Coeliac Australia’s new position on oats

Coeliac Australia’s new position on oats

Mark this day in your calendar, Friday 15 September 2023, Coeliac Australia finally released a new position on oats for those living with coeliac disease. Gluten free oats have been available internationally for several years. Coeliacs are the same all over the world, so to have one rule here and another elsewhere has never made sense to me.

Oats have been ‘banned’ since the 1980s

I was talking about oats with my mother the other day and she recalled a coeliac support group meeting in the early 80s. The recommendation had changed, oats were not to be consumed. She said one woman, exasperated said “Wait, so there’s another thing we can’t eat now?”

Back then the concept of pure oats hadn’t been considered. However things have moved a long way in the last 40 years, and Coeliac Australia has had their head in the sand for at least the last 10.

Quick links

The Coeliac Australia position statement on oats in full

What oats are truly gluten free in Australia?

A quick preface

I fully support Coeliac Australia and the work they do to advocate for people living with coeliac disease. However, I do strongly believe that they have done a disservice to coeliacs in Australia by holding an anti-oats stance for so long.

The statement in full

Below is the statement from Coeliac Australia, in full. I’ve chosen to put this here because, as my friend just said they’ve put it “behind an oatwall.” That is to say, they made the article for members only. (They have since updated after many frustrated comments on socials.)

This is the single most important news an Aussie coeliac will read this year, it should be available to everyone.

coeliac australia logo

Oats and coeliac disease

Internationally, there are different approaches to allowing oats in the gluten-free diet. In places that do allow oats, only those free of gluten contamination (‘pure’ oats) are recommended for people with coeliac disease, as standard commercial brands of oats are often highly contaminated with wheat gluten. Australian and New Zealand food law does not currently allow oats to be labelled ‘gluten free’; this remains unchanged. 

Coeliac Australia acknowledges that oats provide a range of nutritional benefits which may outweigh the potential risk of including them in a gluten-free diet. We recommend an individual approach in collaboration with your medical specialist and dietitian.  

Oats are a nutritious grain that offer a range of nutritional benefits.

The addition of pure oats to a gluten-free diet can help boost fibre intake, enhance food choices and provide a range of beneficial nutrients including quality protein, soluble and insoluble fibres, vitamins and minerals. Oats have been associated with a range of positive health effects on metabolism and cardiovascular disease risk markers such as cholesterol, body weight, and blood sugar control in diabetes.

Including pure oats can help to improve the quality and variety of your gluten-free diet and may even enhance your quality of life.  

Pure oats are safe and well tolerated by the vast majority of people with coeliac disease. 

The term ‘gluten’ is used to describe the grain storage proteins from wheat, rye and barley that are toxic to people with coeliac disease. There is a similar protein in oats called avenin. However, oats are less toxic to people with coeliac disease because there is not much avenin in oats, and the avenin present is less likely to trigger harmful immune responses compared to wheat, rye and barley. 

A very small number of people with coeliac disease do react to pure oats. 

Studies show that most people with coeliac disease can safely tolerate pure oats and do not develop adverse symptoms or intestinal damage. Adverse effects, such as unpleasant symptoms or intestinal damage, are estimated to occur in less than 5-10% of people with coeliac disease.  

Introducing Pure Oats.

If you are considering introducing pure oats to your gluten-free diet, it is important you discuss this with your medical specialist and dietitian. There is currently no way to predict which people with coeliac disease will tolerate or react to pure oats so individual medical advice and follow-up is recommended.  

Which oats?

Only oats specially-produced to be free of wheat, rye and barley contamination can be suitable for those with coeliac disease. There is currently no legislation in Australia mandating what these uncontaminated oats should be called. This can make it difficult to confidently identify oats that are suitable.

In Europe, the UK and North America, oats can be marketed as ‘gluten free’, if there is no measurable contamination with wheat, rye or barley.  

Because oats cannot be labelled as gluten free in Australia, some producers use terminology such as ‘wheat free’, ‘low gluten’, ‘uncontaminated’ or ‘pure’. These claims are not regulated and do not necessarily mean the product is suitable for someone with coeliac disease wanting to trial oats. For example, ‘wheat free’ may be used on a product where rye and/or barley contamination may still be an issue. 

 
Coeliac Australia is currently seeking information from relevant oat producers about the suitability of their product for those with coeliac disease and measures taken to manage cross contact. These statements will be available on our website as they become available. If you wish to trial oats, we encourage you to use this information to help you select a suitable oat.

So Coeliac Australia says oats are gluten free, what next?

Like the position statement from CA says, speak to your healthcare provider about introducing oats in to your diet.

I am not here to provide medical advice, but I can point you in the right direction for suitable gluten free oat products.

What oats are gluten free in Australia?

A quick Google search will tell you to look for “wheat free” oats as this is the work-around to Australia’s strict labelling laws. Unfortunately there are a few products out there that are labelled as such and aren’t suitable. The bottom line is, read your packets carefully.

Here’s a few oat products available that aren’t contaminated with gluten. No affiliate links here, just me supporting people to find the right products.

Bob’s Red Mill wheat free oats – these are labelled gluten free where they are sold in the US. They make bags stating wheat free to get around the rules in Australia. You’ll find these in Coles and Woolies.

GF Oats (also called Gloriously Free Oats) – an Australian owned brand based in Queensland. These are batch tested for gluten. You’ll find them in IGAs and health food stores.

Red Tractor wheat free oats – if you read the back it talks about being free of contamination of wheat, rye and barley. I think Red Tractor also do some flavoured oats, so that’s a nice option to have.

Carman’s wheat free – these are not suitable for coeliacs. While they are wheat free if you read the packet it has a may contain for barley and rye.

Related content

When are Coeliac Australia hosting gluten free events in 2023?


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2 thoughts on “Coeliac Australia’s new position on oats”

  • Hi there, just wanted to point out that the new position statement of Coeliac Australia is not behind a paywall at all. It was unavailable for a few days when we upgraded to our revamped website, but this has been fixed and it is now freely available for everyone to read.

    • Hi Kristina
      Thanks so much for reaching out! I published the statement the same day it was released due to it accidentally being in the members area. You are right, CA realised the error and rectified it shortly. I’ll update the link in the article too, as you said it has moved since the website revamp a few weeks later.
      Kati x

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