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« Scientists May Have Discovered How to Turn Off Peanut Allergies | Main | The Tender Foodie in Women's Lifestyle Magazine »

INTERVIEW: Bob's Red Mill on Gluten-free Processing, Testing and GMO's


This is an interview with Cassidy Stockton, the Social Media Specialist for Bob's Red Mill.  Through the interview, she takes us behind the scenes at Bob's, and gives us insight into their practices and philosophies, and some of the challenges in the allergen-free food market.  The above video opens the door to the plant and their testing facility, so we can see how things are done.



TF:  How & Why did Bob’s Red Mill get started? 

Bob’s:  Bob's journey began in the mid 1960’s after running across a book about old, stone-grinding, flour mills.  The book really struck him.  He became so enthusiastic, in fact, that he began to search the U.S. for stone mills that were still usable.  High-speed, steel, roller mills were quickly dominating the market, so any stone mill was a rare find.  Bob is pretty persistant, so when he procured millstones from an old water-powered flour mill in North Carolina , Bob and his wife, Charlee, began their first mill in Redding, California.

In 1978, Bob and Charlee decided to pursue others interests and moved to Oregon City, Oregon. On an afternoon walk, Bob came across yet another, beautiful, old mill.  As luck would have it, the mill was for sale.  In a few months, Bob was producing stone ground flours and cereals for local customers. Word quickly spread and Bob's Oregon City based mill enjoyed much success until 1988 when a fire destroyed the building.

Bob knew he owed it to his family of employees and loyal customers to rebuild.  He spent many years growing the business to where we are today. Our current site, located in Milwaukie, Oregon is a 320,000 square foot facility covering some seventeen acres and produces thousands of products each day.  Our products are all made with the same good old-fashioned techniques our customers have come to love and trust since our beginning.



Bob's Whole Grain StoreTF:  How does Bob’s keep their GF flours truly “gluten-free” when also processing other products that contain gluten grains?

Bob’s:  Our gluten free process begins at the farm. We source from suppliers who can deliver clean, gluten free grains.  We do not use suppliers who cannot provide us with grains that are mostly clean from gluten-containing grains. Once we receive a shipment, it is tested in our on-site gluten-free laboratory for gluten before it is released into our gluten free facility. If an ingredient does not test gluten-free, it does not go into that facility. All products and ingredients are tested to be under 20 ppm.

Within our building we have two manufacturing facilities- one that is entirely gluten free and one that is for everything else. The gluten free facility has dedicated storage areas, manufacturing lines, employees, and even a separate ventilation system. Customers can learn more, here: (links to a tour of our GF facility). All gluten free products are tested when they come in (as ingredients), during and after production before being released to the public.

Our entire facility is HACCP certified, which means that we practice Good Manufacturing Practices and all of our employees are well-versed in preventing cross contact between allergens.

Link to HACCP

Link to GMPS


TF:  Do you use a particular process for cleaning machines and your facility?   If so, why did you choose this particular process?

Bob’s:  Yes, we have a full procedure for cleaning machines. All lines are cleaned between runs using air and 30 lbs of the new product is flushed through the system before packaging begins. Production is scheduled with allergens in mind so that cross contact is minimized, for example if a soy product is to be run on a line, only products containing soy are run after it.


TF:  What certification organization(s) do you use?

Bob's:  We are certified organic by Quality Assurance International and certified kosher by Kehilla Kosher. Our HACCP certification is done by Randolph Associates, Inc.


TF:  Do you source your gluten-free grains from farms that do not rotate their gluten-free crops with wheat, rye or barley? 

Bob’s:  Yes, all of our gluten free oats are grown by a farming cooperative in Canada who is committed to only growing oats. No oats can be grown on those farms within the last 3 years prior to joining the coop. Additionally, while I don’t know the exact mileage, all of those farms are located a certain distance from farms growing wheat/rye/barley or other gluten-containing grains to prevent cross contamination due to weather/ birds/etc.  


Bob's Gluten-free LogoTF:  To what ppm do you test for gluten?  Why have you chosen that particular number?

Bob’s:  We test products down to 20 ppm, which means nothing over 19 ppm goes out- period. We chose 20 ppm because we felt that was low enough for the mass majority of people and high enough for us to produce the wide variety of gluten free products that we carry. At the time, this was the standard used in Europe. People should know that while we do test to below 20 ppm, most of our products fall much lower than that.


TF:  You also process nut flours.  If someone has both gluten and nut allergies, is it safe for a nut-allergic person to eat your gluten-free flours?  What is your advice?

Bob’s:  Yes, we package hazelnut and almond meal in our gluten free facility. We do not grind these flours, as stone grinding cannot produce flour and instead turns nuts into butters. We do package those flours and as we stated above, use good manufacturing practices to prevent cross contact. We have many people with nut allergies who eat our gluten free products with no problem, but it really comes down to the comfort level of the individual. There are several companies that specialize in allergen-free and nut-free products and we recommend customers look to them if they are not comfortable with our practices.

