Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free?

Walking the dog the other day I came across this field of oats with obvious contamination from barley. The oats hang down in drops and the barley has the long hairy spikes sticking up from the ear. It’s pretty easy to see which is which.

Barley-in-OatsBy coincidence, when I got home I had a customer asking if our product was wheat-free and if oats contain gluten. These are common questions which I’ll do my best to answer here.

We do not use wheat in any of our products. In fact, the only grain we do use is oats. The problem is oats may have come from a field that was contaminated with wheat (or barley or rye) like in the picture and so may contain gluten. We can’t say for sure that our oats are purely oats and nothing else. It turns out that growing pure oats without contamination is a rather difficult business; it’s expensive, but it can be done. Pure oats do not contain gluten so if we wanted to make a gluten-free granola we would have to use oats from such a source and it would be much more expensive than our normal product. To be called gluten-free the oats need to have gluten levels of less than 20 ppm (parts per million).

How much contamination can you expect in typical oats? In a recent article Henando et al* analysed 134 oat samples from Europe and North America. Just less than 20% contained no gluten at all, but over half had gluten levels above 200 ppm with 10% being over 2000ppm. The vast majority of contamination turns out to be barley.

So, what does this mean for people wanting to eat their Lizi’s granola wheat-free or gluten-free? Firstly, those who have a wheat intolerance but are not coeliacs should go right ahead. The levels of wheat as a contaminant in our products are never likely to be large enough to affect your digestive system. But for the approximately 1% of the population who are coeliacs, any product likely to contain gluten can cause serious medical problems and we cannot recommend you eat any of our current range. We are, however actively looking to develop a guaranteed gluten-free version in the future, so watch this space.


*European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2008, 20:545–554

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