I do not have celiac disease and do not follow a gluten-free diet. But when I’m entertaining gluten-free friends, or participating in a pot luck where one or more of the participants is gluten-free, of course, I want to make something that they can eat.
This weekend, I offered to bring a fruit crisp to a pot luck hosted by friends, one of whom is gluten-free. Figuring that I would use oats and no wheat flour for the topping, I was confident that my dessert would be gluten-free. Would you have assumed the same?
Luckily, I happened to mention my plan to one of the hosts. He told me that oats are not always gluten-free. But how can that be? Oats don’t contain gluten.
I checked my own boxes of oats. To my surprise, the oats in my pantry didn’t have a gluten-free label. Then I went online and checked the Quaker Oats site and other sources. It turns out that the issue is not the inherent characteristics of oats, but contamination.
Although oats start out gluten-free, if they are processed in a facility that does not take adequate precautions to prevent contamination from wheat, rye or barley (all of which contain gluten), the oats cannot be labelled as a gluten-free product. So, Quaker Oats and several store brands I have frequently bought are not safe for those with celiac disease. In doing this research I also discovered that about 1% of those with celiac disease also cannot tolerate large amounts of oats (even those certified as gluten-free), but that isn’t an issue for the friend with whom I wanted to share the gluten-free crisp.
Luckily my kind friends keep a big supply of Bob’s Red Mill, certified gluten-free oats and offered me some to replace the uncertified oats in my pantry. I made the crisp with the certified gluten-free oats and will post the recipe later this week. In the meantime, I won’t soon forget this important lesson on why the gluten-free label is important in looking for ingredients when making food for people who need to follow a strict gluten-free diet.