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General Mills Sued Over Recalled Gluten-free Cheerios

Celiac.com 12/09/2015 - Less than a month after General Mills announced a recall of nearly two million boxes of gluten-free Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, the company is facing a class action lawsuit alleging it violated several consumer protection laws, and put consumers at risk.

Photo: CC--Bryce Mohan The complaint, filed in the eastern district of California on October 30 by plaintiffs Keri van Lengen and Deborah Nava against General Mills and Roxanne Ornelas (manufacturing manager at Gen Mill's Lodi plant), accuses General Mills of selling misbranded products; in this case, cereals advertised as gluten-free which actually contained gluten.

It adds: "Plaintiffs and Class Members have all suffered and will continue to suffer harm and damages as a result of Defendants' unlawful and wrongful conduct."

For the company's part, it states in a blog post published on October 5, by Jim Murphy, senior vice president and president of the Cereal division at General Mills, that:

"Our Lodi production facility lost rail service for a time and our gluten-free oat flour was being off-loaded from rail cars to trucks for delivery to our facility on the dates in question. In an isolated incident involving purely human error, wheat flour was inadvertently introduced into our gluten-free oat flour system at Lodi. That error resulted in an undeclared allergen – wheat – being present in products labeled as gluten free at levels above the FDA gluten-free standard."

Murphy went on to reassure consumers that the company's oat supply was safe, and that their gluten-free flours are pure.

The post goes on to assure consumers that the company "tested our oat supply on these dates – and the oat supply tested as gluten free. We also tested the specific oat flour being used at Lodi – and our oat flour supply also tested as gluten free on the dates in question."

The post closes by noting that General Mills is testing all finished product…[and has] instituted additional flour handling protocols at all facilities to ensure this will not happen again.

Stay tuned for new developments or related news on gluten-free products from Cheerios or General Mills.

Source:

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43 Responses:

 
Kay
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
14 Dec 2015 5:37:40 AM PST
I think litigation when companies take responsibility is unproductive. It will make companies less likely to try to bring new gluten free products safely to market.

 
Cathy
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 2:18:26 PM PST
Yes. It scares me to death that companies who have our best interests at heart are threatened in ways that will steer them away from bringing out new GF products. As a society we are way too litigation prone and averse to looking at what the consequences are that follow.

 
Lawanna
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 1:59:13 PM PST
I could not agree more, and was exactly what I was fixing to type as a comment myself.

 
Roberta
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 10:53:29 AM PST
I agree. Damaging litigation for an isolated incident is the fastest vehicle to all these mainstream companies deciding we can go screw ourselves before they'll try to cater to us again.

 
Laura
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 2:04:09 PM PST
My main concern at this point is that my son and I both got very, very sick from a new box purchased last week, that was not part of the recall. It was by no means gluten free, while labeled as such. Not sure what to make of this experience based on this above comoay statement.

 
admin
( Author)
said this on
15 Dec 2015 5:20:16 PM PST
Have you considered an oat intolerance, which does also affect some celiacs? If your box was not part of the recall I doubt it contained any gluten.

 
Laura
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said this on
16 Dec 2015 7:09:33 AM PST
We are absolutely fine with oats. I have been gluten free for 20 years, diagnosed with celiac disease then. My son was diagnosed 12 years ago. We eat certified GF oats with no issue. In fact, neither of us have any other food allergies or intolerance.
We ate two boxes as a family before the recall. Didn't buy any again, until last week. An original statement from General Mills referred to using a process of washing and separating oats grown next to wheat and that they were not planning to use certified gluten free oats. You can google it. This statement above is quite different regarding their intended practice.
I think it's odd that you would not believe someone got sick after the recall. I don't believe their process is currently safe. I really want it to be! I am a huge supporter of any company making mainstream products safe for Celiacs. I am not in favor of suing them, I would just like the process evaluated and overhauled. Given my major reaction to this bowl of Cheerios, that box was not GF. I have a reaction maybe twice a year from cross contamination. I get an immediate migraine within minutes of eating gluten.
We will continue to try Cheerios, but perhaps wait awhile until this gets figured out by the company.

 
admin
( Author)
said this on
16 Dec 2015 10:57:48 AM PST
Perhaps you should have the box tested? Again, making claims without any support other than you didn't feel well isn't very fair to this company, is it? You likely ate other things that day...

