General Mills “Gluten-Free” Cheerios: Comment from Gluten Free Watchdog

General Mills “Gluten-Free” Cheerios: Comment from Gluten Free Watchdog

Update July 22, 2015: Please see Gluten Free Watchdog’s updated statement on Gluten-Free Cheerios https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/gluten-free-cheerios-take-two/

Update March 29, 2015: Gluten-Free Cheerios, Grain Millers, Oats, and Mechanical “Cleaning”

As Gluten Free Watchdog reported in February, General Mills is using a proprietary mechanical sorting process to remove wheat and barley from the oats they will use in their gluten-free Cheerios. In general, mechanical cleaning of grains separates out unwanted materials based on size, shape, and color among other attributes.

Mechanical sorting/cleaning of grains is nothing new. (If you are interested in learning the history of this process please see the USDA publication issued in 1968 available at http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/CAT87208718/PDF).  What is new (relatively speaking) is the use of mechanical sorting to “clean” the oats enough to result in a gluten-free product.

Note: Oats are considered a naturally gluten-free grain but because of the manner in which they are grown, harvested, transported, and processed they are highly likely to be contaminated with wheat and/or barley.

General Mills is not the first manufacturer to utilize mechanical and/or optical sorting processes to achieve what they claim yields a gluten-free oat product. Oats that have undergone this type of processing already appear to be in use in the gluten-free food supply. Yesterday I communicated via email with Grain Millers, Inc. While I am not able to share this correspondence directly, the company did provide me with a statement that reads in part:

Grain Millers is one of the world’s largest millers of oats, operating four mills in three locations. As a leader in the growth of organic agriculture, we naturally became involved in the production of gluten-free oat ingredients as more and more of our customers began asking us to utilize our expertise to produce gluten-free oat ingredients for use in their products. We studied the challenges for many years and when government standards were finally implemented, we confidently moved forward with our gluten-free program in 2012. The milled oat products we manufacture today as gluten-free are third-party certified by NSF and conform both to the US FDA standard and to the proposed requirements of Health Canada. The strength of our program, processing techniques, and testing rigor give our customers the confidence they need to make significant investments in their brands and products.

It is not always easy to confirm with companies whether the oats used in a product labeled gluten-free are:

1. Oats that have followed a purity protocol from farm to processing plant to prevent cross contact with wheat and barley

2. Oats that have been extensively cleaned at the back end of production (i.e., once arriving at the mill) to remove wheat and barley through some type of sorting (e.g., mechanical, optical)

3. Oats that are considered regular oats meaning they have not been subject to either a purity protocol or extensive sorting/cleaning

From the standpoint of the FDA labeling rule, none of the above really matters. What matters is that single and multi-ingredient oat products labeled gluten-free contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. It doesn’t matter to the Agency how this level is achieved.

For gluten-free consumers, it can be a very confusing situation. For years, they have been advised to eat only those oats and oat products that contain gluten-free/certified gluten-free oats. Gluten-free/certified gluten-free oats have typically been defined as those oats that follow a purity protocol to prevent/limit cross contact with wheat and barley from start to finish versus oats that are cleaned once they arrive at the mill.

For those of us who have been keenly studying oats and their use in gluten-free diets it is also very confusing. It is not always easy to get information from manufacturers and suppliers of oats. Some of us have suspected that not all oats in the gluten-free marketplace are “pure” oats. However, this has been difficult to confirm.

The larger issue for many of us in the gluten-free community is whether oats extensively cleaned at the mill are clean enough. Only very thorough testing can provide the answer.  Both General Mills and Grain Millers claim they are testing thoroughly. Neither company is able to release testing data.

When gluten-free Cheerios are available commercially, Gluten Free Watchdog will be sending multiple lots to the lab for testing. The entire box of product will be ground and multiple extractions tested. This should provide consumers with a good picture of the gluten level in this product. Grain Millers is an oat ingredient supplier. We have asked if samples can be sent to us for testing.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: The parent company of Country Choice Oats is Grain Millers. Country Choice is now labeling some product gluten-free. We are currently testing Country Choice Gluten Free Organic Oats.

