Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects around 1% of the population worldwide. It causes damage to the small intestine when a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, their immune system attacks and damages the small intestine, leading to an inability to properly absorb nutrients from food. This can cause symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, malnutrition and anemia. The only treatment for celiac disease is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet, avoiding all foods and products containing gluten. This includes avoiding wheat, barley, rye and any foods made with these grains.
For people with celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet can be challenging. Gluten is found in many common foods and products. Reading ingredient labels carefully and knowing what foods contain gluten is extremely important. Many gluten-free substitute products have been developed, like gluten-free breads, pastas and baked goods. But finding truly safe gluten-free options, without any cross-contamination, can still be difficult.
One product that has become popular as a gluten-free alternative is oat milk. Oat milk is made from oats and water. It has emerged as a plant-based milk alternative, gaining popularity among those who are lactose intolerant or following vegan or gluten-free diets. Brands like Oatly and Chobani now produce and sell oat milk products. But an important question arises – is oat milk safe for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities? Can products like Chobani oat milk be safely consumed on a gluten-free diet? Let’s take a closer look.
Are Oats Gluten-Free?
Oats themselves do not naturally contain gluten. However, they are often cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains like wheat during growing and processing. Many experts used to recommend avoiding oats on a gluten-free diet due to this high risk of cross-contamination.
However, pure, uncontaminated oats that are grown and processed separately from wheat are considered gluten-free. Gluten-free labeled oats indicate that precautions have been taken to prevent cross-contamination. Many researchers now agree that pure, gluten-free oats can be safely eaten in moderation as part of a gluten-free diet.
Some individuals with celiac disease can be sensitive to the protein avenin found in oats. Avenin is similar in structure to gluten and may trigger symptoms in sensitive individuals. But several studies have found that the majority of people with celiac disease can tolerate moderate amounts of pure, uncontaminated oats without adverse effects.
So in summary – oats are naturally gluten-free, but often get cross-contaminated. Gluten-free labeled oat products that are uncontaminated are considered safe for the majority of the gluten-free community. But some individuals still may react and need to avoid oats altogether.
Are Chobani Oat Milks Gluten-Free?
Chobani is a popular brand name that produces Greek yogurt products and recently expanded into oat milk. Chobani manufactures two main oat milk products:
- Chobani Plain Oatmilk
- Chobani Extra Creamy Oatmilk
The company labels these products as “gluten-free”, which indicates they should be safe for those avoiding gluten.
According to Chobani, their oats are certified gluten-free. They are grown and processed in a gluten-free facility to avoid any cross-contamination with gluten-containing grains. Chobani states their oatmilk is produced in a dedicated facility kept completely separate from any gluten ingredients.
However, it is important to note that Chobani’s oatmilk products do carry the label “Produced in a facility that also processes milk & wheat”. This indicates their facilities are not 100% gluten-free, as they also process products containing gluten from wheat. So there is a small risk of gluten cross-contamination.
Chobani attempts to control for this by producing the oatmilk in isolated, separate areas of the facility with equipment used only for gluten-free oatmilk. They have procedures in place to limit contact with any gluten containing products. But for those with severe celiac disease and wheat allergies, this may still be a concern.
Are Chobani Oat Milks Certified Gluten-Free?
In addition to labeling their oatmilks “gluten-free”, Chobani has taken steps to get their oatmilk certified gluten-free by third-party organizations. This provides added assurance and accountability.
Specifically, Chobani oatmilks are certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG). The GIG has one of the most stringent certification processes, auditing products to contain less than 10ppm of gluten. For reference, the FDA definition for “gluten-free” allows up to 20ppm of gluten.
Chobani’s certification by the GIG indicates their products undergo rigorous testing to confirm they fall well below the FDA gluten-free limits. This provides added assurance of their safety for gluten-free diets.
Chobani oat milks are also certified gluten-free by the National Celiac Association. This further confirms they are regularly tested to be under the allowable limits for gluten content.
