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  1. Celiac.com 11/08/2018 - With the popularity and sales growth of gluten-free and other "free from" product categories outpacing their traditional counterparts, more major food manufacturers are moving to provide products for those customers. In the food and beverage sector "free from" products are growing faster than their standard counterparts, according Nielsen data. Antibiotic-free products enjoyed growth rates of nearly 20 per cent last year, followed by soy-free with 19 per cent, and hormone and antibiotic-free at 15 per cent. That means major manufacturers are looking to meet the increasing demand for foods that are "free from" gluten, antibiotics, pesticides or genetic modification, among other things. Consider cereal giant General Mills Inc., which makes the popular breakfast cereal Cheerios from naturally gluten-free oats. In theory, oats are gluten-free, but commercial oats also typically contain small amounts of wheat, barley or rye that can find their way into the oats via shared processing channels. To ensure that every final box of Cheerios was gluten-free when it left the factory, General Mills worked on finding a reliable way to sort through the one billion pounds of oats it uses each year. That solution took five years and involved teams of engineers, and the retooling of numerous machines, along with the construction of a specially-built eight-story sorting facility. "We knew if we wanted to take our Cheerios gluten free, we needed to create our own system," said General Mills spokesperson Mike Siemienas. Other examples of companies looking to adapt to new customer demands are McDonald’s Corp., which plans to source more than 20 million of its Canadian Angus burgers over the next year from sustainable sources. Meanwhile, Tyson Foods Inc., is looking to make inroads into to the organic market with its recent purchase of organic chicken producer Tecumseh Poultry. Major U.S. wheat miller Ardent Mills has created “The Annex,” a unit devoted to the future of specialty grains and plant-based ingredients. As the market continues to grow, look for more manufacturers to offer gluten-free and other specialty foods at markets near you. Read more at: TheStar.com
  2. Celiac.com 09/25/2018 - In a patent application that could have a huge impact on the gluten-free industry, General Mills, Inc. has described its method and system for removing foreign, gluten-containing grains to establish gluten-free oats. Current FDA guidelines require all products labeled gluten-free to have a maximum gluten content of 20 parts per million (ppm). Published August 23rd, patent application No. US 20180236453 A1 details a method for producing oat grains with gluten levels below 20 ppm and, more preferably, below 10 ppm. Natural oats generally do not contain gluten, but after harvest, transport and storage, large batches of raw oats may contain small amounts of gluten-containing grains, such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale. These can sometimes occur at levels exceeding 20 ppm. The General Mills patent application describes a method of arranging mechanical oat sorting operations in series, or in both series and parallel operations. The multi-step process best includes width grading, multiple length grading steps, along with a potential de-bearding step. The resulting oats will be gluten-free to under 20 ppm, and possibly to under 10 ppm, and are suitable for the production of gluten-free oat food products, including cereals and granolas. To receive a patent, General Mills will have to prove that their process does what they say it does. A successful patent for General Mills could have a huge effect on the gluten-free oat foods industry. For one, it may allow General Mills to become a major supplier of gluten-free oats for other manufacturers. The benefits of larger scale, more economical gluten-free oat production could include more, and more readily available, gluten-free oat products, along with lower prices for both manufacturers and consumers. Stay tuned for more developments on this and related stories. Read more at Justicia.com
  3. Celiac.com 03/30/2018 - The latest Gluten-Free Food Market Report offers a comprehensive global market evaluation, including enabling technologies, key trends, market drivers, challenges, standardization, regulatory landscape, opportunities, future road map, value chain, ecosystem player profiles and strategies. The report also includes global gluten-free investment forecasts from 2017 to 2022. The report covers top gluten-free manufacturers, including General Mills, Hain Celestial Group, Dr. Schar, Freedom Foods, Gruma, Kellogg, Kraft Heinz, Doves Farm, Amy’s Kitchen, Blue Diamond Growers, Enjoy Life Foods, Boulder Brands, and Bob’s Red Mill. The report focuses on the global market for gluten-free food products, especially in North America, China, Europe, Southeast Asia, Japan, India. The report is divided into sections based on manufacturers, regions, type and application, and covers the categories of bakery, confectionery, cereals and snacks. It is targeted at supermarkets and hypermarkets, convenience stores, speciality stores, online retailers, other relevant retailers. The report offers analyses of the global Gluten-Free Food market and its commercial landscape, along with insights into the Gluten-Free Food production processes, major issues, and solutions that may help manufacturers to mitigate product development risk. It is designed to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the most relevant forces driving and restraining the gluten-free food market and their projected impact. Readers of the report will gain potentially valuable information about the market strategies being embraced by major gluten-free businesses, along with projected directions in the gluten-free food market. Anyone curious about the report may request a sample.
