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Coeliac NZ Position Statement: Oats and Coeliac Disease


Whilst the consumption of oats confers health benefits, standard oats are typically processed in the same place as wheat, barley and rye, rendering them unsafe for individuals with Coeliac Disease due to contamination.  Also, studies indicate that one in five people with Coeliac Disease react to ‘pure’, uncontaminated oats. Pure oats are not considered safe for individuals with Coeliac Disease.

Definition: "Pure" oats are grown and processed in a way that cannot be contaminated with gluten-containing grains, including wheat, rye, or barley.  There is currently no global consensus on the regulation and labelling of pure, uncontaminated oats.

As oats cannot be labelled as gluten free in New Zealand (under New Zealand/Australian Food Regulations), terminology such as ‘wheat free’, ‘low gluten’, ‘uncontaminated’ or ‘pure’ are often used.  These health claims are not regulated and do not necessarily mean the product is safe for individuals with Coeliac Disease.

Oats and Coeliac Disease

Oats contain a variety of bioactive compounds such as oat β-glucan, oat avenanthramides (AVNs), phenolic acids, vitamins, and flavonoids that are beneficial to health.  These compounds may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases and cancer1.  Recent studies have shown that oats can effectively improve intestinal function, regulate intestinal flora, lower blood sugar and blood lipids which may reduce the risk of chronic diseases2.  The inclusion of oats in a gluten free diet may also increase dietary fibre intake and variety, allowing for a greater quality of life4.

Whilst the health benefits of oats remain undisputed, there is no unified international legislation regarding the inclusion of oats in a gluten-free diet and different countries have adopted their own regulations. In places that do allow oats, only those free of gluten contamination (“pure” oats) are recommended for people with Coeliac Disease, as commercial brands of oats are often highly contaminated with gluten from other cereals.

Are oats gluten free?

New Zealand/Australian food legislation does not allow oats to be labelled ‘gluten free’ due to contamination.  This includes any oats that are imported into the country. As standard oats are processed in the same place as wheat, barley, and rye they are contaminated with other grains and are not safe for individuals with Coeliac Disease.

Oats contain avenin, a protein similar to gluten. However, research shows that one in five individuals with Coeliac Disease react to the avenin in pure, uncontaminated oats.

Considering introducing oats

Coeliac NZ recognises the health benefits of oats but advises against the inclusion of oats in a gluten free diet due to the risk of contamination with standard oats products, Coeliac NZ also notes that a small number of individuals will not tolerate ‘pure’ oats.

Coeliac NZ recommends collaborating with your medical specialist and dietitian before introducing ‘pure’ or ‘gluten free’ oats into your diet.


  1. Kamal, N., et al (2022) The mosaic oat genome gives insights into a uniquely healthy cereal crop. Nature 606 (7912): p. 113-119.
  2. Duan W., et al (2023) Oats and their health benefits. Journal of Food & Nutritional Sciences 4[1]: 9-16.
  3. Coeliac UK. Oats [Online] Available from: [Accessed 18th October 2023]
  4. Barber T M, et al (2020) The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre. Nutrients 2020 Oct;12(10):3209 Published online 2020 Octo 21.doi: 10.3390/nu12103209

Article provided by Coeliac New Zealand Medical Advisory Panel.

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