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Oats Don’t Contain Gluten, So Why Are They Labeled Gluten Free?

While the grocery store has become a friendlier place for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities, it’s also become more confusing. Products made with wheat and other grains containing gluten, such as farro, spelt, rye, and barley, are now available in gluten-free versions. But some products, like oats, which don’t naturally contain gluten, also sport gluten-free labels. To help clear up this grainy situation, the New York Times asked experts in celiac disease to explain the nuances of gluten-free labeling:

  • Gluten cross-contamination. Oats are particularly at risk for being cross-contaminated when they are manufactured or transported along with gluten-containing grains. Avoiding cross-contamination is important for people with celiac disease because eating even trace amounts of gluten could cause health issues.
  • Gluten-free regulations. All products regulated by the FDA, including those that don’t naturally contain gluten, may carry the gluten-free label, as long as the product’s gluten level is less than 20 parts per million. Since the label is voluntary, some gluten-free products may not be labeled as such.
  • Manufacturing gluten-free oats. To earn a gluten-free label, products like oats need to be grown, transported, and milled in gluten-free facilities. Alternatively, they can be sorted to remove any gluten-containing grains.

It’s true that not all gluten-free products really need the label (gluten-free water, anyone?), but some product labeling is helpful for those wishing to avoid gluten. And while the US does not currently have a program that tests product’s gluten levels; experts say that, generally speaking, you can trust the labels.

Source: New York Times

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