When you are diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you are immediately warned about foods you should avoid for the rest of your life.  Oats are in the top five.  That means ANYTHING made of oats – cereal, cookies, sacks, even breading on some frozen foods – is a no-no.  So you might be surprised to hear that there are such things as gluten-free oats.

Who Says?

Gluten-free oats can’t (or really shouldn’t) advertise themselves as gluten-free until they get a certificate from the GFCO (Gluten Free Certification Organization).  The GFCO is a non-profit organization that is a part of The Gluten Intolerance Group.  They work with the FDA on occasion.  They only check food for the presence of gluten and nothing else.  They still urge you to seek out a professional doctor for all your medical and Celiac or gluten intolerance questions.


Sometimes called “oat berries”, they can be found mostly from health food stores, specialty food stores and their online equivalents.  They are round oats with hardly any or no gluten.  Be sure to read the label carefully before purchasing.  They are usually sold whole and you have to grind them yourself to make flour. However, many gluten-free products are made with “oat groats”, which you now know are gluten-free oats.  (“Groats” usually refer to the shape.) You can have buckwheat groats, millet groats as well as oat groats.

Gluten-Free Oats

There are, indeed, gluten-free oats made from oats.  For some reason, they do not contain gluten, perhaps because they are not flattened, processed or treated with additives and preservatives.  Even if the label says “Gluten Free Oats”, it still may contain tiny traces of gluten.  Read the label carefully: anything under 20 ppm (parts per million) is good, 10 ppm is great.

There are some Celiacs and gluten intolerant people who do very well on fresh oats that haven’t had anything added to them.  Gluten intolerance hits people in different ways.  The New England Journal of Medicine in 2004 concluded that a small to occasional eating of oats, either gluten-free oats or not, did no harm.  Still, you might want to talk this over with your doctor before enjoying some fresh oatmeal cookies.