  4. Celiac.com 12/26/2017 - Because gluten is vital to the texture, structure and stretch of pasta, replicating pasta without gluten is especially difficult. It's even harder for fresh pastas, and harder still for filled pastas, like ravioli and tortellini. In the case of pasta, the trick is to get the pasta to stretch around the filling. In traditional fresh pastas, the stretch comes from gluten in the wheat flour. General Mills thinks it has found an answer in a cold extrusion process of pasta dough made with a special blend of flours and gums. The company's process allows the successful manufacture of a variety of free-from, fresh pastas including ravioli, tortellini and agnolotti; products that were previously hard to make without gluten. The company is looking to patent its new method for manufacturing gluten-free filled pastas, such as ravioli, without any breaking or tearing during production. For this patent, the company chose a blend of rice flour and cornstarch had been chosen for a bland flavor profile, and relies on 2-3% xanthan gum for structure and flexibility. The process works best by including at least 10% fresh egg by by mass. The process General Mills hopes to patent delivers an improved process for a commercially manufacturable gluten-free or reduced-gluten pasta. Other parts of the General Mills process include: cold extruding the mixture into sheets of around 1-1.2mm thickness at 34 C or less; adding the filling; and shaping the pasta around it prior to cooling and packing. Early trials showed 32 C was best for plain pasta and 25.7 C for filled pasta. In all cases, the extruder pressure had to be 75 Bar or more. General Mills said its invention would help address the increased demand for variety in fresh, gluten-free and reduced-gluten products. Source: foodnavigator-usa.com
  5. Celiac.com 12/19/2017 - The Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) finds itself facing questions of rumor-mongering and inaccuracy in the face of its ongoing comments about General Mills and Gluten Free Cheerios. The CCA recently retracted a controversial October 20 press release in the face of questions about the accuracy and validity of its statements. The retraction reads as follows: "The CCA retracts its statement of October 20, 2017 and replaces it with this statement due to errors in the original statement." They retracted every claim made in the first press release. In addition to its erroneous, and now retracted press release, the CCA has made numerous public statements casting doubt on the process General Mills uses to create their Gluten-Free Cheerios, and other oat-based cereal products. The CCA has spread fear and confusion about the gluten-free status of Cheerios, and implied widespread gluten contamination in Cheerios. For example, the following statement attributed to the CCA was published on October 26, 2017 by Globalnews.ca: "[CCA] expressed doubt in the company's mechanical sorting system and claim of 100 per cent removal of cross-contaminants." Additionaly, Canadiangrocer.com reported in August 2016 that the CCA was, to paraphrase, "awaiting evidence showing the new line [of Gluten Free Cheerios] is 100% free of gluten." The article quotes Sue Newell, the CCA Manager, Education and Special Projects, as saying: "Our fear is that there are hot spots in their oats. Any given box may be fine, but every third or fifth box may not." Canadiangrocer.com has quoted the CCA's Manager making a very specific claim about the gluten-free status of Cheerios. If her claim is correct it would mean that 20% to 30% of all Cheerios boxes are contaminated with gluten above 20 ppm, and General Mills is producing millions of boxes of tainted cereal per month which are fraudulently labeled "gluten-free." When Celiac.com invited Sue Newell to further clarify her position she would neither confirm nor deny making the quotes, but instead said that her quotes were simply "media impressions." Although Celiac.com requested more clarification, Ms. Newell would not respond to further written questions (re-printed below) about her "media impressions." Celiac.com also requested that the CCA produce any evidence to back up their claims, but so far the CCA hasn't produced anything. In response to our questions (re-printed below), which mostly remain unanswered, the CCA demurred with vague claims about general levels of gluten contamination in raw oats, and even more vague claims about the unreliability of optical sorting systems in removing gluten. They referred to studies that, after further review, appear to be unrelated to General Mills' proprietary sorting and production processes. CBC reported on August 31 2016, that the "Canadian Celiac