On May 19, 2015, Health Canada registered a Marketing Authorization (MA) which permits the use of gluten-free claims for gluten free oats and foods that contain them as ingredients.
Historically, people with celiac disease have been advised to avoid eating gluten protein found in wheat, barley, rye, or their hybridized strains, and oats. In recent years, the safety of oats for celiac patients has been an issue of interest and investigation.
In 2007 Health Canada published a review of scientific literature which concluded that most people with celiac disease could safely consume limited amounts of gluten-free oats which did not contain gluten from wheat, rye and barley, or their hybridized strains.
Health Canada considers "gluten-free oats" as those that do not contain more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten from wheat, rye, barley, or their hybridized strains.
Oats are a nutritious source of proteins, carbohydrates and especially fibre. Eating foods made with gluten free oats provides a wider choice of grain and cereal-type foods for people with celiac disease. Sticking to a gluten free diet can be a challenge because of limited food choices. Introducing oats to a gluten-free diet could help people better cope with this challenge.
A more recent Health Canada science review conducted in 2014 and revised in 2015 concludes that limiting daily consumption of gluten-free oats is not required. For more information on this review please see Celiac Disease and Gluten Free Claims on Uncontaminated Oats.
Health Canada's Marketing Authorization (MA) permits the use of gluten-free claims for gluten-free oats (that do not contain more than 20 ppm of gluten from wheat, rye, barley, or their hybridized strains) and for foods containing these oats as ingredients, under certain conditions.
The MA provides an exemption from the Food and Drug Regulations provided that:
Labelling specially produced oats as "gluten-free" will inform consumers that these oats are different from regular oats.
Regular oats that have not been specially produced or processed to be gluten free should not be eaten by people with celiac disease or other gluten-related disorders. Regular oats can often contain some wheat, rye or barley as a result of the way they are grown, harvested and transported along-side these other grains.
Clearly identifying the oats as "gluten-free" will help ensure that people with celiac disease or other gluten-related disorders do not think that all oats are gluten free.
All other requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and its regulations will be maintained.
Further regulations are being developed to update the Food and Drug Regulations pertaining to gluten-free to ensure the greatest level of clarity and coherence between the Regulations and this MA.
The MA is considered an enabling measure by Health Canada. This MA came into force on the date it was registered, May 19, 2015.
Health Canada held consultations on both its scientific opinion and the corresponding notice of intent to issue a Food Marketing Authorization to allow gluten free claims for specially produced gluten free oats and products containing them. These online consultations started on November 14, 2014 and ended January 27, 2015.
The comments received through these consultations have enabled Health Canada to make improvements to its scientific opinion document and to provide further clarification to the Marketing Authorization.