18 Rabbits: Organic, Healthy Granola sweetened only with Unrefined Sugar

After laying the foundation for defining healthy granola in my recent posts, by discussing the challenges of maintaining granola purity — whether being organic on one hand, or using raw honey (or no refined sweeteners of any kind) on the other (but rarely both) — I have a new entrant to add to the mix:  18 Rabbits, a San Francisco-based producer of super-healthy granola and granola bars.

Along with companies like Go Raw and Ambrosial Granola, 18 Rabbits is striving to establish its products at the top of the quality scale, by not only using certified organic products but also by working directly with farms, who presumably provide conscientiously made ingredients.

As of now (the fall of 2011), 18 Rabbits offers three types of granola:  Veritas, which is a hazelnut, walnut, flax and cacao nibs mix; Gracious, with pecans, almonds and maple syrup; and the nut-free Felicitas, which has sunflower, chia and pumpkin seeds along with Bing cherries.  Each is sweetened only with unrefined sugars: maple syrup and honey, as well as coconut in the Veritas and Gracious.

Here’s where things get really interesting:  while 18 Rabbits granolas are suitable for those with wheat allergies – the only grain they use is oats – they are not gluten-free (as is often the case with oats, they can share the same equipment with gluten-based products during the milling process, thus making them ineligible for certified gluten-free status).

18 Rabbits claims that as soon as oats become available that are both certified organic and gluten-free, they’ll switch to them for all their products, but in the meantime they choose to go with certified organic oats over certified gluten-free oats. It strikes me as a sensible choice, one that turns away only the very strictly gluten-free, while honoring a sustainable, environmentally responsible practice for healthy granola making.

While most oats are safe for most adults who have celiac disease, those especially sensitive to gluten must avoid them.  Even a food scientist at the Cornucopia Institute, which puts together the Organic Cereal Scorecard I’ve cited frequently, suggested via email that oats are naturally gluten-free, but that some are so gluten-sensitive that the oats can’t even touch the equipment that’s been touched by wheat, so all equipment needs to be devoted to gluten-free processing.   A quick search, meanwhile, turned up an outfit called GF Harvest, a Wyoming producer whose oats are certified as both gluten free and organic.  Hmmmm.  I’d rather not be forced to turn into some kind of organic/gluten-free sleuth here, but all the pieces aren’t quite fitting together, are they?

I’m going to presume, for now, that 18 Rabbits doesn’t consider GF Harvest to be a wholesale producer; in other words, GF wouldn’t be producing enough oats to keep 18 Rabbits’ supplies met.  And I’m also going to presume that another healthy granola maker, Udi’s Granola — which claims it isn’t cost-effective to use organic ingredients — is for now unable to go organic because of similar challenges.  There’s a lot to be continued here….oh, but one more thing that I haven’t forgotten:  does 18 Rabbits use raw honey or pasteurized?  I will be hearing back on that shortly.

To be continued….

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