 
Marie
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 3:35:58 PM PST
Celiac disease patients should not allow any company to put a "gluten-free" label on products that are not really gluten-free.
We want to avoid seeing more people ill or dead because of gluten ingestion. This is very serious and should be addressed no matter what. Celiac disease patients deserve respect and the companies that want to make money at the expense of celiac disease patients should know well what they are doing before launching any gluten-free product. This is not a game and nobody should be playing with people's health.

 
Tim
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 5:17:23 PM PST
It was a mistake not intentional and they corrected it. Stop degrading companies that try to assist GF. And yes. FYI, companies try to make money if there is a need by consumers. So tell you what. Don't buy any GF Food from any company. Make your own food.

 
anna
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said this on
22 Jan 2016 8:45:39 PM PST
Thank you, I totally agree. Unfortunately, the only way big Corp is going to listen and then realize that our health is not something to play with is by lawsuits. That's the way it goes. Before the FDA ruling you would have had no choice in this matter. You got sick and no one cared. This is the way the system works. Gotta hit em where it hurts because they only care about the cash.

 
Linda
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 6:31:17 PM PST
I totally agree with Kay. Litigation will only make these companies less likely to venture into GF land. Thanks for the article. And I'm sure glad Coors will be going GF soon but it will probably take a LONG time for the product to get to Georgia.

 
Susan
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 7:30:58 PM PST
I agree 100%

 
Katie
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 4:45:55 AM PST
AGREE

 
Donald
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 5:02:43 AM PST
Absolutely. Give GM a break during their transition. I am speaking as one who got sick from accidentally buying a box of whole grain cheerios that did not say "gluten free." Uggg. We lost Chex oatmeal. Let's not lose Cheerios again...

 
Charlene H.
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 8:10:28 AM PST
Our society is "lawsuit happy". Mistakes are made because we are human. General Mills acted quickly and took steps to fix the problem. This was not an intentional harmful act. If celiacs continue to bring lawsuits against companies (i.e. General Mills, PF Chang's), we will be limited again in our choices for gluten free products on the market. And YES, I am a celiac, as well as some of my family members!

 
Tim
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 5:13:16 PM PST
I agree. Just another money hungry lawsuit with no merit. I hate lawyers. A few people ruin it for the rest. Thank you GM for making Cheerios G!!!!!!! These people probably look to sue for any reason. They probably sued another company before and hope to get money before litigation. Ambulance chasers.

 
Ashley
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 10:07:53 AM PST
I would rather have limited choices that are safe and actually use gluten free oats than deal with someone who's in it for the money and the fad and end up getting sick and have to start the healing process all over again.

 
admin
( Author)
said this on
15 Dec 2015 10:29:35 AM PST
You are assuming that smaller companies can do this better than larger, publicly traded companies, which may not be the case.

 
Cynthia
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 8:31:51 AM PST
We need to use our buying power and the law to stop these types of things occurring with our store-bought foods these days. I would really like to see a non-profit that worked with people to educate them how to grow their own organic gardens, raise their own foods (if possible) and why it is now so important.

This also falls right in line with GMOs and the damage they are going to cause to us and probably our environment later. I have Celiac's and am infuriated they would do this. Thank God I never have eaten this brand or brands.

I feel totally violated on every level that we would be encouraged to buy these things without being informed so we would have the choice to buy or not to buy. But, then they wouldn't have as many sales and dollars in their pocket.

We have to work together as Americans to find a way to break up the corporations and move back into flourishing small businesses where the dollars are distributed rather than a few greedy people owning the whole lot. We do that in our ability to grow our own and use our buying power no matter how small it is this days.

If no one is buying they lose their power.

 
Tim
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 5:28:15 PM PST
Boo Woo. Go live in a cave Cynthia. Don't work anymore because you dont need money. Go eat grass, and dirt that's GF. (or is it?) Go make your own flour ('cause you can't trust anyone) Make your own clothes. Go hug a tree. These greedy companies trying to make a living. Shame on them. Yes we must rise up and over throw these evil companies. No more cars, no more cell phones, no more swimming pools, no more airplanes. No more banks. Let's just live on love and sing WE ARE the World.

