Gluten Free Oatmeal? Gluten Free Quaker Oatmeal!? Yes, my friends. Yes. But let’s back up. When I first heard about Quaker launching gluten free oats, my first thought was “AWESOME” followed by “Eek, there’s been some real trouble in paradise lately with cross-contamination and large companies. I hope they can pull this off.” So, when they asked me to come up to Chicago for their Quaker Summit (a gathering of bloggers learning about the new GF Quaker Products), I knew this was the perfect opportunity to check it out first hand. Celiac Diva Private Eye!!
So, I hopped on a plane and headed to the windy city.
DAY 1: I met with the Quaker team and the other lovely gluten free bloggers for a happy hour at the Godfrey hotel followed by an amazing dinner at Two restaurant. It really was a joy to meet other bloggers and the Quaker team. We ate a lot of gluten free food and laughed a ton. I got the sense that the Quaker team was not only professional and fun, but really serious about the new gluten free launch. I felt they were listening and putting faces to the gluten free community, and to our stories, as I was able to put names/faces to what I consider a huge company with the face of some white haired dude on an oatmeal canister. PS- white haired oatmeal dude really has a name! They told me aaaaaaand I can’t remember what it is…Ken? Kevin? I dunno. lol.
DAY 2: This was what I was excited about. This was why I came…detective diva in the Hooooouse! Okay, so we gathered into the Quaker conference room, had a fantastic gluten free breakfast and then began the presentation and conversation about how Quaker does gluten free oats. First up: a few key notes Quaker wanted me to share with you:
- They have been developing their gluten free oats product/process for years. They weren’t hasty in bringing this to the market until they were confident it could be done safely. Their commitment to consumer safety has been their top priority through this process. Did you know the #2 question they get asked on the customer support line has been “when are you going to have gluten free oats?”
- Taste and texture is the same as their traditional oats. Since I’ve only had their gluten free oats, my gluten eating friends/family were able to testify to this.
- Gluten Free Quaker oats are in select stores now & rolling out nation wide January 2016.
Next Up: Safe or Not Safe?
Where is Quaker sourcing their gluten free oats from? Mostly from farms in Canada. These farmers grow all sorts of different crops such oats, to corn to wheat.
Does that mean the oats are contaminated, when harvested, due to being contact with gluten containing grains? Yes. Here’s the deal- oats are naturally gluten free. But often, they inadvertently come in contact with gluten containing grains (wheat, barley, rye) at the farm, in storage and during transport and thus are not safe for anyone needing to eat gluten free.
Sooo… then how are they gluten free by the time they get to me? Quaker has developed a milling process which sorts and separates the gluten containing grains from the not contaminated, naturally gluten free oats. This system of machinery uses both mechanical and optical sorters to remove any gluten containing grains based on density, color and length.
How is this different from other companies that also mechanically separate gluten and non-gluten containing oats? It turns out the common phrase “mechanically separated” is not the same for every company. While we may hear “mechanical separation” and think it’s the same process as some recent companies that did mechanical separation, it’s not. Each of these companies are using machines, but they aren’t using the same machines and processes. Quaker’s process involves both mechanical and optical sorters to remove any stray grains based on density, color and length. They are using a proprietary protocol unique to the industry and to Quaker.
How do they test for the presences of gluten? How do I know the oatmeal is really gluten free? Quaker has multiple inspections throughout the process. After the oats are dehulled and sorted (called groats at this point), the equivalent of 3,000 40 gram (serving size) samples are taken and inspected. Anything that might contain gluten is subject to analytical testing. When tests come back clear with levels less than Quaker standards, they continue production. If a sample fails, the entire batch is transferred and used for regular oats. To date, Quaker has not had to destroy any of their groat batches since they have been producing oatmeal sold to consumers. They test not only throughout the process, but at the end. They also test finished individual servings for the presence of gluten. They do not depend on the testing of a lot mean (an average of the produced lot) for the safety of the finished product. Each serving sized sample’s final analytical testing must be under 12PPM to be sent to market to ensure all products meet the less than 20PPM FDA standard for gluten free. If a sample does not meet Quaker standards, the entire lot would be destroyed.
Do they have a dedicated gluten free facility? No. They have a dedicated gluten free cleaning house, cutting and flaking equipment & dedicated gluten free storage tanks. Their final packaging line is not dedicated gluten free. That spooked me at first. Why not dedicated packaging equipment? They said they totally understand why we want gluten free packaging lines. But, while the process of creating gluten free oatmeal is new, the cleaning process for the packaging lines is something Quaker has been doing for ages and are very familiar with. It’s part of Quaker’s stringent food safety standards and how they ensure they are always in compliance with any allergen statement on their packaging. This means they are well versed in cleaning the lines before our gluten free oatmeal is packaged. And then, once the product is finished. They hold the ENTIRE lot until all the final testing has come back below 12PPM before they send it to the shelves.
What Quaker products are now gluten free?
- Quaker Gluten Free Quick 1-Minute Oats,
- Quaker Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal Original & Quaker Gluten Free Instant Maple & Brown Sugar
How much will they cost? Quaker Gluten Free Quick 1-Minute Oats (18 oz. canister) – $3.99. Quaker Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal Original and Maple & Brown Sugar varieties- $4.19
Is it Non-GMO? Genetically modified seeds for oats are not currently commercially available in the U.S.
Why would I eat oatmeal in my gluten free diet? Fiber is often lacking in a gluten free diet, so I’m PUMPED to have this option. PS – take it slow, lots of fiber at once can ummmm…. stop ya up. Also, it’s affordable and available everywhere! So, to all my small town readers with just a Walmart, Quaker has you covered.
To wrap up Day 1: It really was a great meeting, they weren’t shy about answering any questions we had. They were proud, excited and confident about the process.
After the meeting… We had Oatmeal Cooking Lessons!
The lovely Sam, from Oatmeals in NYC, taught us (all the bloggers at the #QuakerSummit) some fun ways to sass up oatmeal. We had a blast trying all sorts of different savory toppings with oatmeal. I’m pretty sure I just put loads of chocolate on mine. #dontjudgeme
You guys… can I be honest with you? I was apprehensive to make this trip. I was hopeful, but apprehensive, that Quaker knew what they were doing when it comes to the safety of my precious gluten free community. I am protective of you. And now, after this trip, I’m pretty optimistic that Quaker is going to nail this. All that being said, I feel like my job here is to present you with everything that your dive detective found out, report back to you and let you decide how you feel about consuming Quaker’s new gluten free oatmeal. I personally feel totally safe eating them. I had a big bowl, along with all the other bloggers, and felt great afterwards. I’ll continue enjoying Quaker’s GF oatmeal for myself and my gluten free 3 year old. I believe 2016 will be big for Quaker…the truth always finds its way to the top, like a marshmallow in a cup of hot chocolate. So, if they continue to rock this out and prove we have a safe option, I have a feeling they will become a gluten free staple in all of our homes. And of course, it must be said, I advise each person to use their best judgment when deciding whether or not to try Quaker’s gluten-free products. I have presented the facts as they were presented to me, and I hope they help you make the right decision for yourself and your family. Thanks so much for stopping by! I adore you all and I’m grateful to walk this gluten free journey with you!
*Disclaimer- I received compensation for both my trip to Chicago and this post. But rest assured- All opinions are my own!
Lauren Lucille Vasser
“The Celiac Diva”