I do not have celiac disease and do not follow a gluten-free diet. So I never thought to ask is my oats are really gluten-free. 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 all oats are not 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.
The issue is not the inherent characteristics of oats, but contamination. All oats start out gluten-free. However, they can only be labelled gluten-free if the facility that processes them takes adequate precautions to prevent contamination. Wheat, rye or barley (all of which contain gluten) can all contaminate the oats. Apparently Quaker Oats and some store brands use facilities that do not take adequate precautions. Therefore, their oats are not safe for those with celiac disease. From my 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, on hand. They 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.