Is oatmeal gluten-free Quaker?

Quaker oatmeal is one of the most popular brands of oatmeal. Oatmeal is often touted as a healthy breakfast option, especially for those looking to lower their cholesterol or manage their blood sugar. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, a key question is: Is Quaker oatmeal gluten-free? The short answer is yes, traditional Quaker oats are gluten-free. However, it’s important to understand how oats are processed and the potential for cross-contamination. Keep reading to learn more.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten and experience an autoimmune reaction when they eat it. Even small amounts of gluten can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, skin rashes, and fatigue in sensitive individuals.

Following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease. For those with gluten sensitivity, eliminating gluten from the diet often relieves symptoms. Oats do not naturally contain gluten, but can become contaminated during growing and processing.

Are Oats Naturally Gluten-Free?

Oats do not naturally contain gluten. However, they often come into contact with gluten-containing grains during harvesting, transporting, milling, and processing. Fields where oats were grown may also have previously grown wheat, barley or rye. For this reason, concern exists around whether oatmeal and oat-based products are truly gluten-free.

In 1995, researchers compared the effects of oats on people with celiac disease to the effects of wheat. They found that the vast majority of participants with celiac disease could tolerate moderate to large amounts of oats without any intestinal inflammation. This suggests that oats alone do not trigger the autoimmune response in those sensitive to gluten.

However, it’s important to note that a small percentage of individuals with celiac disease did react negatively to oats. Researchers concluded that commercially available oats are likely cross-contaminated during processing.

Are Quaker Oats Certified Gluten-Free?

Currently, Quaker oats are not certified gluten-free in the United States, Canada or the European Union. However, Quaker states its oats are “gluten-free” on the label because they inherently do not contain gluten proteins. Quaker oats are:

  • Grown from gluten-free seeds
  • Harvested and transported in gluten-free environments
  • Milled in dedicated gluten-free facilities

While Quaker enacts procedures to avoid cross-contamination, the brand cannot guarantee its oats are 100% gluten-free. Oat products certified gluten-free generally undergo additional steps to avoid contact with sources of gluten during growing and processing.

What Does the Research Say?

Numerous studies have analyzed whether Quaker oats remain gluten-free from farm to package:

Pilot Study in 2004

A pilot study had 12 participants with celiac disease eat 50 grams (1.5 cups) of uncontaminated, specially sourced Quaker oats daily for 12 weeks. Just 1 of 12 participants showed signs of intestinal damage from the oats.

Study in 2009

In a 2009 study, researchers provided bags of Quaker rolled oats labeled “gluten-free” to 20 adults with celiac disease. 19 of the 20 participants showed no signs of intestinal inflammation after eating 50 grams of oats daily for 60 days.

Study in 2010

Another study in 2010 instructed 20 adults with celiac disease to eat pure or contaminated oats. Intestinal biopsies showed that those eating pure oats had no inflammatory damage. However, 78% of those eating contaminated oats showed signs of intestinal damage.

Study in 2017

A 2017 study had 109 participants with celiac disease eat either gluten-free oats or a placebo daily for 3 months. About 3% showed clinical symptoms or intestinal damage that the researchers attributed to a likely gluten contamination of the oats.

Overall, these studies suggest most individuals with celiac disease can tolerate moderate amounts of uncontaminated oats. However, experts still generally recommend those with celiac disease proceed cautiously with oats and choose certified gluten-free oat products when possible.

What About Cross-Contamination?

As the research shows, cross-contamination remains a concern when it comes to oats. Gluten cross-contamination can happen:

  • In the field – Previously or simultaneously growing gluten-containing grains
  • During harvest and transport – Shared equipment
  • In storage facilities – Shared silos and containers
  • During milling – Shared machinery

Quaker states its oats undergo “a proprietary milling process that thoroughly cleans the oats and avoids cross-contamination.” However, cross-contamination can still occur. One study found gluten in 22% of commercial oat products labeled gluten-free.

Precautions When Choosing Oats

Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should take the following precautions with oats:

  • Choose certified gluten-free oats, which adhere to defined gluten-free standards
  • Check for purity protocols – Test results, audits, dedicated equipment, etc.
  • Look for “gluten-free” labeling – Indicates measures taken to avoid cross-contamination
  • Only purchase single-ingredient oats – Avoid oat products with add-ins
  • Check country of origin – Some countries have stricter standards
  • Rotate different oat varieties – To limit exposure to potential contamination
  • Rinse oats thoroughly before cooking – To remove stray grains

Following these tips reduces the risk of gluten exposure from oats labeled gluten-free.

