The Quaker Oats Company is in the process of rolling out its new gluten-free line — Quick 1-Minute Oats, Instant Oatmeal Original and Instant Oatmeal Maple & Brown Sugar. In order to spread the word about their new products, they flew me and several other bloggers out to Chicago last week for the Quaker Gluten Free Blogger Summit.
I was super excited to hear about their new products and learn the process of how their gluten-free oats are made.
During our trip, we were able to meet some passionate minds behind the project including fellow celiac, Quaker’s Nutrition Sciences Manager and former Board of Directors member for the Canadian Celiac Association Lori Alexander. It was neat to see a member of the team who has already played such an important role in the celiac community.
Quaker’s Director of Global Milling Research and Development Alan Koechner provided us with an ‘oatucation.’ He went into serious detail about the milling process behind Quaker’s new gluten-free oats.
At the end of the day, here are some of the fast facts you need to know:
- Oats are naturally gluten-free, but may come in contact with wheat, rye and barley at the farm, in storage or during transportation.
- When researching ways to enter the gluten-free market, Quaker looked into purchasing certified gluten-free oats that follow gluten-free purity standards from an outside party. Internal testing revealed these oats were contaminated with gluten containing grains and did not meet Quaker’s quality standards. (This could be an entirely other post, but I’ll leave it at this for now.)
- As a leader in the oat milling industry, Quaker decided to take matters into their own hands and develop an innovative mechanical and optical sorting model process to remove any stray gluten-containing grains from the oats they already mill. The process includes gathering oats -> dehulling -> cleaning -> kilning -> finishing.
What’s different about Quaker’s process?
- Quaker visually examines oats as they come in from the farm. Batches with a low percentage of gluten containing grains are set aside for possible use in gluten-free products. All other oats are used for Quaker’s non-gluten-free oat products.
- The oats are then dehulled, meaning their ‘coat’ is removed. This step transitions oats into “groats,” oats without their coats.
- Next, the groats set aside for gluten-free products go through mechanical and optical sorting (cleaning) process.
- A second round of inspection takes place at this point. For every lot, the equivalent of 3,000, 40 gram samples of groats are passed through the inspection system which includes single kernel analysis using NIR infrared technology and analytical testing.
- If any of the analytical samples do not meet the Quaker standard, the entire lot is rejected for gluten-free use and transferred to be used in Quaker’s non-gluten-free oat products.
- This ratio of testing has been “statistically verified” to ensure any gluten-containing grains would be found, if any were there.
- During Quaker’s early research and development period, prior to oats being made for commercial use, some gluten-containing grains made it to this point of the process and entire batches were rejected for gluten-free products. Adjustments to the sorting process were made and since product has been released to stores, no batches have been rejected.
- Next, groats that pass the test are cut and flaked for gluten-free oatmeal using dedicated gluten-free equipment.
- The oats are then packaged on non-dedicated gluten-free equipment. The equipment is cleaned to ensure there is no risk of gluten contamination.
- A final round of testing is conducted at this point. Approximately every half an hour, an individual serving size is pulled for testing.
- Quaker uses the hold and release model while testing. Nothing is sent out to the market until the entire lot has been through testing protocols and no more than 12 ppm of gluten-containing grains are found in any one individual packet, “ensuring no more than 20 ppm of gluten make it to the shelves.”
So what’s the take away here?
Each company using the mechanical and optical sorting model to produce gluten-free oats should be evaluated differently, as companies have different processes, procures and testing protocols.
I feel optimistic about Quaker’s process and gluten-free product offerings, though I look forward to the testing results Gluten Free Watchdog has promised to release once the products officially hit the shelves. The team I met with is extremely passionate about this initiative and made it clear that Quaker treats gluten-free oats as a ‘food safety concern’ and not just a ‘quality control measure.’
I did try the products and didn’t have any issues. I also thought they tasted great. I ate the Quick 1-Minute Oats with peanut butter, chocolate chips and bananas for breakfast.
With that said, I advise each person to use their best judgement 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.
* This post and my trip to the blogger summit was sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company, and I have been compensated for my time. I was not required to write a positive feature. These are the facts I was presented with, and my own thoughts and experiences.