Are Oats Gluten Free?
The short answer is no, oats are NOT considered gluten free.
New Zealand and Australia have very strict criteria for determining what is considered gluten free and oats are not considered gluten free.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and it is this protein that people with coeliac disease have an auto-immune reaction to, causing damage to their gut lining (read more here).
The problem is that oats contain a protein called Avenin that is structurally similar to gluten and according to Coeliac NZ, 1 in 5 coeliacs will also react to avenin and damage to the gut lining can occur even with no symptoms so they may not know they are reacting to it.
And then there is the separate issue of possible contamination of gluten from other gluten containing grains. Oats can easily be contaminated with gluten when they are being grown, harvested, transported and processed for sale. However using careful processes it is possible to produce oats for sale that are free from contamination of gluten.
So when we see recipes on the internet from overseas with "gluten free oats" listed as an ingredient or maybe you see "gluten free oats" on an international online shop then this is what it is referring to - oats that are free from the contamination of gluten. However you won't find them available in New Zealand, because even uncontaminated oats still contain avenin, and in New Zealand and Australia this is considered the same as gluten.
At Wholo Foods we make gluten free foods and therefore none of our foods contain oats and we do not handle them in our gluten free facility.
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