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General Mills Looks to Patent Gluten-free Oats

Photo: CC--SurferGirl30 08/17/2016 - Cereal-maker General Mills is looking to patent method and system for manufacturing gluten-free oats.

The application for patent protection covers numerous mechanical separation processes on a variety of grains, including oat grains and gluten-containing grains, using, among other things, width grading steps, multiple length grading steps, aspirating steps and a potential de-bearding step.

Federal labeling regulations require products labeled 'gluten-free' to have gluten levels below 20 ppm. The process allow the production of oat grains with gluten levels below 20 parts per million, and optimally at 10 ppm.

The resulting oats are gluten-free oats and suitable for use in a variety of gluten-free oat food products, including cereal and granola products, according to the patent US 2016/0207048 A1, filed on July 21st 2016.

Mechanical separation techniques, such as these covered by the patent application, have the potential to be highly efficient and economical. The patent does not mention more expensive optical systems.

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Oats are naturally gluten-free, but, according to the patent, "oats cultivated in North America, Europe and other parts of the world commonly are contaminated by gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale."

Contamination can result from rotating grains on the same crop land, and from harvesting, transporting, storing and merchandising.

General Mills experienced problems with wheat contamination of gluten-free products last year, when they were forced to recall an estimated 1.8 million boxes of gluten-free Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios at its Lodi, Calif., plant. The product was contaminated with gluten. However, the company has maintained that the gluten contamination was due to an employee processing error, not any defect in their grain sorting equipment covered under the patent protection.

Stay tuned to find out if General Mills receives their patent, and if their process has a significant impact on the quality, availability and cost of gluten-free oats. welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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16 Responses:

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said this on
22 Aug 2016 5:41:19 AM PDT
They can patent whatever they want, I will not trust them again.

Valerie Thomas
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said this on
22 Aug 2016 8:38:29 AM PDT
Just because your label says "Simply Gluten free" does not mean that your cereal IS "GLUTEN FREE" ! IT IS NOT GLUTEN FREE!!!!
I have called General Mills and had long discussion about this issue. It has to say "CERTIFIED GLUTEN FREE" !

This whole fiasco is creating problems for everyone who is gluten-free. I would advise to taken it off shelves in supermarkets and other stores. And it should not be on the market, period! If they cannot find reliable, efficient and effective methods to produce this cereal as Gluten free, then TAKE IT OFF THE MARKET. Let the manufacturers who produce gluten free foods, then we would not have contamination, thus, susceptibility leading to death! General Mills should really think about what they are doing! Then do not produce Cheerios "gluten-free!" Let the gluten free manufacturers make gluten free foods; they know what they are doing!!

( Author)
said this on
22 Aug 2016 1:43:42 PM PDT
Actually there have been instances of products that are "certified gluten-free" but have tested positive for gluten, so even certification is NOT a guarantee.

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said this on
24 Aug 2016 11:18:46 PM PDT
I agree Valerie. I also called them. I got stung by this and threw them out.

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said this on
22 Aug 2016 12:40:58 PM PDT
They should not be able to patent something like this. It would give them the power to prevent smaller companies with potentially better products from selling them. If they ended up with a monopoly, then consumers would have very limited choices among products and be at the mercy of whatever excuse they came up with for each incidence of contamination.

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said this on
22 Aug 2016 3:12:26 PM PDT
I don´t think they should even consider patenting anything until they are really at a point where no celiac sufferers can react to their product. I find it disheartening that after so many reacted to their supposed gluten free products, they were allowed to keep them on the market, and seem not to have changed how they process the items to become gluten free. Perhaps they should have a designation that excludes actual celiac sufferers, such as "designed for gluten free diets, not gluten free allergies" or something like that. Something that lets those who choose a GF diet buy it, but helps those who do NOT choose a gluten free lifestyle avoid it.

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said this on
22 Aug 2016 8:53:30 PM PDT
I´ve just about had it with mass production of food. I occasionally eat out and only order gluten free menu items (i´m gluten sensitive, not celiac) but I always feel much better when making my own food at home. Don´t ever expect a massive corporation to be concerned for your health, ever.

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said this on
23 Aug 2016 1:09:46 AM PDT
We tried one box, one mouthful before my daughter yelled, "don´t eat that!" to her sister. Anything that says processed in a off limits for my daughter, a lesson we learned the hard way. When will the industry get that this is life and death for many people?

