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Special Diets

Are Whole Grain Oats Gluten Free?

Pile of oats with a wooden spoon

By Emma Caplan-Fisher
Whole grain oats are not considered a common allergen, which is good news for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. They don't naturally contain gluten in their purest state, but the true answer of whether your typical store-bought whole grain oats are gluten-free is, well, a bit complicated.

Read more to find out why, and what you can do to ensure you're buying guaranteed gluten-free oats and oat products.

Composition of oats

Oats are cereal grains made of oat grass that naturally don't contain gluten on their own.

It's important to note that despite this, some people with celiac disease react to the avenin protein that oats contain, similarly to how they would react to gluten. So, anyone with a sensitivity to avenin should avoid oats altogether.

Common cross-contact

While oats don't naturally contain gluten, unfortunately, thanks to a variety of factors including wind, animals, and human error, it's common for them to come into contact with glutenous grains.

Referred to as agricultural comingling, this can happen at any point from growth and harvest on the farm to transport and storage at a food processing facility. Gluten can also get into non-gluten foods during the processing stage, typically from contact with the same equipment or surfaces that haven't been cleaned properly. This is referred to as cross-contact.

It's these common occurrences that lead many people to ask themselves, "Are whole grain oats gluten free?" This is something absolutely crucial to know for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, especially. For these folks, this is why introducing certified gluten-free oat products into their diet in consultation with their healthcare provider is very important.

How to tell if oat products are gluten free

While products that are labeled as gluten-free should be FDA-approved and contain no more than 20 ppm of gluten, they're not as safe as third-party verified oats, which usually have stricter requirements, like 10 ppm or less.

To be absolutely sure the oats you're buying are gluten-free, identifying the gluten food label is crucial. Always look for a third-party gluten-free certification mark on the package, like GFCO's:

The certification process includes oat-processing procedure auditing and oat-testing requirements that help food processors ensure they're indeed making gluten-free products.

This typically includes dozens of requirements that span each stage of the process — from supplier and purchasing review and approval, to facility and storage setup, to training of staff members. The overall intention is to find and remove possible risks of gluten cross-contact.

Gluten free oat products

If you're looking for a bit of inspiration when it comes to variety in your gluten-free oat options, whether for yourself or for gluten free kid's snacks, there's more choice than you might realize!

We've prepared an entire gluten free food list to help you out, and we offer plenty of Bobo's gluten free foods, including oat bars and other snacks (which, rest assured, are certified gluten free).

Other questions about oats

Do whole grain oats contain gluten?

No, whole grain oats don't contain gluten in their pure, natural state. However, oats often come into contact with gluten from various sources, so you need to look for certified gluten-free products to be sure.

What kind of oats are gluten-free?

Certified gluten-free oats are grown, harvested, and processed specifically to keep them away from other grains and the risk of coming into contact with gluten. They're accepted as safe for those with celiac disease.