

In addition to these control measures, some celiac disease organizations, like the Celiac Support Association, have endorsed Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats as a safe gluten-free option based on independent testing.

What testing has been done on Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats?

Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats have been subjected to rigorous third-party testing to verify gluten-free status. Here are some examples of testing performed specifically on their gluten-free oat products:

  • Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) Recognition Seal – This involves batch testing by an FDA-approved laboratory using the R5 ELISA test for gluten. Products must test below 5 ppm gluten over time to maintain CSA endorsement.
  • Eurofins testing – Regular testing by Eurofins laboratory consistently shows gluten levels less than 5 ppm in Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats. Reports are available on their website.
  • ConsumerLab – A 2012 test of 4 major brands of gluten-free oats found Bob’s Red Mill oats to be gluten-free with no detectable gluten.
  • University of Chicago – In 2019, researchers used mass spectrometry testing and found gluten levels in Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats were below the 20 ppm FDA threshold.

Based on this rigorous testing, there is strong evidence that Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats contain gluten levels well below the FDA gluten-free guidelines. Their control measures from farm to package appear effective in avoiding cross-contamination issues.

Are Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats safe for celiac disease?

According to many leading celiac disease experts and research studies, Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats are considered safe for the majority of people with celiac disease when consumed in moderation:

  • Celiac Disease Center at University of Chicago – Their 2019 study found no evidence of harm for people with celiac disease eating up to 40-50g per day of uncontaminated gluten-free oats like Bob’s Red Mill oats.
  • Celiac Disease Program at Mayo Clinic – They state most patients with celiac disease can eat moderate amounts of pure gluten-free oats.
  • Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center – Recommends introducing certified gluten-free oats like Bob’s Red Mill in limited amounts.
  • University of Minnesota – A long-term 2010 study saw no negative impact in celiac disease patients eating gluten-free oats daily for a year.
  • National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) – Supports inclusion of gluten-free oats from uncontaminated sources.

However, it is recommended that individuals with celiac disease introduce gluten-free oats slowly under medical supervision in case they prove to be sensitive. Using purity protocol oats, like Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats, reduces this risk.

Tips for safely eating Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats

Here are some tips for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity on how to safely add Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats to your diet:

  • Introduce oats slowly and pay attention to any symptoms. Try a small bowl of oatmeal once or twice a week and gradually increase as tolerated.
  • Check for any contamination at home. Make sure containers and utensils used for oats are thoroughly cleaned and not exposed to sources of gluten.
  • Stick to certified gluten-free oats from trusted brands like Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Check the label every time you buy oats. Manufacturing processes can change over time.
  • Limit servings to 1/2 – 3/4 cup dry oats per day, especially when first adding oats to your diet.
  • Don’t overdo it. Too much gluten-free oat consumption could increase sensitivity.
  • Monitor symptoms and get retested for gluten exposure if any suspicious symptoms develop after eating oats consistently.

The bottom line

Based on all the available testing data, gluten-free certifications, and expert recommendations, Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats are considered a safe and trusted gluten-free option for most people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity when consumed in moderation. However, it is still wise to use caution when first introducing oats and assess for any signs of issues on an individual level.

Other frequently asked questions

Does Bob’s Red Mill process wheat in their facility?

Yes, Bob’s Red Mill does process wheat and other gluten-containing grains in their main facility in Milwaukie, Oregon. However, all their gluten-free oats and products are processed in a separate dedicated gluten-free facility in Kansas City, Kansas. This avoids any risk of cross-contamination from other grains processed at their main site.

Are Bob’s Red Mill oats processed on shared equipment?

No, Bob’s Red Mill uses dedicated equipment only used for gluten-free grains at their Kansas City facility. Their gluten-free oats come into contact only with other gluten-free grains during processing, harvesting, transportation, and packaging.

Can celiac disease develop later in life?

Yes, it is possible for both children and adults to develop celiac disease later in life. Typical onset is between infancy and 40 years old, but people over 60 are still at risk of developing celiac disease. When celiac develops later, symptoms are more likely to be atypical or silent. Getting tested for celiac disease is recommended if any suspicious symptoms develop.

Do purity protocol oats still contain avenin?

Yes, all oats – including gluten-free oats – still contain the protein avenin. There has been debate over whether avenin may cause issues similar to gluten for some people. But many recent studies have found avenin is well tolerated by people with celiac disease when consuming gluten-free oats in moderation.

Can oats ever be considered gluten-free?

Yes, oats free of contamination from gluten-containing grains can be safely labeled as gluten-free. The FDA set the gluten-free labeling standards in 2013, allowing both purity protocol and mechanically-sorted gluten-free oats to be marketed as gluten-free when rigorous steps are taken to avoid any gluten cross-contact.

Should gluten-free oats be introduced to a child’s diet?

Introducing oats and other solid foods to an infant’s diet can potentially trigger celiac disease symptoms in susceptible children. Therefore, it is recommended to wait until after one year of age, when a child has stopped breastfeeding, to introduce gluten-containing grains. Gluten-free oats can be introduced slowly anytime after one year of age by mixing small amounts into other foods.

Are oats considered a grain or pulse?

Oats are considered a grain along with cereal crops like wheat, rice, corn, barley, and rye. The term pulse refers to crops in the legume family, such as beans, lentils, and peas. While oats do not contain gluten naturally, they are still classified botanically as a grain rather than a pulse.

Can oats be safely increased in the gluten-free diet over time?

For most people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, oats that are certified gluten-free can be gradually increased on the diet over time. It is wise to start with 1/4-1/2 cup portions a few times per week and increase slowly to a daily intake of up to 3/4 cup. Monitor symptoms and get retested if any issues arise with higher intakes.

Should gluten-free oats be limited on a paleo diet?

The paleo diet advises limiting grains, including gluten-free varieties like oats. This is because grains contain compounds like lectins and phytates that can impact digestion and nutrient absorption. However, small amounts of oats and other whole gluten-free grains are less likely to cause issues compared to overdoing high grain intake. Those on a paleo eating plan can occasionally incorporate certified gluten-free oats in moderation.

Are oats used in wheat fields for crop rotation?

It is a common crop rotation practice for farmers to alternate planting oats and wheat in the same fields during different growing seasons. This can increase the risk of oat crops being contaminated with traces of wheat. That is why sourcing oats from fields designated for growing only certified gluten-free grains is an important step in purity protocol production.

Can oats be safely processed in a facility with wheat?

For oats to be considered gluten-free, they need to be processed in a facility with dedicated gluten-free equipment and packaging lines that only handles uncontaminated grains. Even extensive cleaning cannot fully eliminate risk of cross-contamination in shared facilities that process both gluten and gluten-free grains.

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