Gluten-free Oreos are starting to hit the shelf in the United States and it’s taking the gluten-free community by storm. But many people with celiac are wondering, are gluten-free Oreos celiac-safe?
This question stems from oats being listed in the ingredients of Oreos. The presence of oats in gluten-free Oreos is a concern for people with celiac. Let’s talk about why and if gluten-free Oreos are celiac-safe.
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When talking about if Oreos are gluten-free, it’s important we know what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, contaminated oats, and wheat. It may be helpful to remember the acronym “BROW” when trying to remember what foods have gluten.
In baked goods, gluten holds things together working as a binding agent. It gives texture and chew to foods.
Most people can safely eat gluten. However, some people have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease which means they need to avoid gluten. It can cause digestive issues such as diarrhea and nausea as well as nonintestinal symptoms such as rashes, headaches, or joint pain.
There are two types of Oreos, gluten-free Oreos and regular Oreos. Regular Oreos are the chocolate sandwich cookies that come in the dark blue packaging and contain wheat flour. Gluten-free Oreos are the chocolate sandwich cookies that come in white packaging and are made with a blend of gluten-free flours, including oat flour.
So do Oreos contain gluten? The regular Oreos in the dark blue packaging do contain gluten. The gluten-free Oreos in the white packaging do not contain gluten.
Oats are a point of confusion for many people with celiac. Many people question the safety of oats for celiac.
So are oats celiac-safe? If they are certified gluten-free, purity protocol, or are listed in a certified gluten-free product, then the general answer is, yes.
Oats are often grown in fields near wheat. Alternatively, they are grown in fields that have previously grown wheat. In addition to that, oats are then often processed in the same facility or even on the same equipment as wheat.
The processing of oats so close to wheat, makes oats at high-risk for cross-contact at unsafe levels.
Which is why it’s important that when you are buying things with oats, they are certified gluten-free, purity protocol, OR have a gluten-free certification on the label (not just have a gluten-free claim).
Some people with celiac react to Oats. They react no matter if they were grown purity protocol or certified gluten-free. In this case, it’s generally advised that these people who still react, avoid oats.
If you want to know if you are sensitive to oats or should avoid them personally, contact me, let’s talk.
But ultimately, if the oats are certified gluten-free, purity protocol, or in a certified gluten-free product, the general consensus is they are celiac-safe.
A big point of tension with oats being in Oreos is that Oreos come from Nabisco, a huge food brand.
This makes the gluten-free community anxious because we saw another huge brand abuse oats and their safety with a gluten-free claim.
Let me explain, in August 2015, General Mills launched Gluten-free Cheerios. Within a month of launching, complaints that Cheerios weren’t gluten-free started coming in. The problem ended up being contaminated oats.
A reminder that when a product has a gluten-free claim on the label (like cheerios has/had), that item per FDA labeling laws must have <20ppm of gluten in it.
But gluten-free claims are different from gluten-free certifications. A key difference? The responsibility of product safety testing for gluten-free claims lies with the manufacturer.
Whereas, the responsibility for testing when it comes to gluten-free certifications involves 3rd party testers.
In other words, gluten-free claims require the brand to do the testing themselves, whereas gluten-free certification require another company to check and confirm the safety.
This is where gluten-free Oreos come in.
Gluten-free Oreo cookies are celiac-safe. Let me explain…
People became understandably hyper-aware of oats in their products because of the scandal of Cheerios labeling their products gluten-free but using unsafe oats
Thus, when Nabisco announced they were releasing gluten-free Oreos, people were up in arms about finding “oats” in the ingredients.
More importantly, the oats on the ingredient list did not specify if they were certified gluten-free or not.
While yes, Oreos does not state if the oats are purity protocol or certified gluten-free on the label, they have 1 key difference from Cheerios; a redeeming quality if you will.
They have a gluten-free certification by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GFCO).
Meaning, that Nabisco’s Oreos have been tested by a 3rd party to have <10ppm of gluten in them. This is FAR below the FDA generally safe threshold of 20ppm.
That being said, many have drawn issue with the lack of transparency Nabisco has surrounding the oats used.
Short answer: yes, gluten-free Oreo’s made by Nabisco are celiac-safe.
However, that does not mean there are not things for people with celiac to take into consideration.
There are a small amount of people with celiac who react to oats, no matter if they are certified gluten-free or purity protocol. In this case, they’d likely still react to the gluten-free Oreos. If you are sensitive to oats, and you still want to enjoy gluten-free Oreos, consider Glutino’s version; it’s oat-free.
Ultimately, unless you have a sensitivity to oats, GF Oreos should be safe for you. As always, trust your body and consult with a celiac specialized professional if you’re still concerned.
Need help with label-reading or just general navigation of a gluten-free lifestyle? Check out my Celiac Crash Course! I cover everything from how to identify safe gluten-free food to how to avoid cross-contact to how to maintain your social life while avoiding gluten!