Association is warning against gluten-free Cheerios products over concerns the cereal is not 100 per cent safe for people with celiac disease." What does the CCA mean by "100 percent safe for people with celiac disease?" To our knowledge General Mills has never made the claim that their sorting process results in "100 percent removal" of gluten from the oats used in their Cheerios. It is our understanding that General Mills has only ever claimed that their process results in gluten levels under 20 ppm, which allows them to be labeled "gluten-free" in both the USA and Canada, and as such they are considered safe to consume for those with celiac disease. When Celiac.com asked the CCA to provide a source for the "100% free of gluten" General Mills claim, or for clarification of her "100 per cent safe for people with celiac disease" statement, no response was provided. Is the CCA hinting that the labeling standard for gluten-free products should be 0 ppm allowable gluten? Again, they would not answer this question. It seems that the CCA made this recommendation and their associated statements based not on independent product testing, or on any confirmed accounts of gluten-exposure in people with celiac disease who had consumed Cheerios, but instead on anecdotal evidence and innuendo. For their part, General Mills has at least publicly described their optical sorting process, and have gone on the record as saying that their raw unsorted oats contain anywhere from 200 ppm to 1,000 ppm gluten. They describe exactly how their sorting process reduces the gluten content in their oats to below 20 ppm, and how they then pulverize, process, and mix their sorted oats to make Cheerios (from Celiac.com's perspective it is this milling/pulverizing and mixing process that should eliminate any chance of "hot spots"). They have even applied for a patent on their optical sorting technology, and in order to receive this patent their process needs to function as described. Ultimately General Mills stands by their product every day by putting a "Gluten Free" label on every box right next to their trade mark. Remember Paul Seelig? Back in 2011, before we even had gluten-free labeling laws in the USA, he sold regular bread that was labeled as "gluten-free." He was tried and convicted of fraud and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. The idea that people can just slap a gluten-free label on a product that contains gluten above 20 ppm and somehow escape our judicial system, whether it be private attorneys who sue them or criminal prosecutors, is highly unlikely. Ultimately the CCA is calling General Mills, Health Canada and the FDA into question when they make unfounded claims based solely on fear and innuendo. The CCA is also casting doubt on U.S. and Canadian gluten-free standards. If 20% to 30% of Cheerios contain "hot spots" of gluten contamination, then why can't the CCA, or anyone else, produce a single box that is tainted? Where are the trial lawyers who ought to be lining up to sue them? Cheerios are are subject to regular, random testing by both Health Canada and the FDA. The FDA recently tested major American gluten-free brands for gluten-free labeling compliance and found that 99.5% of products tested are compliant with current gluten-free standards. The FDA found just one non-compliant product out of the hundreds they tested. They worked with the manufacturer to recall the tainted product and correct the manufacturing process. There is no indication that the non-compliant product was Cheerios or any other General Mills product. In this case the burden of proof for such extraordinary claims lies with the CCA, and not with General Mills. Someone can claim that the Earth is flat, or that humans never walked on the moon, however, the burden of disproving such claims doesn't lie with scientists who spent their entire lives creating a massive body of evidence which support what are now generally accepted facts, but with those making the extraordinary claims. Accordingly, it is only fair that the CCA must back up their claims with more than the equivalent of a vague conspiracy theory, which to disprove, would require General Mills to literally test every piece of cereal in every box of Cheerios (i.e., billions of boxes). General Mills returned our telephone calls and freely answered our questions. They provided a reasonable description of their sorting process and answered our questions about it. The CCA has been coy and evasive when questioned about their past statements, their claims about Cheerios, and their stance on the 20 ppm gluten-free standard, or any other standard for gluten-free labeling. Until such time as the CCA stands by their