Addendum: After the link to this blog was sent to subscribers to Gluten Free Watchdog, I received the following question: Do you believe these products to be gluten-free? My answer: In my opinion, General Mills is not going to label a product gluten-free if they do not have full confidence that it is gluten-free. Grain Millers is not going to represent an oat ingredient as gluten-free to a gluten-free manufacturer if it isn’t. Doing so would not be good for business. Regardless, cleaning oats at the back end of production is a new concept for many people in the gluten-free community. Many people have a healthy dose of skepticism. This is why it is so important for Gluten Free Watchdog to test products.

At Gluten Free Watchdog it is our job to be skeptical, to question, and to test. Because we do not accept any sponsorship money from manufacturers we are a true independent voice and source of testing data for the gluten-free consumer.

_______________________________________________________

This comment is published along with a repost of the article, “Manufacturer Use of Regular Oats in Gluten-Free Foods: Statement from Gluten Free Watchdog” originally published earlier this week. Please read both posts in order to put this “comment” on Cheerios into proper context.

Background

A couple weeks ago, I was forwarded a General Mills sales release from their convenience and foodservice division stating that five varieties of Cheerios are “going gluten-free.” The varieties are Original, Honey Nut, Multigrain, Apple Cinnamon, and Frosted.

The sales release includes a graphic that states:

·      “Cheerios are Made of Oats: Still the same source*

·      Oats are Naturally Gluten-Free: Always have been

·      But often had traces of wheat, barley and rye: Thus, Multigrain Cheerios will change formula

·      Cheerios Added a Process to Sort Out the Stray Grains*: Invested in a new facility

·      Now, Cheerios are Gluten-Free without changing a thing!: No UPC change”

*Emphasis mine

Conversation with General Mills

I’ve had two conversations with General Mills, including one with a VP of Research and Development. She confirmed that gluten-free Cheerios are made using “high-quality” regular oats. General Mills claims that wheat and barley grain are removed from their oat supply by a proprietary mechanical process developed by engineers at General Mills (General Mills has reported elsewhere that they are using a mechanical filter). She went on to say that General Mills did not take the decision to produce gluten-free Cheerios lightly and that the process to develop this cereal has taken four years.

When asked why General Mills did not use oats specially produced to be gluten-free she responded that neither a gluten-free purity protocol for oats nor certified gluten-free oats is sufficient for their purposes. General Mills stated that they would not feel comfortable labeling Cheerios gluten-free if they used oats that were specially produced to be gluten-free or certified gluten-free. She also said that using an optical sorter along with a purity protocol for oats is not good enough, claiming that the process used by General Mills is better. When asked to provide more detail on the mechanical process used to remove wheat and barley from oats the response was that it was proprietary. After investing a lot of money General Mills is not going to give away their process for free.

The VP of R&D told me that she and General Mills are very confident that they are protecting the most vulnerable group of people (i.e., those individuals with celiac disease) on a gluten-free diet with their process. General Mills claims to be testing product extensively—both ingredients when they arrive at their facility and finished product. They would not divulge how much testing they are doing or what test they are using other than that it is an ELISA. When asked to what part per million level of gluten they are testing General Mills responded that the Cheerios test below 20 parts per million of gluten. I was also told that General Mills is an FDA partner and that they regularly share results of their testing protocol with the Agency. In addition, I was told that General Mills has shared their proprietary mechanical process with Health Canada.

General Mills provided me with the following statement, “General Mills products labeled as “gluten free” do not contain wheat, rye, barley or crossbred hybrid of these grains. They also do not contain ingredients that are derived from these grains. Gluten-free labeled products undergo extensive evaluation. Production locations also ensure that no cross-contact can occur during manufacturing and/or packaging. Finally, gluten-free products are routinely analyzed to ensure ongoing compliance with the FDA’s gluten free standard. All General Mills products labeled as “gluten free” meet this standard.”

Thoughts

The process developed by General Mills MAY work brilliantly. However, it is very difficult to evaluate the proprietary mechanical filter/process developed by General Mills without more information. It should be noted that grains, including oats, routinely undergo mechanical sorting but this process has never been sufficient to ensure a pure oat supply. While it is understandable that General Mills does not want to disclose details about their process they could provide more general information. General Mills should also be more transparent about their testing protocol including how often they are testing and the methodology they are using. There is nothing proprietary about a testing protocol. While it is the case that the gluten-free market is burgeoning and manufacturers want to take advantage of everyone eating gluten-free, including those who have no medical reason for doing so, General Mills and ALL manufacturers must keep in mind why we have gluten-free products in the first place. A gluten-free diet is the ONLY treatment for people with gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease. Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease and individuals with this disease deserve to know how manufacturers, who are capitalizing on the diet they REQUIRE in order to stay alive, are producing gluten-free food.

