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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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    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.

    Boo Woo. Go live in a cave Cynthia. Don't work anymore because you dont need money. Go eat grass, and dirt that's gluten-free. (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.

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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!!

    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.

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    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.

    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 gluten-free 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 gluten-free. 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.

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    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 gluten-free 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 gluten-free. 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.

    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...

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    I am 37 years eating gluten-free 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 gluten-free. 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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    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 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.

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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.

    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.

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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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