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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    General Mills Draws Fire for Gluten-free Manufacturing Choices

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Image: CC--theimpulsivebuy

    Celiac.com 09/07/2015 - Cereal maker General Mills is facing criticism from some people with celiac disease who say its gluten-free manufacturing practices are unsafe, unreliable, and leave them at risk for adverse gluten reactions.

    Image: CC--theimpulsivebuyA number of celiac disease patients and others with gluten sensitivities are questioning the company's practice of removing wheat, rye and barley from standard oats, rather than sourcing actual gluten-free oats. General Mills' special method for sorting grains allegedly removes any wheat, barley and rye from the whole oats, before they are made into oat flour.

    A group called "Gluten Free Watchdog" has engaged General Mills regarding cross-contamination possibilities during the grain sorting and manufacturing process. The process used by General Mills to sort its oats for the gluten-free Original, Multi-Grain, Apple Cinnamon, Honey Nut and Frosted Cheerios is described in an official blog post.

    Gluten Free Watchdog's concerns include the reliability of testing analysis. General Mills currently uses a sampling method to test the cereal and check that gluten is 20 parts per million (ppm) or less, but Gluten Free Watchdog claims this method can result in uneven results, and that some batches of cereal may actually contain more than the allowed 20 ppm of gluten, although they haven't offered any solid examples that support their theory.

    To its credit, General Mills seems to be honestly engaged in the discussion, and has signaled an openness to sourcing pure gluten-free oats, which would address the concerns of groups like Gluten Free Watchdog.

    What do you think? Should General Mills be using gluten-free oats for their gluten-free products? Is it okay if they use regular oats and special sorting equipment to ensure the final oats are under 20 ppm, as required by law? Share your thoughts below.


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    All I know is that I have celiac, and am quite sensitive to cross contamination. I ate some of these Cheerios this morning and loved them...no reaction...no problem. I was thrilled.

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    Let me tell you, I was SO EXCITED when they first came out that I went and bought yellow box Cheerios and Honey Nut. I started with the yellow box (my favorite), but started to notice some GI upset setting in several hours after eating the cereal. I gave the benefit of the doubt that "maybe it was something else" that made me feel sick, and stopped eating the cereal so that I wouldn't be sick before a weekend trip that included a long drive.

     

    Monday I came back and ate a big bowl of Cheerios, and one week later I'm still feeling the effects. I don't think there's tons of gluten in there, but there's enough to disturb my GI tract for a long time without making it bleed (my usual "bad" reaction).

     

    To say I'm disappointed is an understatement. I wish they would use certified oats, or test smaller batches or SOMETHING.

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    I'm glad you posted this article. I was thinking of trying the new gluten free Cheerios but after hearing that they separate the wheat and barley from the oats to make their product I definitely will not. This does not meet my definition of gluten free for celiacs. I see a large possibility for error. They need oats that are gluten free from the field to the product.

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    I think that General Mills needs to be careful. Celiacs like myself would love to dig into a bowl of Cheerios, as long as it was a for sure a Gluten Free product. Step it up GM and get gluten-free oats and make everyone happy!

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    I think that General Mills needs to be careful. Celiacs like myself would love to dig into a bowl of Cheerios, as long as it was a for sure a Gluten Free product. Step it up GM and get gluten-free oats and make everyone happy!

    As far as Celiac.com knows, their gluten-free Cheerios have never tested above 20ppm, and are gluten-free. If anyone can point us to objective tests showing higher levels, please let us know.

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    I was so excited to hear about General Mills making Cheerios gluten free. My daughter ran out and bought two boxes of original and one Honey Nuts. I questioned GM's process when I reviewed its website and back of box. So rather than dive right in, I tried about 6-7 Cheerios (like a toddler!) in the evening and experienced GI issues all night long (I am a celiac). Thankfully my taste test was rather limited so I was able to "sleep off" most of the symptoms. Needless to say, Cheerios got shelved in my household. Fellow celiacs, please be warned!

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    I was so excited to hear about General Mills making Cheerios gluten free. My daughter ran out and bought two boxes of original and one Honey Nuts. I questioned GM's process when I reviewed its website and back of box. So rather than dive right in, I tried about 6-7 Cheerios (like a toddler!) in the evening and experienced GI issues all night long (I am a celiac). Thankfully my taste test was rather limited so I was able to "sleep off" most of the symptoms. Needless to say, Cheerios got shelved in my household. Fellow celiacs, please be warned!

    This type of "gut test" isn't a valid way to detect gluten. It is widely known that some celiacs have an oat intolerance, which is separate to their reaction to gluten. Please let Celiac.com know if you test them and the results are over 20 ppm--all else is just spreading rumors.

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    Was so excited about the prospects of eating those childhood cereals once again. But hearing the news, and reading the previous reviews who have had reactions, I will wait until their process is sorted out. They are large enough they could afford to purchae the gluten-free oats for their product.

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    I am extremely sensitive. I ate the Honey nut cheerios and I didn't have any reaction. I love the cereal but yes I think they should be very cautious because the make gluten cereal also and I don't want any cross contamination in my cereal.

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    I am extremely sensitive. I ate the Honey nut cheerios and I didn't have any reaction. I love the cereal but yes I think they should be very cautious because the make gluten cereal also and I don't want any cross contamination in my cereal.

    By nature very large, publicly traded companies must be far more cautious than small companies. This is due to greater liability concerns that come from having deeper pockets. General Mills is not a risk taking company by any stretch.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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