Recommendations

It is the recommendation of Gluten Free Watchdog that individuals with a medical need to follow a gluten-free diet purchase food from manufacturers who are transparent in the process used to ensure a truly gluten-free product, including their testing protocol. Manufacturers should not expect the blind trust of gluten-free consumers but should provide facts so that individuals can make informed decisions.

……………………………………..

Other General Mills Products

My conversation with General Mills raised questions in my mind about their Chex “gluten-free” oatmeal. For a few reasons, I was under the impression that General Mills was sourcing their oats for Chex from a supplier of specially produced gluten-free oats (which would be a good thing). When asked whether this was indeed the case the reply from the VP was that she was not as familiar with Chex oatmeal but the difference in the source of oats could be due to Chex oatmeal using whole grain oats and Cheerios using oat flour. IF Chex oatmeal is made from specially produced gluten-free oats it is curious why these oats are good enough for Chex oatmeal but not Cheerios.

Manufacturer Use of Regular Oats in Gluten-Free Foods: Statement from Gluten Free Watchdog (Originally published Feb 11, 2015)

Ten years ago individuals with celiac disease were advised against eating oats. This was not because oats inherently contain gluten but because oats available commercially were highly likely to be contaminated with wheat or barley. Ten years ago we did not have oats that were specially produced and processed to be gluten-free. Today, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Cream Hill Estates, Avena Foods, and Gluten-Free Harvest specially produced and processed gluten-free oats and oat ingredients (e.g., rolled oats, steel cut oats, oat flakes, oat flour, oat bran, and oat groats) are available to gluten-free manufacturers and consumers.

Production and Processing

It is important to remember that there are two major activities required to bring gluten-free oats from field to table. The first is production, which takes place at the farm and involves seed sourcing and planting, growing, harvesting, transport and storage. The second is processing, which takes place at the mill and involves cleaning, mechanical sorting, dehulling, stabilizing against rancidity, and transforming into flakes, flour, steel-cut, whole groats, and bran for human consumption. Contamination can occur anywhere along this route. Here, for simplicity, Gluten Free Watchdog will use the term “produce” to refer to both production and processing.

Purity protocol for gluten-free oats

Cream Hill Estates was the first (followed soon after by Avena Foods and Gluten-Free Harvest) to set tough standards for oats specially produced to be gluten-free. The specific purity protocol developed by Cream Hill Estates included the following:

  • Using pure seed
  • Growing the oats on fields that had not grown wheat, rye or barley in the crop rotation for at least 3 years
  • Using dedicated and/or thoroughly cleaned equipment for seeding, harvesting, transport, and storage
  • Processing the oats in a dedicated gluten-free facility
  • Extensive testing of oats for gluten contamination both at the farm and the processor before and after processing

This protocol was developed out of necessity. These steps were needed to ensure a truly gluten-free oat supply for individuals with celiac disease.

Oats today

Presently, not all gluten-free manufacturers are sourcing their oats from suppliers of specially produced gluten-free oats who use ALL aspects of a purity protocol similar to the one above. Some manufacturers and suppliers may be sourcing “regular” oats from farms that have wheat or barley contamination in their fields or equipment. At least one manufacturer is using a proprietary mechanical process to remove wheat and barley from regular oats*. In addition, some suppliers MAY be using optical sorters in addition to conventional cleaning equipment to remove wheat and barley. However, it is not clear how well these sorting processes work on “regular” oats from the standpoint of ensuring a consistently reliable source of gluten-free oats. For oat producers and processors that adhere to an established purity protocol, optical sorting (and other proprietary sorting processes) could be another important step in ensuring a “safe” source of oats for the celiac disease community.

*General Mills is using a proprietary mechanical process that they claim removes wheat and barley from regular oats. These oats will be used in the gluten-free varieties of Cheerios which will be available nationally by the fall of 2015. A separate post on Cheerios is forthcoming.

What is “optical sorting?”

The most sophisticated optical sorters allow grains to be sorted (and rejected) on the basis of color, size, and shape. According to a brochure on Sortex optical sorters from Buhler, “For all different varieties of oats, whether rolled, hulled, kilned, malted or flaked, the precision sorting of the SORTEX range produces safe, clean products whilst maximising yields. The SORTEX range can remove cross-contamination, foreign materials, discolouration and subtle spot defects.”

