I was reading with interest the postings on your board with respect to the above study and the follow-up and comments. One item that seemed to remain uncertain was the contamination potential of oat products with other cereal grains, in particular wheat, barley, and rye. If we can be of any assistance in providing information to answer this question, we would be glad to offer our data.
My name is Trevor Pizzey, and I am currently the Executive Vice President - Operations for Can-Oat Milling, the largest industrial supplier of oat ingredients in North America. Part of the quality control that is incorporated in our operation is a monitoring of the foreign grain admixture of both our raw material and finished goods. Steve Martins comments that cross contamination of grains in North America is almost a given is indeed accurate. There are a number of points of contamination during the production and manufacturing processes. The first point of contamination is usually in the field. Crop rotation in the US and Canada means that oats are often grown on fields that have previously produced wheat, barley or rye. Volunteer grain is the term used to refer to these grains growing the following year from seed that missed being harvested the previous year. A secondary point of contamination is often the grain handling system.
November 2, 1998 Response by Mr. Pizzey to my Request for More Information:
I have reviewed our QA data, and based on the analysis of approximately 50,000 tons of groat production (Note: Groats are the oats with the hull removed, and this production is the primary stage of processing prior to grinding into flour or rolling into flakes. It is at the groat stage that we can most easily detect and monitor wheat and barley admixture.) from our two facilities during the last 6 months. Average wheat and barley contents have been 2.1 and 4.1 kernels per 100 g respectively. It takes approximately 40 kernels to equal 1 gram, so this admixture level equates to 0.0525% and 0.1025% respectively. This level can be expected to fluctuate with crop year and raw material sourcing region.
Our specifications for finished food products are a maximum of 10 kernels per 100 g, or 0.25% each of wheat and barley. As you can see, average production levels are significantly below our maximum specification, but celiacs would need to be concerned about the maximum specification level, as this concentration is on occasion present in oat products we manufacture. Most of our competitors do not carry wheat and barley as specification items, so I can not comment on the industry average or maximum concentration.
With respect to your question about the ability of smaller organic producers and processors to guarantee admix free oat products, I would have to say that they are unlikely to be any better than the larger, more conventional operations. In fact, organic producers have somewhat more limited means of controlling volunteer cereals, so admixture levels can be even more elevated than in conventional production. We have previously been a certified organic oat processing facility, and have dealt with significant volumes of organic oats. In general terms, we saw both wheat and barley levels to be higher in organic oats than in conventional products. As with the conventional producers, there is a range of quality that can be expected from organic growers, and some take more care in crop rotations to ensure low cereal admix than others.