statements, and until they provide actual evidence to back up their claims, their claims should be regarded with skepticism. In their reply to our questions, the CCA included three links to articles they feel support their position on oats: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21623493 Koerner et al 2011 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814616312614 Fritz et. al 2016 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijfs.13288/full Fritz et al 2016 Celiac.com addresses those studies in a separate article, entitled: Why Do Quaker and General Mills Approach Gluten-Free Oats Differently? Questions Emailed to the CCA by Celiac.com, followed by their response: QUESTIONS FOR THE CCA REGARDING CHEERIOS GLUTEN-FREE LABELING AND RELATED ISSUES: The standard for under 20 ppm allowable gluten in gluten-free foods remains unchanged. in Canada, the US, and the EU. The standard is supported by Health Canada, which says that gluten levels under 20 ppm are safe for the vast majority of people with celiac disease. The 20 ppm standard is also supported by the CFIA, the FDA, the EU, by scientific and medical data, and by all major celiac disease researchers. QUESTIONS: 1) Health Canada says that 20 ppm gluten is safe for celiacs. Does the CCA believe and support that standard? ANSWER: No Response. If not, what standard is safe, according the CCA? ANSWER: No Response. 2) Health Canada allows up to 5 ppm gluten in "Marketing Authorization" oats. Obviously, gluten content above 0 but under 5 ppm is not "100% gluten-free. Does the CCA have any problem with such "gluten-free" oats? ANSWER: No Response. 3) With respect to the gluten-free Cheerios products in Canada, Candiangrocer.com reported in August 2016 that the CCA was, to paraphrase, "awaiting evidence showing the new line is 100% free of gluten." Is that still the position of the CCA? ANSWER: No Response. 4) The Candiangrocer.com article also states: "Our fear is that there are hot spots in their oats," said Newell. "Any given box may be fine, but every third or fifth box may not." Is the CCA asserting that 20% to 30% of Cheerios boxes are contaminated with gluten? What is the basis for this claim? Is the CCA forming policy based actual official test results? ANSWER: No Response. 5) Similarly, the CBC reported on August 31 2016, that the "Canadian Celiac Association is warning against gluten-free Cheerios products over concerns the cereal is not 100 per cent safe for people with celiac disease." Can you clarify what you mean by "100% gluten-free" and "100 percent safe for people with celiac disease?" ANSWER: No Response. 6) In a recent article published in October 26, 2017, Globalnews.ca writes "[CCA] expressed doubt in the company's" mechanical sorting system and claim of 100 per cent removal of cross-contaminants. https://globalnews.ca/news/3826328/celiac-association-applauds-general-mills-decision-to-pull-gluten-free-label-from-cheerios/ ANSWER: No Response. 7) Again, can CCA clarify what it means by "100 percent removal" of gluten? ANSWER: No Response. 8) Also, we are unaware of General Mills ever making a claim that their sorting process results in a "100 percent removal" of gluten from the oats used to makes Cheerios, only that their process results in gluten levels under 20 ppm, and within the range for labeling product as gluten-free. Can CCA provide any source for General Mills ever making a claim that their sorting process for oats results in a 100 percent removal of all gluten? [http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Research/2017/10/General_Mills_details_gluten-d.aspx?ID=%7BD74CACED-0224-49C3-951A-4E62E87AA243%7D&cck=1] ANSWER: No Response. 9) Is it the position of the CCA that the standard for gluten-free labeling should be 0 ppm allowable gluten? If so, how would that be measured? What products would be able to makes such a claim? ANSWER: No Response. 10) Does the CCA have any scientific data that shows that gluten levels under 20 ppm are dangerous or harmful for people with celiac disease? ANSWER: No Response. 11) Does the CCA have any scientific data or medical testing to show that Cheerios do not meet the 20 ppm standard for gluten? ANSWER: No Response. 12) If Cheerios meet US FDA standards for gluten-free products, and routinely test at below 20 ppm gluten, does the CCA feel removing the gluten-free label in Canada makes people with celiac disease any safer? If yes, how? ANSWER: No Response. 13) Regarding CCA claims of member complaints about Cheerios: Is it not possible that people who claim an adverse reaction to Cheerios are actually having a reaction to the avenin protein in oats, or to higher fiber in oats? ANSWER: No Response.