Gluten contamination in regular oats

We know from a study published in 2004 that “regular” oats available in the US market cannot be considered gluten-free. Based on testing four different lots of three brands of oats, it is clear that oat contamination varies tremendously between brands and between lots of the same brand. There also may be a great deal of variation within the same lot, especially if the lots are large. This is why testing (and a lot of testing of representative samples) is necessary.

Brand Mean ppm gluten
McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oats (4 different lot numbers tested in duplicate) < 3, 12, 23, 725
Country Choice Organic Oats (4 different lot numbers tested in duplicate) < 3, 120, 131, 210
Quaker Old Fashioned Oats (4 different lot numbers tested in duplicate) 338, 364, 971, 1807

Source: Tricia Thompson. Gluten Contamination of Commercial Oat Products in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine. 2004;351:2021-2022

Testing of gluten-free or certified gluten-free oats and oat-containing products through Gluten Free Watchdog

Gluten Free Watchdog has tested a number of gluten-free and certified gluten-free oats and oat-containing foods. To date three products containing oats have tested at or above 20 parts per million of gluten. After two of these manufacturers changed oat suppliers the products tested below 20 parts per million of gluten at the time of retesting. The third product has not yet been retested.

Note: It is the policy of Gluten Free Watchdog to retest products testing at or above 20 parts per million of gluten approximately one year after the original test date.

A tale of two countries and gluten-free oats

Gluten-free claims on oats in the US

In the United States, oats and oat-based ingredients (e.g., oat flour, etc) used in labeled gluten-free foods do NOT have to be specially produced “gluten-free oats.” In addition, the FDA has stated that the term “gluten-free” may be considered intervening material in an ingredients list because it is not part of the common or usual name for any ingredient (and therefore may be subject to misbranding regulations). As a consequence it is very difficult for consumers in the US to know whether an oat ingredient is specially produced to be gluten-free.

Gluten-free claims on oats in Canada

Health Canada released a Notice of Intent to issue a Marketing Authorization (MA) to allow gluten-free claims for specially produced oats that do NOT contain more than 20 parts per million of gluten from wheat, rye, barley, or their hybridized strains, and for foods containing these “gluten-free oats” as ingredients when sold in Canada.

Specially produced oats are defined by Health Canada as, “Oats that are grown, transported, stored, prepared and/or processed in a manner that avoids cross-contamination by wheat, barley, rye, or their hybridized strains, or oats that are processed in a way that effectively removes cross-contamination by wheat, barley, rye, or their hybridized strains.”

For a food containing oats to be labeled gluten-free in Canada:

1. The food contains no oats other than specially produced “gluten-free oats.”

2. The “gluten-free oats” are clearly identified as such in all cases where ‘oats’ are referenced, including in the list of ingredients.

The consultation period for this Marketing Authorization for labeling “gluten-free oats” in Canada recently ended. Gluten Free Watchdog will let you know when a decision has been made.

Gluten-Free Watchdog’s plea to manufacturers

We ask manufacturers to please use only specially produced gluten-free oats (as defined by Health Canada) in their labeled gluten-free products. It is the opinion of Gluten Free Watchdog that a truly gluten-free source of oats begins with the use of pure seed and follows an established purity protocol. At Gluten Free Watchdog we understand that there is promising technology with optical sorters and other proprietary mechanical sorting processes that allow oats to be processed to remove barley and wheat grain. More information is needed before we can assess whether these sorters will allow “regular” oats to be processed enough to effectively and consistently remove wheat and barley. As always, Gluten Free Watchdog will continue to monitor the issues concerning the use and labeling of gluten-free oats.

Recommendations for consumers

As a general rule, oats and oat products that are certified gluten-free by a third party certification organization are a good choice for consumers. There are some manufacturers who choose not to certify their products through a third party organization but nonetheless follow a strict purity protocol or source their oats from a supplier of certified gluten-free oats.

At Gluten Free Watchdog we understand that this information may be confusing to consumers. It is hoped that the recommendations below will help you choose your oat products wisely.