 
Karen
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 3:43:00 AM PST
Cynthia, you seem to be one of those people who likes to take any issue and blow it up into a rant about how everything is wrong in the world today. I own a small business, suffer from celiac and ate the Cheerios but I also realize that human error is just not something that can be completely eliminated. The company took responsibility and acted appropriately. I agree with the other posts, if we punish them for coming forward and disclosing the problem then companies will just not want to produce gluten free items because the risk of being sued is so high. Meanwhile, we will be back to eating the limited, sub-par selection of gluten free items we (enjoyed) years ago. I don't know about you, but I really love the fact that I can have such things as Cheerio's, cake, delicious pasta and all of the other wonderful items that have been introduced over the last few years.

Just think of how you would feel if somebody sued you every time you made a mistake.

 
Audrey
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 6:54:21 AM PST
This was an error - not an intentional misbranding of product. Mistakes happen and the company has taken responsibility and put new measures in place to prevent something like this in the future. Nothing is perfect. I agree with other posters that lawsuits of this nature will only hinder the willingness of companies to create of new GF products in the future. Everyone growing their own organic gardens is not feasible in the real world.

 
Deb S.
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 12:11:08 PM PST
At least General Mills is providing gluten free cereals. Its just human error people, cool down and quit being so quick to point fingers. I agree with the first few comments, we are finally being provided with more gluten free options. If these ignorant people want to file law suits, these companies may say screw it then... its not worth the hassle!!! Use your heads people and be thankful!!!

 
G. Harrison
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 12:26:14 PM PST
I have to agree with Kay. Wouldn't it be better to work with General Mills to ensure that they have systems in place to prevent these kinds of mishaps rather than take them to court? I would far rather the large food producers get on board with gluten free options, rather than being scared out of the market and this "mistake" was a first time offence. If they made a practice out of falsely labelling their products, fine, but this is just going to send an alarm to anyone considering making more food options available at affordable prices...

I'm not sure how solid their case is either. Given my own personal experience, I would say that the vast majority of people still think that celiac disease and gluten intolerance are an invented illness for picky eaters because it does not have an instant fatal response, like Anaphylactic reactions do.

They will lose if a jury is involved.

 
Lawanna
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 2:01:43 PM PST
I hope they get nothing. General Mills took prompt responsibility. We need more companies to offer gluten free products but lawsuit happy people as in this example will detour it and then we all suffer the limitations.

 
James
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 2:11:46 PM PST
These people are just trying to get a pay day for no reason. They probably aren't even allergic to gluten. Frivolous lawsuits like these are going to do nothing but make it that much more difficult for gluten free people like myself find foods we can eat without having to cook several hours a day. Keri van Lengen and Deborah Nava should do something more productive instead of trying to get something for nothing and ruin for the rest of us. Cheerios, clearly, did not intend for this to happen. I bought one of the boxes and received several phone calls and emails from Kroger, where I bought the cereal, and went above and beyond what they were expected.

 
Kristina
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 4:18:54 PM PST
Why in the world sue General Mills? They acknowledged the mistake, recalled the affected boxes, and know what went wrong. They didn't try to deceive anyone. How is a lawsuit in this situation productive?

Like other commenters said, suing companies that try to bring new GF products to the market for simple mistakes will likely only lead to fewer choices for celiacs. I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees that. I wish the plaintiffs did.

 
Linda H.
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 5:34:26 PM PST
I agree that we are a "lawsuit" driven nation. Companies are going to shy away from providing gluten-free options if they fear litigation over honest and very rare human error. General Mills took swift action to identify and solve the problem. It appears that some people will take drastic measures to make money.

 
Debbie
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said this on
14 Dec 2015 8:10:27 PM PST
I certainly hope General Mills doesn't decide to drop the whole GF program because somebody wants a payday! They DID voluntarily release the information.

 
Wendellyn Plummer
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 3:08:07 AM PST
Not only are Manufacturers responsible, so are Restaurant owners. Many times I have been told that the food I was getting GF and then have been sick for days because the food wasn't prepared properly. Most people think it is a dietary choice not a Medical necessity. Honestly, it shouldn't matter.