So while produced in a shared facility, the certification from reputable gluten-free organizations helps support Chobani’s claim that their oatmilks are safe for celiac and gluten sensitivities.
What About Cross-Contamination Risk?
Even with certification, there is always some risk of cross-contamination when a product is not produced in a 100% gluten-free facility. As mentioned, Chobani’s oatmilks are produced in a shared facility that also handles wheat-containing products.
But Chobani utilizes “zone separation” in their facilities to isolate gluten-free products:
- Separate areas and equipment are used only for gluten-free production
- Gluten-free areas are physically separated from gluten areas
- Employees change protective gear when moving between areas
- Gluten-free products run first after equipment sanitize downs
Their process has been audited and certified by external organizations who enforce a less than 10ppm gluten threshold. This indicates cross-contamination likelihood is very low, though not completely zero.
For those extremely sensitive, trace amounts may still cause issues. But studies show the vast majority of celiacs tolerate 20ppm or less just fine. So the risk profile is generally acceptable, though individuals must make their own judgment call based on personal sensitivity levels.
Verdict: Chobani Oat Milks Are Likely Safe
Based on all available information, Chobani oatmilks appear to be a safe option for individuals following a gluten-free diet, including those with celiac disease. This conclusion is supported by:
- Chobani uses certified gluten-free oats grown without wheat, rye or barley
- Their facilities utilize zone separation and sanitization procedures to control cross-contamination
- External testing has verified gluten levels well below 20ppm in finished products
- Certification by reputable gluten-free organizations like GIG and NCA provide added accountability
Of course, facilities producing gluten-containing products alongside gluten-free ones always pose some degree of risk. And variation between individual sensitivity levels exists. But based on all current evidence, Chobani oatmilks are considered gluten-free and unlikely to cause issues for the vast majority following gluten-free diets. As with any new product, it’s recommended to try a small amount first and discontinue use if any adverse symptoms occur. But for most celiacs and gluten-avoiders, Chobani oatmilk appears to be a safe, nutritious option to add more variety to the diet.
Other Considerations for Celiacs
When evaluating if a product is celiac-friendly, looking for “gluten-free” labeling and certification is a good starting point. But a few other considerations for individuals with celiac disease include:
- Look at entire diet – safety involves more than just the product itself. Consider potential for cross-contamination from use of shared dishes, utensils, etc.
- Consider how processed it is – heavily processed foods may contain additives that are not gluten-free.
- Know how “safe” oats are for you – some celiacs react to proteins in oats and cannot tolerate even gluten-free oats.
- Read labels closely – for example, some Chobani products like yogurt are not gluten-free due to added ingredients.
- When in doubt, reach out to manufacturer – contact company to ask about their quality assurance and gluten testing processes.
Making fully informed choices goes beyond just the product itself, but knowing how it fits into an overall healthy and balanced gluten-free diet and lifestyle. Being an educated and advocate for your own health is key.
The Bottom Line
Chobani’s oatmilk products are considered gluten-free and safe for most people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. But some risk of cross-contamination always exists in shared facilities. Each individual must weigh their personal sensitivity and comfort levels. Trying a small amount first is recommended. But overall, Chobani Oatmilks appear to be a good gluten-free option, providing creamy texture and nutrients from oats using processes that limit gluten exposure. When used as part of balanced gluten-free diet, Chobani oatmilk can be a tasty plant-based addition allowing more variety.
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- Chobani plain oat milk nutrition info. Chobani.com
- Egg-free labeling of Chobani Oatmilks. Chobani.com
- FDA Gluten Free Labeling Rule. (2021).
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- NCA Product Certification. National Celiac Association.
- Sey, M. S., Parfitt, J., Gregor, J. (2011). Prospective study of gluten avoidance and risk of gluten sensitization in adolescents at high risk.
- Thompson, T. (2019). Gluten Cross-Contamination.
- Zone separation at Chobani facilities. Chobani.com