  6. Celiac.com 12/18/2018 - Evidence compiled by Quaker Oats shows that 4% of the purity protocol oats the company uses to make "gluten-free" oatmeal products are contaminated with trace amounts of gluten. Overall, these batches may contain under 20 ppm gluten, and thus be considered gluten-free. But somehow, isolated kernels of wheat, barley or rye flakes were making their way into the final oatmeal products and onto store shelves. Because these kernels were rolled flat the same way as the oats, it was possible for one of these flakes to find its way into a bowl of otherwise gluten-free oats, and to render the bowl over the 20 ppm standard, meaning it is technically not gluten-free, according to FDA standard. Quaker found a solution in a stricter testing method. The testing method used by Quaker mirrors the testing method recently adopted by the CFA. Under that method, "oat groats are collected from gluten-free oat production following a robust attribute-based sampling plan then split into 75-g subsamples, and ground. R-Biopharm R5 sandwich ELISA R7001 is used for analysis of all the first 15-g portions of the ground sample. A less than 20-ppm result disqualifies the production lot, while a greater than 5 to less than 20-ppm result triggers complete analysis of the remaining 60-g of ground sample, analyzed in 15-g portions. If all five 15-g test results are less than 20 ppm, and their average is less than 10.67 ppm (since a 20-ppm contaminant in 40 g of oats would dilute to 10.67 ppm in 75-g), the lot is passed. Most oatmeal is made from rolled whole oats. That means that, even with just 4% gluten contamination, products made with whole oats, even rolled oats, can contain pockets of gluten that might render a given serving over the 20 ppm standard. Because Quaker, or their oat supplier, lacks a sorting process for eliminating or reducing gluten-contamination in its raw purity protocol oats, and because its oatmeal is minimally processed, the problem of loose individual flakes of wheat, barley or rye remains unsolved at the manufacturing level. This is true for Quaker in a way that is not true for General Mills. No matter how much Quaker mixes rolled oats, a single wayward flake of wheat, rye or barley will remain intact and eventually turn up in a serving portion. That's true, even if it's just an isolated flake. That means that Quaker must look for a solution in its supply chain. So, Quaker's approach makes sense for products made with whole oats. However, the challenges faced by Quaker in making gluten-free oatmeal are substantially different than the challenges faced by General Mills in making a product like Cheerios. That's because of differences in the processes used to make the two products. Because General Mills uses a process to sort its raw oats to below 20 ppm allowable gluten, and because it then grinds the raw oats into oat flour, there is no danger that intact flakes of wheat, rye or barley will make their way into any given serving. The flour is mixed thoroughly, and, thus, any flour from the wayward oat flake is now blended evenly into the rest of the batch. The oat flour is then mixed further with other ingredients to become the raw material for making Cheerios. So, it's extremely unlikely that Cheerios would suffer from the types of gluten "hotspots" that Quaker found in their supposedly gluten-free purity protocol oats. The process greatly increases the likelihood that any gluten would be evenly distributed into the final product, and thus be gluten-free below 20 ppm at the serving level. Essentially, the two studies by scientists at Quaker show a couple of things. First, whole oats, and products made with whole oats, even those labeled gluten-free, even those which are harvested as "purity protocol," can contain isolated pockets or "hotspots" of gluten. This may mean that these products can cause symptoms in people with celiac disease. People with celiac disease should be vigilant about these products. Trust your gut and eat accordingly. Second, the data gathered, and the conclusions reached, by the Quaker scientists regarding Quaker's efforts to produce gluten-free oatmeal, have little or no connection to General Mills and the process used to make Cheerios. It would be a mistake to project Quaker's challenges onto General Mills. For its part, it seems that General