It is the recommendation of Gluten Free Watchdog that individuals with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders choose oat products from manufacturers:

·      Who source their oats from a supplier whose growers follow a purity protocol

·      Test their product extensively

o   Oat ingredients (e.g., rolled oats, oat flour) should be tested by the supplier and the manufacturer

§  When it comes to oats there is no such thing as too much testing

§  Suppliers may provide certificates of analysis for oats testing less than 5 ppm gluten, less then 10 ppm gluten, and less than 20 ppm gluten

·      It is the opinion of Gluten Free Watchdog that the lowest level of gluten contamination should always be requested by manufacturers

·      Ask manufacturers to what level their oats are tested and choose your products accordingly based on your own comfort level

·      Are willing to answer consumer questions

o   Manufacturers who are proud of the steps they take to ensure a consistently gluten-free product will be forthcoming with information

§  At Gluten Free Watchdog we are not proponents of manufacturers withholding information from consumers because it is “proprietary”

§  Consumers with celiac disease—a serious autoimmune disease—should be provided with the information they need to make educated decisions

§  If you have any difficulties with a manufacturer please contact Gluten Free Watchdog

A huge THANK YOU to Amy Jones, MS, RD for her critical review of this article including multiple “read throughs” to help tweak the wording!!

Another huge THANK YOU to those in the oat processing industry who were consulted for input. This article could not have been written without their help.

© Copyright February 2015 by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD for Gluten Free Watchdog. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments (38)

  • Travis
    Reply

    You may wan’t to watch out for general mills. I used to work in the cleaning house that was responsible for removing barely and wheat contaminates. More that once I found whole grain bins to have high level of barley impurities. The current way things are done there, things like this could be missed if a worker is lazy or not attentive. Most of the validations of the oats in the place are hand graded by people that go unchecked for accuracy. I have been recently fired after bringing up that there are no checks or balances to the handgraders. The oats going through the plant now are going to be labeled gluten free on boxes as well so that is quite terrifying to be honest.

    July 31, 2015 at 11:20 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Thanks for sharing your insights, Travis. If you have a chance, I would appreciate your thoughts on the post https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/gluten-free-cheerios-take-two/ It was written after my visit to General Mills (did we happen to meet by chance?). During my visit to the mill, we went through the area where the hand checking of “cleaned” oats takes place. General Mills also appears to be using a “mechanical” backup that serves as a cross-check with at least some of the hand checking. Maybe this is new since your departure from the company?

      July 31, 2015 at 1:27 pm
      • Travis Reply

        If you want to contact me more about it I left a reply email with this post.

        July 31, 2015 at 3:34 pm
  • Gabi Reply

    My 6 yr old celiac was ticked to pieces that she could eat “gluten free” Cheerios. She has been diagnosed in 2012 and has not had been “glutened” since then. Never had she had a tummy ache or diarrhea since going totally gluten free. Well… Until we let her eat the “gluten free” marked boxes of Cheerios. 😔 We haven’t changed anything to her eating habits than the cereal.
    We were wondering if anybody else has issues with gf Cheerios?

    August 12, 2015 at 1:36 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Gabi, I am sorry to hear that your daughter got sick. Please read the other comments posted here and on other blogs. If you believe that gluten-free Cheerios caused your daughter to feel ill please save the box (it contains important information such as lot code). Contact General Mills, an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator, and your daughter’s gastroenterologist. Contact information for FDA and General Mills is provided in a previous comment.

      August 12, 2015 at 12:16 pm
    • Greg Reply

      My daughter and I (both have celiac) also experienced “gluten poisoning” after eating gluten-free Honey Nut Cheerios. In may opinion they are not safe. Unfortunately, I have over a case of Cheerios that nobody can eat. They may eventually work the problems out in their system, but in my opinion none of the gluten-free General Mills products can be considered safe for someone with celiac disease to eat.

      October 5, 2015 at 3:50 pm
    • Zonells Reply

      I was so excited to see “gluten free” Cheerios. But I found that it was not so. I barely finished my bowl when I had to run for the bathroom with explosive diarrhea.

      April 30, 2016 at 3:55 pm
      • Name * Reply

        I do not have Celiac – but I got sick after eating a bowl of Cheerios today. For pandering to the 2% of the population that has Celiac – makes me sick more ways than one.

