Jump to content
  • Sign Up
  • Join our community!

    Do you have questions about celiac disease or the gluten-free diet?

  • Latest Topics

  • 0

    Is Oat Sensitivity the Overlooked Culprit in Claims of Gluten in Cheerios?

    Jefferson Adams
    • Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Winter 2017 Issue

    Is Oat Sensitivity the Overlooked Culprit in Claims of Gluten in Cheerios?
    Caption: Are oats more likely to cause an issue for celiacs eating gluten-free Cheerios? Photo: Don O'Brien

    Celiac.com 12/13/2016 - One in five people with celiac disease have a sensitivity to oats. Could that be the real issue behind claims of adverse reactions to Cheerios and other General Mills products?

    In an effort to answer questions regarding the safety of gluten-free Cheerios for people with celiac disease, we recently ran an article on warnings by the Canadian Celiac Association that Cheerios, and other General Mills cereals labeled 'Gluten-Free' are unsafe, are likely to be contaminated with trace amounts of gluten.

    Celiac.com found those claims to be lacking in evidence, and grounded mainly on unsupported claims that the proprietary process used by General Mills to sort oats is somehow problematic, and likely to permit 'hot spots' of gluten contamination that can exceed the 20ppm gluten-free FDA standard. Along with unsupported claims about General Mills' sorting process, the Canadian Celiac Association seems to base their opinion on vague claims of unnamed people with celiac disease suffering adverse reactions after eating the cereals.

    Yet, so far, no one has documented any actual problem with General Mills' method for sorting gluten-free oats, and certainly no one has shown any kind of a systemic problem, as the Canadian Celiac Association seems to allege. No evidence has been offered up to support any such claims. Again, to our knowledge, no one has provided any evidence of any actual gluten contamination in any box or batch of General Mills Gluten-Free cereals. Interestingly, that very lack of evidence to support claims of gluten contamination is cited by the Celiac Disease Foundation in its endorsement of General Mills Gluten-Free cereals.

    Recent scientific research has shown that around 8% of celiacs are sensitive to certain varieties of oats, and the Celiac Disease Foundation recently indicated in a response to a question on this topic posed by "cyclinglady," who is a Celiac.com board moderator, that nearly 20% of people with celiac disease may also suffer from oat sensitivity, and they suggest that oat sensitivity is the likely culprit behind any sensitivities to the product.

    The Celiac Disease Foundation's full letter was posted on Celiac.com's Gluten-Free Forum by cyclinglady reads as follows: "This is interesting. I sent an email asking the Celiac Disease Foundation about gluten-free Cheerios which they endorse/support, but the Canadian Celiac Disease Organization and the Gluten Free Watchdog do not? What do you all think?"

    She includes the
    , which reads:


    "Aside from the initial contamination in Cheerios when they were first put on the market, Cheerios has had no other issues with the gluten-free status of their cereals. Most people with celiac disease can tolerate gluten-free oats, however, about 20%
    *
    (sic-actual figure should be 8%, see note below)
    of the population with celiac disease cannot tolerate oats in any form, even if they are gluten-free. It's that population that should avoid Cheerios. Our Medical Advisory Board has no evidence that General Mills gluten-free cereals are not safe for celiac consumption. General Mills is a proud sponsor of Celiac Disease Foundation, and they understand the importance of safe gluten-free food to our community. In fact, we enjoy Cheerios at the National Office ourselves where half of us have celiac disease. Cheerios only need to be avoided by those with celiac disease who also cannot tolerate oats."

    So, once again, the Celiac Disease Foundation endorses General Mills Gluten-Free Cheerios, and by implication, Lucky Charms and other cereals, as safe for people with celiac disease, with no medical evidence to the contrary. However, they do recommend that people with oat sensitivities avoid oat products. This runs counter to the warning by the Canadian Celiac Association that General Mills products were "unsafe" and the General Mills "had problems" with its sorting process.

    The fact that the folks at the Celiac Disease Foundation, including those with celiac disease, say they eat Gluten-Free Cheerios provides another positive testimonial that Cheerios are safe for people with celiac disease. However, it really all boils down to basing any proclamations about gluten-free safety on actual evidence, not stories, or opinions, or things we heard.

    In their letter, the Celiac Disease Foundation notes that "Our Medical Advisory Board has no evidence that General Mills gluten-free cereals are not safe for celiac consumption."

    Until evidence appears to the contrary, the overwhelming evidence is that General Mills gluten-free Cereals, including Cheerios and Lucky Charms, among others, are safe for people with celiac disease, but should be avoided by anyone with oat sensitivities.

    Anyone claiming they are not safe for people with celiac disease is simply not basing their claim on hard evidence. Of course, people should base their diets on their own experience, especially people with celiac disease, and/or sensitivities to oats or other things beyond gluten.

     Stay tuned for news on this and other important gluten-free topics.

