Oats so good: General Mills adds another gluten-free patent to its belt

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

General Mills has filed a patent for a mechanical process that ensures oats are not contaminated with other gluten-containing grains. Pic: ©GettyImages/piotr_malczk
General Mills has filed a patent for a mechanical process that ensures oats are not contaminated with other gluten-containing grains. Pic: ©GettyImages/piotr_malczk

Related tags Oats Patent Gluten-free oats contamination Product recall Cheerios Dough

General Mills has filed a patent for a mechanical process that removes gluten-containing grains from oats.

Oats do not naturally contain gluten, but can become contaminated with other gluten-containing grains – like wheat, barley, rye and triticale.

The contamination may come from rotating grain crops on the same land as well as from harvesting, transporting, storing and merchandising.

Defining gluten-free

The US federal government stipulates that, to carry the gluten-free claim, a product must contain a maximum of 20 ppm of gluten.

The patent (No. US 20180236453 A1 filed) details a mechanical system of achieving oat grains with gluten levels below 20 parts per million (ppm) and, more preferably, below 10 ppm.

The Minneapolis-based company’s patent outlines a series of mechanical operations that differ from traditional procedures to avoid contamination.

It has devised a series of operations – or a combination of series and parallel operations – to ensure cross-contamination is kept to a minimum, including width grading, multiple length grading steps and a potential debearding step.

Gluten-free Cheerios

The resulting oats may be used in gluten-free oat food products, including cereal and granola.

The company was forced to recall its gluten-free Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios in 2016, following wheat contamination. The recall affected an estimated 1.8 million boxes.

In 2014, General Mills filed three international patents for ready-to-bake gluten-free dough for pies, cookies and pizzas.

The gluten-free flour mixtures are made up of rice, millet and sorghum flours, as well as potato, corn and tapioca starch.

‘There is demand for ready-to-bake gluten-free products that can go directly from the refrigerator to the oven or other associated baking appliance,’ the company said at the time.

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