Updated Testing Protocol from General Mills for Labeled Gluten-Free Cheerios

Updated Testing Protocol from General Mills for Labeled Gluten-Free Cheerios

General Mills uses standard oats that have been mechanically and optically sorted to remove wheat, barley, and rye in their labeled gluten-free Cheerios.

Finished product testing

(As reported to Gluten Free Watchdog and confirmed October 12, 2018)

  • General Mills is producing gluten-free Cheerios using what they term “validated gluten-free flour.”
    • General Mills determines gluten-free status of a “lot” of oat flour via a lot mean.
  • Further, General Mills determines gluten-free status of a “lot” of gluten-free Cheerios via a lot mean.
  • In both cases, General Mills defines a “lot” as a 24-hour production cycle.
  • To arrive at a lot mean for gluten-free Cheerios, the following protocol is followed:
  1. Twelve to eighteen boxes of cereal are pulled during a production cycle or “lot”.
  2. The contents of each individual box are ground.
  3. A sub-sample of ground product is taken from each box.
  4. The sub-samples are composited—meaning they are combined.
  5. The combined sub-samples are subject to additional grinding.
  6. A minimum of six, 1-gram sample extractions are taken from this combined, ground sample (Note, formerly this was a minimum of twelve, 0.25 gram sample extractions).
  7. Extractions are tested using the Ridascreen Fast Gliadin (R7002) and cocktail extraction solution.

Questions about General Mills’ updated testing protocol:

  • Why isn’t General Mills testing 1-gram extractions from each of the 12 boxes pulled during a production cycle after the contents are ground?
  • Why is General Mills combining sub-samples from each box of ground Cheerios and then testing this composite sample?
  • If one or more of these extractions tests at/above 20 ppm, how does General Mills know where in the production cycle there may be wheat or barley seeds?
  • Why is General Mills averaging the test results for all extractions?

This testing protocol continues to baffle. Consumers eat from a single box of Cheerios. They are not eating a “lot” of Cheerios.

It is genuinely curious why General Mills does not follow a testing protocol similar to the protocol followed by Quaker. Quaker also uses standard oats that have been mechanically and optically sorted to remove wheat, barley, and rye in their labeled gluten-free oatmeal.

  • According to information provided to GFWD and confirmed October 16, 2018:
    • Quaker grinds the contents of individual packets or cartons of oats.
    • Each individual ground packet/tube is tested in duplicate.
    • If any single extraction tests above 12 ppm the entire lot is discarded.
    • Quaker also uses the formally validated Ridascreen Gliadin R5 ELISA (R7001) versus the fast version of the assay used by General Mills.

It would be truly fascinating to hear a debate between the statistician for Quaker and the statistician for General Mills.

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Comments (13)

  • Rosemary McCleod Reply

    Wow! How convoluted can they get! I’ll be staying away from Cheerios sorry to say. Thanks for all your work.

    October 16, 2018 at 9:50 pm
  • Dick L. Reply

    What they should be doing if they really want to assure a celiac-safe product is something like this:
    1. Following the grain sorting process, as the oats are milled into flour for the Cheerios, they should separate the flour into “lots” and thoroughly mix each lot. Thorough mixing is the key here.
    2. After mixing, take samples from each lot, and if the lot tests too high in gluten, use it for other products not marked gluten free.

    This approach would eliminate the “hot spot” problem, as long as there was no possibility of downstream recontamination. Which there shouldn’t be if they manufacture the Cheerios in a dedicated GF facility, which of course they should do.

    October 17, 2018 at 8:46 am
  • Elizabeth Reply

    This is why we as a family do not buy Cheerios and related products. It comes across as underhanded and I do not trust them, which is sad. We used to really enjoy them.

    October 17, 2018 at 10:10 am
  • Jessie Reply

    I ate GF Honey Nut Cherrios last night and have been sick all day. As a celiac, this is super disappointing.

    October 25, 2018 at 8:11 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      I’m sorry to hear this. Please contact an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your state. A listing is available at https://www.fda.gov/safety/reportaproblem/consumercomplaintcoordinators/

      October 26, 2018 at 1:25 pm
      • Faith Brown Reply

        Wow, thanks GM. Ate some “gluten free” Cheerios the other day and was sick afterwards, wondering wtf? Now I know. ? Thanks!

        July 1, 2019 at 9:48 pm
    • Fiona Reply

      Just want to say I also had honey nut Cheerios and I had a bad reaction. Please avoid.

      December 2, 2018 at 10:36 am
  • Eric Reply

    There’s DEFINITELY something wrong with their “testing” procedures. I cycled off/on twice with Multigrain Cheerios and got sick both times in 2018.

    I’ve since switched to Rice Chex and have been happy ever since.


    Celiac since 2017

    April 12, 2020 at 10:43 pm
  • Jane Scott Reply

    I’m disappointed too. I’m new to a gluten free diet and thought Cheerios would be a good quick food to have on hand.

    July 15, 2020 at 10:27 pm
  • Frranceen George Reply

    Thank goodness I like Chex (all the gF ones) better than Cheerios! I make Chex Mix a lot – a great grab-and-go snack – and ALMOST healthy! (depending on how you make it, LOL). But this is disappointing because my pantry is full of Cheerios, all the family likes them!
    I have the Dermatitis Herpetiformis form of Celiac and it can take up to 3 weeks for the symptoms to appear – making it difficult to use symptoms as a substitute gluten test!

    July 28, 2020 at 11:03 pm
  • S Perkins Reply

    Could someone PLEASE tell me which of the Cheerios cereals are gluten free as of today august 20 2020?? All of the sites I’ve seen are 4 & 5 years old. Does anyone have current info?

    August 20, 2020 at 6:46 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      General note about oats: At this time (August 2020), based on the totality of information available to Gluten Free Watchdog, we remain supportive of the use of purity protocol oats sourced from GF Harvest, Avena Foods, Montana Gluten-Free Processors, Glanbia Nutritionals, and MGM Seed & Grain Purity Protocol Oats by persons with celiac disease and gluten-related disorders who tolerate oats. With the exception of Quaker gluten-free oats, we are NOT supportive of the use of any other product containing mechanically/optically sorted oats, including gluten-free Cheerios, gluten-free Lucky Charms, and gluten-free and certified gluten-free products from manufacturers sourcing oats from Grain Millers or La Crosse Milling. The above is true regardless of test results. You can read more about oats at https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-and-the-gluten-free-diet-qa-part-1/ and https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-and-the-gluten-free-diet-qa-part-2/

      August 24, 2020 at 5:44 pm
      • Sheri Perkins Reply

        Thanks for the information. I appreciate your time and help.

        August 25, 2020 at 3:17 am

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