        December 18, 2016 at 10:10 pm
        • Tricia Thompson Reply

          My recommendation is to contact General Mills and report your symptoms. The difference between “gluten-free” Cheerios and regular Cheerios is the “cleanliness” of the oats. Oats used in gluten-free products, such as Cheerios should have fewer wheat, barley, and rye seeds. Regular commodity oats are highly likely to be contaminated with wheat, barley, and rye. Also, please know that celiac disease is a serious genetically-based autoimmune disease. Before gluten was identified as the culprit, children died from this disease. The availability of oats that are “cleaner” and free of wheat, barley, and rye seeds is a good thing for everyone.

          December 29, 2016 at 7:54 pm
  • Rebecca Reply

    Gabi, I’m sorry to hear your daughter got sick 🙁
    I got very sick after eating a big ole bowl of Cheerios marked gluten free as well 🙁 shame I was so excited 🙁

    August 13, 2015 at 1:08 am
  • Dawn Reply

    Gluten detection dogs are failing the Gluten Removed Cheerios. I have read several posts about them passing some boxes and failing others. It seems like playing Russian roulette! For the time being I will trust the dog’s and stay clear.

    August 27, 2015 at 1:38 am
  • Marsha Delaney Reply

    Two of my three kids have celiac. They were delighted to try gluten free Cheerios. They both had bad reactions to them. They both got sick and had gluten-induced behavioral issues afterward. I will never allow my children to eat Cheerios again.

    (I don’t think their sorting process works. They may want to re-think it.)

    September 10, 2015 at 5:52 pm
  • Lissa Reply

    Thank you for your extensive research! I just want to remind everyone that some of us Celiacs can react to all grains, not just those with gluten. It’s called cross-reactivity and doesn’t cause damage (allegedly) but can cause us to feel poorly.

    September 13, 2015 at 1:31 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      To anyone with celiac disease who believes they react to grains that do not inherently contain gluten, please make sure you are purchasing grains that are labeled gluten-free. ANY grain can be contaminated with wheat, barley, or rye depending upon growing, harvesting, transporting, and processing practices. The issue of cross-contamination is not limited to oats. Oats just happen to be a grain that has been studied extensively for gluten contamination.

      September 14, 2015 at 1:32 pm
  • Valorie Reply

    I too was excited about gluten free Cheerios. I have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. After I tried them I reacted badly and got a migraine and joint pain like I used to get back when I ate gluten. Cheerios, “gluten-free” or not are off my menu again. P.S. I can eat Bob’s Red Mill gluten free oats with no reaction.

    September 17, 2015 at 8:21 am
  • Sue Westin Reply

    I have had Celiac disease for 30 years and made the big mistake yesterday morning of consuming Cheerios. The result has been a very uncomfortable 24 hours of symptoms. My advice, don’t eat them.

    September 22, 2015 at 10:41 am
  • selina boertlein Reply

    Unfortunately, I had the same result as many on here. I had some this morning as I could barely contain my excitement. I’m not even sensitive to cross contamination normally, but something in these has made me more sick than I’ve been in a long time. It was instant when I ate them and I only ate maybe half a cup. I’ve been in bed ever since my last bite feelinh awful.

    September 28, 2015 at 8:11 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Selina, I am so sorry to hear that you are sick. Are you usually able to eat gluten-free oats? Please contact your physician about your reaction especially if this is your first time eating oats. FDA is asking that you contact FDA’s MEDWATCH, the Adverse Event Reporting System. You can do this via phone (800) 332-1088. Choose option #4 to speak to a representative. Hopefully you are feeling better soon.

      September 28, 2015 at 8:29 pm
  • Maria Reply

    I was diagnosed with celiac disease many years ago; I found out that both parents have the celiac genes . Since I am extremely sensitive to many things I eat( besides gluten) plus I love to eat oats I order my gluten-free oats from Montana Gluten-Free, a gluten-free oats farm that claims their oats test less than 3 ppm gluten using ELISA. I order the raw oats and I make my oatmeal the old fashion way. I am not going to say “I am not having symptoms” because some people ingest gluten and do not have symptoms, but I have not had to go to the doctor for anything, thanks God.
    To the people I would say be very careful with Cheerios; they had a recall today. For what I am reading, I would be suspicious and I would be going to a gluten-free health food store rather to look for a cereal that looks like Cheerios processed in a dedicated GF place with certified GF oats. People who get sick should contact the FDA, like Tricia says, and if the issue has been very serious, I would contact a lawyer. Maybe this is the only way companies pay REAL attention to the gluten-free community. The gluten-free community is not a business and gluten-free patients cannot be taken advantage of.