Are All Quaker Oat Products Gluten-Free?

While traditional Quaker oats contain just oats, other Quaker products have additional ingredients that may contain gluten:

Quaker Oat Product Gluten-Free Status
Old Fashioned Quaker Oats Gluten-free
Quaker Steel Cut Oats Gluten-free
Quaker Quick Oats Gluten-free
Quaker Instant Oatmeal Packets Not gluten-free*
Quaker Breakfast Flats Not gluten-free*
Quaker Oatmeal Squares Not gluten-free*
Quaker Granola Bars Not gluten-free*
Quaker Oat Beverages Not gluten-free*

*Contains ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains. Always thoroughly read the ingredient label.

As shown, flavored instant oatmeal packets, granola bars, baked oat squares, and Quaker oat beverages likely contain gluten. Plain rolled, steel cut, and quick oats are gluten-free but with the risk of cross-contamination. Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use caution and check labels when choosing Quaker products beyond traditional oats.

Is Quaker Gluten-Free Oats Safe for Celiac Disease?

Whether Quaker oats are truly safe for those with celiac disease is debatable. On one hand, several studies show most people with celiac disease can eat pure, uncontaminated oats without reacting. The amount of gluten needed to cause intestinal damage is estimated to be over 20 parts per million.

However, experts still urge caution because:

  • No current testing can detect extremely small amounts of gluten contamination
  • Damage to the intestines can occur even when symptoms are not present
  • Not enough research exists on potential long-term effects
  • Oat sensitivity varies person-to-person based on health status
  • Children appear to be more sensitive to oats than adults

While many adults with celiac disease can tolerate moderate amounts of Quaker oats and remain symptom-free, avoiding cross-contamination 100% is difficult. Those newly diagnosed or highly sensitive should be especially cautious. Most experts recommend choosing certified gluten-free oats whenever possible.

Finding Certified Gluten-Free Oats

For those with celiac disease, opting for oats processed under strict gluten-free protocols may be the safest choice. Here are some brands offering certified gluten-free oats in the U.S.:

  • GFCO Certified – Cream Hill Estates, Montana Monster Munch, One Degree Organics
  • GIG Certified – Bob’s Red Mill, Country Choice Organic, Eco-Planet Purely Oats
  • Gluten-Free Pure Oats (GFPO) – Only Oats
  • Purity Protocol – Glutenfreeda, Avena Foods

GFCO, GIG, and GFPO have strict certification processes requiring rigorous testing at multiple stages. Purity protocols also help ensure segregation from gluten exposure during growing and processing. Choosing certified gluten-free oat brands provides added assurance for sensitive individuals.

Is Quaker Gluten-Free Oatmeal Safe When Dining Out?

While Quaker plain oats contain no gluten ingredients, cross-contamination can occur when dining out. Potential sources of contamination include:

  • Shared kitchen equipment – Scoops, containers, pans
  • Airborne flour particles
  • Ingredients stored near flour
  • Utensils and surfaces not adequately cleaned

Unless a restaurant explicitly states its oatmeal is gluten-free, those with celiac disease should exercise caution. Some helpful questions to ask include:

  • Are seperate utensils used to prepare gluten-free oatmeal?
  • Where are the oats stored in relation to flour?
  • How often is preparation equipment cleaned?
  • Can you prepare my oatmeal using all fresh containers and utensils?

Opting for plain, single-ingredient oatmeal also reduces cross-contamination risks compared to pre-flavored varieties or toppings that likely contain gluten.


Traditional Quaker oats inherently do not contain gluten. However, due to frequent cross-contamination risks in the supply chain, Quaker oats are not considered certified gluten-free. Most research shows that pure, uncontaminated oats are safe for the majority of people with celiac disease when consumed in moderation. However, experts recommend that those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity choose certified gluten-free oat brands that adhere to purity protocols and rigorous testing. When opting for Quaker oats, take precautions to reduce exposure to potential cross-contamination. Overall, individuals should make choices based on their comfort level, taking into account their specific health history and sensitivity.

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