TF:  Do you test for other top allergens? 

Bob’s:  No, we do not.


TF:  Are you considering testing for other allergens to help more people with multiple food allergies?

Bob’s:  No, there have been no plans to do so.


TF:  Why are some of your gluten-free grains, like whole grain millet, not labeled “gluten-free”?

Bob’s:  All of our gluten free grains that are tested, including millet, are labeled gluten free. Some products, such as the millet, are sold to all sorts of customers. Those products have a small symbol on the front of the package to indicate gluten free, while the products that have been specifically designed for gluten free eaters display a more prominent gluten free label. We do have some products that are inherently gluten free, such as Buckwheat Flour and Soy Flour, but are not packaged or tested to be gluten free. This typically happens when we cannot secure a supplier who can provide the commodity in a reliable, gluten free manner in a sufficient quantity for our needs.


TF:  Oats are another fairly common allergy for people with gluten allergies or celiac disease.  Do you also test for oats in your gluten-free flours?

Bob’s:  No.



TF:  While on the subject of gluten, what are Bob’s thoughts on the proposed gluten testing  & labeling law?  Do you think 20 ppm is enough? 

Bob’s:  As a leader in the gluten free industry, Bob’s Red Mill was asked in the original hearings. We fully support this labeling law and eagerly await its release. We have been very active in pushing this law through by working with our US senator, Ron Wyden. (

We support 20 ppm because we feel it is a reasonable level for most manufacturers to attain. When you start getting into 10 and 5 ppm, many companies won’t be able to meet that threshold and will not be able to produce gluten free foods.


TF:  Could you see the law going further in any area?

Bob’s:  One area that begs more consideration is regarding the use of the gluten free claim on foods that are inherently gluten free. The spirit of the law is to prevent people from putting gluten free on things such as milk and eggs- things that would not ever have gluten. However, it will cause problems for foods that are inherently gluten free, such as oats, but need to be produced in a way that makes them fully gluten free. It does not help the consumer to say that all oats are gluten free- they simply are not.

TF:  Could you clarify what the labeling law means for foods that are "inherently" gluten-free?

Bob's:  It’s kind of a tricky wording on the proposed law. It says that if a product is inherently gluten free, you must state that. So for things like Quinoa, for example, even if we go above and beyond to ensure that the product is gluten free (through sourcing, production, and testing), we’ll have to put “quinoa is inherently gluten free” on the labeling if we want to call it gluten free. What worries our company is that people might assume that all quinoa is safe for consumption because it’s "inherently gluten free", (when it could be sourced or processed with gluten grains, and is not tested for gluten). That’s just an example, by the way. It’s just scary with the foods that really do have a high chance of cross contact- like oats- and if customers are not as savvy about what something like "gluten free oats" really means, they might think that all oats are inherently gluten free, so safe to eat even if the label doesn't actually say "gluten free".

TF:  What is the most difficult thing for food manufacturers to deal with when serving people with food allergies (Tender Foodies)? 

Bob’s:  Cross contact and keeping our ingredients clean through the entire process. It’s hard when you’re trying to source grains and your suppliers don’t know enough about allergens to work with you.



TF:  I see on your web site that Bob is a big supporter of health and wellness.  In fact, he and his wife recently gave to Oregon Health and Science University.   What inspired this interest and the gift to OHSU?

Bob’s:  The donation to OHSU and the two given last year to Oregon State University and the National College of Natural Medicine are all working to create and bolster nutrition research and education. The OHSU donation is the largest and will create the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health. Bob and Charlee want nothing more than to help end childhood obesity and educate people about proper nutrition.


TF:  I also noticed that Bob’s site has a section dedicated to Autism.  I know that a gluten-free diet has helped many people with Autism.  What is Bob’s interest in this condition?

Bob’s:  Our gluten free products have always been free from dairy/casein and we started hearing from our customers about their success following a GF/CF diet to mitigate the symptoms of autism. We care about our customers, so we listened and started trying to get more involved in the autism community.


TF:  Do you have any new products coming to market, or any events coming up that you would like my readers to know about?

Bob’s:  We have a few new gluten free products coming in 2012, but we cannot divulge what they are at this time.



TF:  What is your position on GMO's?

Bob’s:  All of our products come from identity preserved seeds. This means the seed planted in the ground is non-GMO. We simply can't guarantee against cross-pollination due to natural occurrences such as wind drift, so we do not label our products GMO-free.



TF:  How can Tender Foodies help manufacturers serve them better?

Bob’s: By increasing education and awareness (in the community).


TF:  If you were to give the Tender Foodie Community one piece of advice, what would you like them to know?

Bob’s:  Be an advocate for yourself. You are your biggest ally in eating allergen-free.


My warmest thanks to Cassidy Stockton and to Bob's Red Mill for the information they provided for this interview. 


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Thank you for the post
June 28, 2017 | Unregistered Commentersylvia

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