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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!

    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.

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    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.

    You are assuming that smaller companies can do this better than larger, publicly traded companies, which may not be the case.

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    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!!

    It is hard to take anyone who believes in chem trails seriously...

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    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)

    There is not wheat flour on their line. They've spend millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities to ensure their product is safe.

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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 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.

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    There is a fine line between pushing companies too hard, being too exacting, so that we scare them away from selling gluten-free foods, and being exacting enough so that they are held accountable and realize how vital a strict gluten-free diet is for some of us.

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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.

    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.

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    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)

    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.

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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!

    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.

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    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.

    It was a mistake not intentional and they corrected it. Stop degrading companies that try to assist gluten-free. And yes. FYI, companies try to make money if there is a need by consumers. So tell you what. Don't buy any gluten-free Food from any company. Make your own food.

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    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.

    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.

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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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