    October 6, 2015 at 3:31 am
    • Pam Taylor Reply

      Maria,
      I was intrigued by your comment about Montana Gluten Free. If they can actually & accurately measure/document only 3ppm gluten content in their oats is impressive. As you probably know, many Drs., Celiac centers, nutritionists & etc., suggest/list only 5ppm as the highest level, (while the FDA allows what many of us feel is a very questionable higher amount of 20ppm) – 3ppm is even better. While I was diagnosed as a toddler & now retired, many people (including my Dr., who finished a nutrition course last summer) still frequently ask me nutrition related questions, including about ‘gluten free’ foods/diet, labeling of such, & etc., especially after they/family member/child has been diagnosed. (And since my curious mind, lol, wants to know if their seed is heirloom or hybrid, growing & processing methods, & how they can naturally, or by what means, produce oats with such low gluten content, I’m also going to check them out!)

      March 3, 2016 at 10:17 pm
      • Tricia Thompson Reply

        This is the process followed by Montana Gluten Free (according to a statement from the manufacturer):
        Montana Gluten-Free Processors. Note: The lower limit of quantification for the R5 ELISA is 5 ppm gluten; the limit of detection is 3 ppm.

        Website: http://www.montanaglutenfree.com/shop/

        Current gluten-free purity protocol confirmed via email on July 17, 2015:
        Oats are planted only on fields that have not grown gluten grains for 4 years
        Pure gluten free seed is planted
        Fields are hand rogued to eliminate any possible contamination
        The grower is responsible for rogueing
        Each field is inspected by a Montana Gluten Free inspector prior to harvest to assure that the rogueing was thorough and the field is clean
        Oats are harvested and transported in certified clean dedicated equipment
        The combines are inspected and each grower has been trained to clean equipment
        Oats are processed in a dedicated gluten-free facility
        Redundant ELISA R5 testing is conducted before and after processing (since 2012 Montana Gluten-Free also uses the ELISA G12)

        March 4, 2016 at 3:12 pm
  • Catherine Beller Reply

    I’ m very happy to read your report. EXCELLENT! WORK~ We are super careful and don’t stray from buying our usual GF foods. I depend on Bobs Mills for GF cereals, flours etc. Excellent product line. Thank you for your work.

    October 6, 2015 at 4:25 am
  • Kerry Northup Reply

    My sweet 6 year-old boy was glutened three weeks ago by the supposedly GF Cheerios. He had severe intestinal issues at first but the skin problems have persisted. They were so itchy that he kept scratching and opening his hives and causing infections that don’t want to heal. I read about the recall but they are limiting the issue to their Lodi facility. Our boxes have a BU code. I stopped letting him eat them after 2 day because it was obvious the oats had either been contaminated or mislabeled. How can we prove this? I can’t get through to the company to discuss it. I am going to post photos of some of his hives on my FB. Unfortunately many are on places I can’t photograph out of respect to my son. I’m livid and I’m sad. My baby and everyone else trusted a well known company and we shouldn’t have. I’m not litigious but how can we hold them accountable for this? Free cereal will not make up for them making my child literally suffer. I want change inuding transparency. My thoughts and prayers are with all of us dealing with this. Any advice?

    October 6, 2015 at 2:10 pm
  • Kerry Northup Reply

    Thank you Tricia… My heart hurts.

    October 6, 2015 at 4:10 pm
  • Julie Reply

    I decided to roll the dice and give the GF Cheerios (plain) a try. Had a huge bowl, and… zero reaction! I’m extremely sensitive to the tracest of trace amounts and would’ve been in full reaction mode within two hours, but thankfully, my box seems to be ok.