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said this on
23 Aug 2016 2:36:54 AM PDT
Fact of the matter is they touched, they are likely contaminated. For those of us hyper sensitive to gluten their method is complete and utter joke. I have only every trusted one company with oats and will still only trust them. I think letting them get away with patenting this new method will only open the doors for other companies to use cheaper so called "Accepted" methods for getting something labeled GF when it is not truly GF. We need stricter standards for gluten labeling and certifications on being called GF.

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said this on
23 Aug 2016 4:09:06 AM PDT
You can´t trust them or any company that part of the Dark Act, they pay Billions of dollars to not have to label their product ingredients, thanks to Obama!! Only buy certified Organic, Non GMO. Cheerios is Cancer in a box!

( Author)
said this on
23 Aug 2016 11:56:26 AM PDT
Ok, so Obama is involved in some conspiracy to do what???

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said this on
23 Aug 2016 4:58:51 AM PDT
Stick with certified and companies that specialize in organic gluten-free. Cheerios is still using awful chemicals in their formulas - so bad for our kids.

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said this on
23 Aug 2016 6:30:28 AM PDT
GM has been in the forefront of giving buyers gluten free cereal that tastes good. They have invested where other BIG cereal companies have not. I applaud them and hope they keep up the good work. I eat various Cheerios products all the time now. They are delicious and they cause no celiac effects. Thanks, General Mills!!

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said this on
23 Aug 2016 7:55:49 AM PDT
Title is misleading. In actuality it sounds like they want to patent a PROCESS, not a plant.

Kathleen Lilly
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said this on
23 Aug 2016 6:06:21 PM PDT
I'm against the patent too. All that they're doing is using a process to remove most of the gluten (not all) to get it within the legal limit. If you eat enough of it, your body will likely feel the exposure. So dumb. And then someone will actually grow oats that are gluten free, and they'll come asking for some of the profits. Just avoid Cheerios and anything General Mills, or better yet just go grain free and save yourself the hassle.

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said this on
28 Aug 2016 6:44:06 PM PDT
I bought Cheerios for the first time last week, hoping that GM had worked out the kinks in their GF process. Unfortunately my son had immediate GI reaction after eating it. We won´t be bringing it back into our house again. Very disappointed.

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All Activity Celiac Disease & Gluten-Free Diet Forum - All Activity

It took me 20 years or more Barry so I wouldn't claim any great insight on this I had a 'eureka' moment, up until then I was walking around with multiple symptoms and not connecting any dots whatsoever. It is very, very difficult to diagnose and that's something that's reflected in so many of the experiences detailed here. A food diary may help in your case. It helped me to connect the gaps between eating and onset. It could help you to track any gluten sources should you go gluten free. It is possible for your reactions to change over time. As to whether its celiac, that's something you could explore with your doctor, stay on gluten if you choose to go that way. best of luck! Matt

I took Zoloft once. Loved it until it triggered microscopic colitis (colonoscopy diagnosed it). Lexapro did the same. However, I have a family member who is fiagnosed celiac and tolerates Celexa well.

Thanks for the update and welcome to the club you never wanted to join! ?

Jmg, I am glad you were able to come to the realisation that the culprit was in fact gluten. For me its not so simple. IBS runs in the family, as do several food intolerances. Its just in the last while that I can finally reach the conclusion that for me its gluten. The fact that it is a delayed effect-several hours after, made it harder. Friday I had some KFC, felt great. Saturday evening felt sleepy, Sunday felt awful and my belly was huge. I think I have gone from mildly sensitive to full blown celiac over the course of five years-if that possible. Thanks for all your help.

I thought I'd take a moment to provide an update, given how much lurking I've done on these forums the last year. It took a long time, but I've since had another gastroenterologist visit, many months of eating tons of bread, and an endoscopy where they took several biopsies. I have to say, the endoscopy was a super quick and efficient experience. During the procedure they let me know that it looked somewhat suspicious, causing them to take many biopsies, and then did comprehensive blood work. About a month later, I received a call telling me that the TTG came back positive a second time, and that the biopsies were a mix of negative (normal) results and some that were positive (showing blunting of the villi). As a result, I've been given a celiac diagnosis. It's been about a month now that I've been eating gluten free. Not sure if I'm really feeling all that different yet. It's a bit twisted to say, but in some way I was hoping for this diagnosis ? thinking how nice it would be to have an explanation, a plan of action, and feeling better. It's certainly no small change to be totally gluten free, but I'm hopeful.