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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    General Mills Sued Over Recalled Gluten-free Cheerios

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: CC--Bryce Mohan

    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 MohanThe 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.

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    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!

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    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.

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    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!!!

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    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.

     

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    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.

    I could not agree more, and was exactly what I was fixing to type as a comment myself.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    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 gluten-free products. As a society we are way too litigation prone and averse to looking at what the consequences are that follow.

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    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.

    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.

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    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 gluten-free 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.

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    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.

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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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