    November 9, 2015 at 8:02 pm
  • Pam Taylor Reply

    ‘Gluten free’ products (including the new gluten free General Mills brands/Cheerios, etc.) ARE NOT & this is more than just semantics. The UDSA has a very detailed list of what foods are naturally gluten free (meaning without any gluten whatsoever). Even though the public has been led to believe oats only contain gluten if they’re cross contaminated (mixed/processed with gluten rich grains such as wheat, barley, rye, etc.), & that if they’re grown, harvested, & processed properly, they don’t contain gluten – both of which are false. OATS NATURALLY/INHERITENTLY CONTAIN GLUTEN & actually contain enough protein gluten (which makes them ‘sticky’ & bind together) to be classified as a ‘glutenous’ grain. While the Celiac Support Association, etc., suggest/list a gluten content of 5ppm ( 5 parts per million) to be considered ‘gluten free’ & reasonable safe; the FDA allows 20ppm (which General Mills & others proudly claim their ‘gluten free’ products don’t now exceed). That’s 4 times more gluten content & 4 times more potential for a reaction (especially in children), which can & does occur. Just ask people who actually have documented Celiac/Sprue and/or other digestive/immune issues. For some people the 5ppm is doable, yet there are many people/children who cannot tolerate any amount of gluten – so to label something as “GLUTEN FREE”, when it’s really not, is both grossly misleading & mislabeling. Yes, I do know of people who have no and/or zero reactions to ‘gluten free’ products. However, I would ask, were you actually diagnosed as having Celiac, etc. And while you may not have had an immediate (say within 24 hr.) reaction, how are you/your child doing after several weeks to a month or two. (In other words, any even low grade to full blown reactions being passed off as something else. Plus have you had/going to have a blood allergy test to determine other symptoms/reactions are due to something else rather than still to gluten). So, food for thought for those, including parents, who want to know what ‘Gluten Free’ really means & are doing their best to be healthy & well. (Simply Google USDA list of gluten free grains. It’s very educational & has links to numerous well known Celiac sites. Also look for a certified/registered nutritionist who specializes in digestive/immune issues who will work closely with both you & your Dr. for what’s right for you/your family/child. Plus, many insurance companies now cover nutritionists & or there’s free/very low cost classes by a qualified Dr. or nutritionist at your local health food store/market.)

    March 3, 2016 at 8:45 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      In the US, oats are considered a naturally gluten-free grain and are allowed in foods labeled gluten-free. Approximately 5% of people with celiac disease appear to have an immune response to the oat prolamin avenin. We are in the process of reviewing all of the scientific literature on oats published in peer-review journals since I last published on oats in 2003 (Thompson T. Oats and the Gluten-Free Diet. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2003;103:376-379). This article will be submitted to a peer reviewed scientific journal for publication.

      March 4, 2016 at 3:43 pm
  • jim jackson Reply

    General Mill
    Please leave the Cheerio’s along
    the taste of cheerio is not the same as you claim go back to what work

    thanks
    jim jackson

    April 8, 2016 at 10:50 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Jim, This statement should be posted on General Mills’ Cheerios Facebook page. GM is unlikely to see your post on Gluten Free Watchdog.

      April 8, 2016 at 1:31 pm
  • Liz Reply

    I had q similar experience as others. I am gluten free as is my son. I had the gluten free mg Cheerios last week and my eyes puffed up like they do when I have gluten. I didn’t tell my son about my reaction but this morning my son had them and his throat got itchy which is what happens when he eats gluten. I was SO EXCITED Cheerios had become gluten free, but honestly, I think it’s false advertising – they should find ways to become truly gluten free if they wanted to target the gf market.

    May 2, 2016 at 3:56 pm
  • Alexis Reply

    I have been eating a ton of GF Cheerios the last few days. I haven’t used milk but just smacked on them. I’ve been GF for 3+ years. I have felt awful. I have felt truly horrible. Joint pain. Tired all the time. Nauseous and bathroom issues. I am headachy. The only change in my diet? The Cheerios— It was too good to be true 😞

    July 17, 2016 at 12:25 am
  • gee Reply

    Thank you for this post. I was going to the grocery store to get some GF cheerios for my daughter. I decided to google them before i left. This post popped up first. Needless to say i will not be making this purchase. Thank you for saving my daughter unnecessary pain.

    July 29, 2016 at 1:09 pm
  • Beth Bishop Reply

    I had not been doing well after eating cheerios over the last couple of months. My son, who is also celiac is not as sensitive as I am. I contacted them by email after reading this. They were very apologetic and helpful in explaining the process. I recommend that anyone who had problems with them, contact them and let them know so that they will realize that they need to correct the problem. They may have to do less varieties in order to keep the cost down and get enough certified oats. If you watch their video they explain this. I told her that the gluten free chex oatmeal does not bother me and she said that those are made with certified gluten free oats. She also gave me the bad news that they are discontinuing the oatmeal. So stock up!

    May 2, 2017 at 4:31 am

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