 
Laura
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingemptyratingempty Unrated
said this on
15 Dec 2015 5:28:11 AM PST
My concern is that if wheat flour contaminated the line, how will they ever make sure the equipment is completely clean again? I doubt they would disassemble all of it and clean it sufficiently. No more cheerios for us (not that I was eating them, but my husband was - his sensitivity is not nearly as bad as mine)

 
Tim
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 5:06:17 PM PST
It's not that hard to decontaminate the facility. You 're over exaggerating but if you feel that you can get contaminated, then don't eat Cheerios ever again.

 
admin
( Author)
said this on
15 Dec 2015 10:35:04 AM PST
There is not wheat flour on their line. They've spend millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities to ensure their product is safe.

 
NJLM
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said this on
18 Dec 2015 4:13:25 AM PST
It is the responsibility of the celiac person to make an informed judgement as to whether they accept GM process for separating the oats from wheat and barley contamination. If you don't feel comfortable, don't buy the product. I live in a house with others who eat products containing gluten. I do my very best to avoid contamination but I am sure it happens. I am willing to accept GM's best effort.

 
Patty
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 5:47:24 AM PST
I HATE that these people keep bringing lawsuits. I'm finding it harder and harder to find information about gluten from drug companies, and the food companies will be next. They won't want to say "gluten free" to avoid being sued. I know anytime I eat out at a restaurant, or eat a ready-made food like cereals, that it poses a risk to my health. If I get sick, I'm just more careful next time. I get cross-contaminated in my own kitchen (not often, but it happens) and I'm super careful; of COURSE it's going to happen on a corporate level. This is a responsible company getting the word out and taking action to protect their consumers. They should be applauded, not sued. And yes, I'm a very sensitive celiac.

 
Len
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 5:51:01 AM PST
I agree with Kay and Charlene. I often question the real motives behind lawsuits - I think it's often the lawyers see an opportunity and go looking for a plaintiff to make it fly. The fact is, the plaintiffs, however many there are, will share in 30% of the pot, getting nothing meaningful individually, but the law firm will take 70%, walking away with millions. Today's society is way to quick to sue. Lawyers advertise on every billboard and television channel, fishing for the next opportunity. "Did you slip and fall?... Call 1-800-...". Get over it, and move on. (...and yes, I have celiac disease, but I have better things to do with my time than get involved in suing GM for my $100 share of the pot.)

 
Pia Martin
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
15 Dec 2015 9:22:34 AM PST
Cynthia is right about "using our buying power" when it comes to how and where we get our food. The real truth is that the food/agricultural companies are ruining our food. Monsanto is the biggest, most corrupt of all, including general mills. Monsanto controls over 90% of the world's seeds, yes they control what kind of seeds farmers plant in the ground. AND, if you think GMO is okay, then please understand a simple truth, "if insects and animals won't eat it, why would I??" And lastly, I wish the whole world knew that those "chem trails" in the sky are a result of Monsanto putting barium and aluminum into the atmosphere, in an effort to control the environment. What they do not realize is that they are what is killing all the bees. You never hear about that in the mainstream media outlets, but my friends, please know this "IF THE BEES GO, ALL PLANT AND ANIMAL/HUMANS WILL DIE OFF". Do you research, get some heirloom seeds and grow your own!!

 
admin
( Author)
said this on
15 Dec 2015 10:32:49 AM PST
It is hard to take anyone who believes in chem trails seriously...

 
Tim
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
15 Dec 2015 5:35:08 PM PST
Hey Pia you and Cynthia can go live in a forest and live with the animals like Snow White did. Oh that's right Snow White's not real and neither are your thought processes. You're living in the clouds.

 
Jim
Rating: ratingfullratingemptyratingemptyratingemptyratingempty Unrated
said this on
15 Dec 2015 10:40:36 AM PST
Mistakes are made. I'm now 20+ years of being gluten free and am so glad that so much progress has been made and tried by major brands.

 
Irahappy1GF
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said this on
15 Dec 2015 1:06:26 PM PST
There is a fine line between pushing companies too hard, being too exacting, so that we scare them away from selling GF foods, and being exacting enough so that they are held accountable and realize how vital a strict GF diet is for some of us.

 
ekh
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
16 Dec 2015 4:12:47 PM PST
I am 37 years eating GF due to celiac and welcome the improvements of choices that are available to us recently. Taking a company to court seems to be rather stupid when that company is trying to accommodate those of us who have to eat GF. I welcome the choices that are ours recently, I would not like to go back to having to use what was available to us in the past, due to companies becoming fearful of being taken to court. Cross contamination can happen and yes, I still pay the price when cross contaminated.




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