There are many challenges to producing oats for people who are sensitive to gluten. Three Farmers, a grower’s group in Western Australia, are facing these challenges head-on to secure a slice of the wheat-free oat niche.
Three Farmers have developed stringent growing protocols that include a long paddock rotation, meaning no wheat or barley can be grown in the same paddock in the lead up to planting an oat crop. They use seed that is graded to make sure there are no wheat or barley seeds contaminating the batch, and laboriously pick out any rogue seeds by hand. The fields the oats are grown in are also picked over by hand to make sure there are no other vegetative contaminants.
Once the oats are ready for harvest, there are strict cleaning protocols for all the machinery, storage and transport systems involved; the hardware used is regularly tested for gluten. UniGrain, a company with processing facilities in WA and Victoria, processes the grain, again under strict protocols.
Three Farmers has engaged Melbourne-based health food brand, Red Tractor, to supply the wheat-free oats to market. More about the Three Farmers’ approach can be found here.
Knowing the challenges of gluten-free cereal production, Australian researchers from CSIRO and Edith Cowan University are investigating the gluten-like proteins found in perennial ryegrass. This weed species commonly grows with crops that are used in gluten-free products such as millet, buckwheat and sorghum.
Close to twenty proteins found in ryegrass have similar properties to gluten proteins. The researchers now plan to undertake clinical studies to determine whether these proteins trigger reactions among people with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.
Journal Reference: Escobar-Correas, S. et al. 2021 Frontiers in Nutrition. DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2021.708122. Available with Open Access.
Further reporting: CSIRO