Mills has actually solved the challenges of removing wheat, rye and barley from oats to reach levels below 20 ppm, and to manufacture products that reflect that gluten-free status. General Mills has solved the challenge at the manufacturing level in a way Quaker has not. For all its refined testing procedures, Quaker is still reliant on its suppliers to deliver gluten-free oats. Somewhere, somehow the problem of quantifying the gluten content of raw oats and rendering that level to be within gluten-free standards still has to be solved. Quaker is relying on oat growers and suppliers to solve the problem, to develop a way to quantify and reduce the gluten contamination levels of raw "purity protocol" oats. Perhaps Quaker might benefit from optical sorting technology, or other processes that allow them to exert more control over their finished product at the manufacturing level? Celiac.com is not alone in saying that optically sorted oats likely safe. That view is also held by the Gluten Intolerance Group. Read articles on the original studies by scientists at Quaker Oats at Food Chemistry, and the International Journal of Food Science Technology. Sources: Food Chemistry. Volume 240, 1 February 2018, Pages 391-395 Int J Food Sci Technol, 52: 359–365. DOI: 10.1111/ijfs.13288 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijfs.13288/full General Mills Describes the Success of its Gluten Detection System
  7. Celiac.com 11/03/2017 - Talk about finding needles in a haystack. Imagine, if you will, sifting through rail cars full of oats and plucking out nearly every stray grain of wheat, barley or rye so that the final product tests at under 20 ppm, instead of the original 200 ppm to 1,000 ppm. Quite a challenge, yes? It's a challenge General Mills take on every day as it produces Gluten Free Cheerios from raw oats into the final product. According to their website, General Mills ships 500,000 cases of Cheerios each week. To do this, General Mills uses a proprietary optical sorting process, for which it has filed a patent with the US Patent Office. That process sifts through those rail cars of oats, with stray gluten ranging from 200 ppm to 1,000 ppm, and "takes it down to less than 20" ppm, said Paul Wehling, principal scientist for General Mills. Mr. Wehling told audience members at the annual meeting of AACC International at Cereals 17 in San Diego on Oct. 9, that the General Mills sorting process achieves a "2- to 3-log reduction of the gluten." To verify their oat sorting results, General Mills uses enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing and visual inspection to spot and eliminate gluten-containing grains such as wheat. The company uses hand inspection in place of lateral flow testing, as they find that "hand inspection is much more efficient because we can look at quite a few more seeds," Mr. Wehling said. That process would seem to be validated by Laura K. Allred, regulatory and standards manager for the Gluten Intolerance Group, Auburn, Wash., which recommends companies use a combination of visual testing and ELISA testing. However, the General Mills process is not without critics. One of the more prominent voices in opposition to General Mills has been the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA). The CCA has made numerous statements questioning the process General Mills uses to create their Gluten-Free Cheerios, and other oat products. CCA statements, or statements attributed to the CCA include comments in an article published in October 26, 2017, in which Globalnews.ca writes "[CCA] expressed doubt in the company's mechanical sorting system and claim of 100 per cent removal of cross-contaminants." Candiangrocer.com reported in August 2016 that the CCA was, to paraphrase, "awaiting evidence showing the new line [of Gluten Free Cheerios] is 100% free of gluten." It is unclear what the CCA means by such terms as "100% gluten-free," "100 percent removal," and "100 percent safe for people with celiac disease." Is the CCA hinting that the standard for gluten-free products should be 0 ppm? Besides voicing fear and concerns, and citing alleged complaints by members, the CCA never actually provided any evidence that Cheerios failed to meet the US and Canadian standard of 20 ppm allowable gluten, and were, thus, not gluten-free. The CBC reported on