This morning both Sainsbury’s and Tesco have recalled of some of their oat products (porridge and muesli) because they may be contaminated with wheat gluten. This is not the first time that a question mark has been raised over the safety of oats both in terms of their intrinsic ‘gluten-free-ness’ and whether they can ever be guaranteed to be wheat free. (We had the incandescent father of a small, seriously coeliac child on the phone to us very recently, completely convinced that the porridge from a very well known brand which ‘guaranteed’ that it was gluten free had caused his son to be seriously ill – and that is certainly not the only instance.)
The problem with oats is that, even assuming that they are milled in a dedicated gluten/wheat-free mill and packed in a dedicated factory, there is no way that you can guarantee that they have been grown in a dedicated field! Try explaining contamination issues to the wind… Unless you are to test every single oat grain in the batch it seems unlikely that that you will ever be able to totally guarantee wheat free-ness.
And that is quite apart from the question as to whether avelin (the protein fraction in oats) is really sufficiently different from gliadin (the protein fraction in wheat which causes the problem for coeliacs) to really be safe. Or, indeed, whether there are some super sensitive people who may react to all gluten fractions and whether, therefore, any grain is safe for them… (See Micki Rose’s Truly Gluten Free site.)
The freefrom life is not an easy one….
If you want more details on who has recalled what, check out Alex Gazzola’s blog where he has detailed all the recalls.