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2.4 Sustainable food production systems: New approaches to promote the use and production of gluten-free pure oats

Coeliac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disorder in which a gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye causes an inflammatory response in the lining of the small intestine. The only effective treatment for the disease is a gluten-free diet. Approximately 2% of the Finnish population suffers from coeliac disease, one of the highest rates in the world.

In Finland, gluten-free pure oats are an important part of the diet for most people with coeliac disease.  Pure oat production is a specialised production line where oats are produced and processed separately from gluten-containing grains. Pure oats are approved as a gluten-free product in the EU.

Although several studies support the idea that oats are suitable for people with coeliac disease, the debate about the safety of oats continues. Uncertainty stems from conflicting views on whether different oat varieties are equally safe and whether the methods used to demonstrate gluten-free status can be trusted.

Together with our research partners, we have shown that oats, regardless of variety, are a safe cereal for a gluten-free diet when produced according to the principles of pure oat production. However, the current gluten quantification method used in the EU is not suitable for oats. We have identified alternative quantification methods which are currently being validated and implemented, but further international research and regulatory cooperation is required.