    Sources:

    This article was updated on 12/14/2016 to include more sources, and to clarify the CDF's letter that was posted in our forum.
    *Corrected to 8% on 12/14/2016 per CDF web site

    0


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    Guest CyclingLady

    Posted

    The author failed to report the Gluten Free Watchdog´s stand on gluten-free Cheerios. This is an independent group who tests gluten-free products (comparable to Consumer Reports). They, along with the Canadian Association, do not recommend gluten-free Cheerios for reasons stated on their website. The author also failed to note that the CDF is sponsored by General Mills, which is obviously a conflict of interest. "For the past 25 years, Celiac Disease Foundation has fought tirelessly for the food industry to provide celiac disease patients, and those with gluten sensitivity, safe, abundant, and affordable dietary options. We were excited, therefore, that General Mills, our partner for many years in their gluten-free initiatives, asked us to share that one of America's most iconic breakfast cereals – Cheerios – can now be safely enjoyed by people who must maintain a strict gluten-free diet. I traveled to Minneapolis this past year and listened as General Mills outlined the millions of dollars it had invested in its sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping processes to assure that, going forward, Cheerios were indeed gluten-free. Thus, you can imagine how deeply disappointed we were to learn that nearly two million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios were being recalled by General Mills because of gluten contamination." Read more at https://celiac.org/blog/2015/10/marilyns-message-october-2015/#XJWgXQ705DTo6Mmk.99

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    The author failed to report the Gluten Free Watchdog´s stand on gluten-free Cheerios. This is an independent group who tests gluten-free products (comparable to Consumer Reports). They, along with the Canadian Association, do not recommend gluten-free Cheerios for reasons stated on their website. The author also failed to note that the CDF is sponsored by General Mills, which is obviously a conflict of interest. "For the past 25 years, Celiac Disease Foundation has fought tirelessly for the food industry to provide celiac disease patients, and those with gluten sensitivity, safe, abundant, and affordable dietary options. We were excited, therefore, that General Mills, our partner for many years in their gluten-free initiatives, asked us to share that one of America's most iconic breakfast cereals – Cheerios – can now be safely enjoyed by people who must maintain a strict gluten-free diet. I traveled to Minneapolis this past year and listened as General Mills outlined the millions of dollars it had invested in its sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping processes to assure that, going forward, Cheerios were indeed gluten-free. Thus, you can imagine how deeply disappointed we were to learn that nearly two million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios were being recalled by General Mills because of gluten contamination." Read more at https://celiac.org/blog/2015/10/marilyns-message-october-2015/#XJWgXQ705DTo6Mmk.99

    The focus of the article is the possibility that oat intolerance is actually causing anecdotal reports of wheat gluten contamination in Cheerios, which is covered here. gluten-free Watchdog cannot be, in any way, compared with Consumer Reports, and they have not, as far as we know, released the data on their Cheerios testing, which they promised to do in their blog on this topic. We invite them to do so.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I did not realize that so many people have oat intolerance. Perhaps General Mills can source varieties that are safe for celiacs?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I ate gluten-free cheerios on three occasions and had the same reaction that I get when I eat oat: canker sores, pimples in my butt, dandruff, etc. So, it is not a choice for me.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Every time my 25 year old eats Cheerios he is violently ill. I guess he has an oat sensitivity as well.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I was diagnosed with celiac disease over 40 years ago. I tried the gluten-free Cheerios and got deathly ill on them.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest Kristin

    Posted

    As a person with celiac disease who is equally intolerant of gliadin (wheat), hordein (barley), secalin (rye) and avenin (oats), this article makes a lot of sense. (Though, I have to say, the phrase "oat sensitivity" makes light of the actual experience!) I would love to see more research on those of us with celiac disease who get the autoimmune reaction to avenin (oats). Also, it would be great in the future to see "oats" and "cross-contamination with oats" called out on approved gluten-free labels to assist the unfortunate 8 to 20% (?) of us who can´t tolerate them. But it is nice that those with celiac disease who don't have the oats problem can enjoy Cheerios!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I am sensitive to oats as well as gluten-free oats. For the holidays, I would like to make gluten-free "oatmeal" cookies or a cranberry or cherry crumb topping bars (that the recipe calls for oats). Is there a substitute for something like oats (that provides the same texture)? Quinoa flakes?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest Mabel Wenger

    Posted

    I can eat oat cereals that are tested to 5ppm. They use certified gluten free oats: oats that never had contact with wheat or other grains unsafe for celiacs. Cheerios have too much gluten in their oats from contamination by contact with other grains from the process of harvesting and trucking. If you can tolerate them; good, in happy for you. I'm disappointed I still can't eat Cheerios, a favorite food of the past.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I am the 1 out of 5 that unfortunately can not eat general mills cereal. I have finely realized that I can not tolerate any form of oats. I am very careful with what I eat and when the gluten-free cereal first hit the market I gave it a try, several actually, always having the same ill effect. I now realized its the oats. I also have realized that the cream of rice that is suppose to be gluten-free, is also something I can not tolerate.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Your content will need to be approved by a moderator

    Guest
    You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams 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 biology, anatomy, medicine, and science. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and provided 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 Dangerous Grains by James Braly, MD and Ron Hoggan, MA.

×