August 31 2016, that the "Canadian Celiac Association is warning against gluten-free Cheerios products over concerns the cereal is not 100 per cent safe for people with celiac disease." Again, the CCA made this recommendation based not on independent product testing, or on any confirmed accounts of gluten-exposure in people with celiac disease who had consumed Cheerios, but on "fear" and "concerns" driven by anecdotal evidence. Moreover, they seemingly disregarded overwhelming anecdotal evidence provided by people with celiac disease who say they eat Cheerios safely. The CCA has yet to provide a satisfactory response for their warnings, or to provide any clarification of their position regarding the safety of products that test under 20 ppm gluten for people with celiac disease. The FDA recently announced that 99.5% of products tested came in under the 20 ppm standard set by the FDA for labeling a product "gluten-free." In fact, only one of 750 samples taken from 250 products tested above 20 ppm. That product was recalled and the manufacturer corrected the problem. There has been no indication the Cheerios tested outside the FDA's gluten-free standard. That means that even an ambitious sorting process like the one developed by General Mills seems to be working as designed. It means that consumers can trust the FDA, and American gluten-free labels, and that consumers of gluten-free foods can buy with confidence.
  8. Celiac.com 09/01/2017 - A recent story by Buzzfeed does little to answer the question of whether Cheerios and other General Mills cereals are actually gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease. There are a number of folks in the gluten-free community who complain that General Mills is making people sick by selling Cheerios that they know to be contaminated with gluten due to a faulty sorting process. Because General Mills uses a flawed sorting process, the story goes, their boxes of Cheerios are subject to gluten "hot spots," which is making some gluten-sensitive folks sick, thus the complaints. They point to regular complaints logged by the FDA to argue that Cheerios are clearly not gluten-free, and thus not safe for people with celiac disease. Comment sections on articles covering this topic show that plenty of people claim that Cheerios makes them sick, and triggers gluten-related symptoms. But, one useful measure of the basic scope of an issue is numbers. What kind of numbers are we talking about? How many complaints? How many boxes of Cheerios? It's important to realize that General Mills produces huge numbers of Cheerios each week. How many exactly? Well, according to their website, General Mills ships 500,000 cases of Cheerios each week. At about 12 boxes per case, that's about 6 million boxes each week, or 24 million boxes each month. We know that the FDA received a number of consumer complaints in 2015, when a mix-up at a Cheerios plant in California led to mass gluten contamination, and eventually to a full recall of 1.8 million boxes by General Mills. During that three month period, after the gluten contamination but prior to the recall, when many consumers were eating Cheerios made with wheat flour, the FDA says it received 136 complaints about adverse reactions to the product. So, during the 90 days when we know there was gluten contamination in nearly 2 million boxes of Cheerios, when people were definitely having gluten reactions, the FDA got 136 complaints. During that time General Mills shipped about 72 million boxes, and later recalled nearly 2 million of those due to gluten contamination. That's a complaint rate of about one complaint per 529,411 total boxes, and about one complaint for every 5,000 people with celiac disease; if each person with celiac ate 1 box, and the complaints came only from people with celiac disease. (Obviously this is simplified assumption for discussion purposes). Let's imagine another 2 million gluten-contaminated boxes got to consumers. Again, imagine that 1% of those buyers were celiac, so that 20,000 boxes of the 2 million went to celiacs—one box each. 146 complaints for 20,000 boxes is about 1 complaint per 140 boxes, give or take, for each person with celiac disease. That seems like a substantial complaint rate. So, how does that rate compare to the current rate, after the recall? Since the beginning of 2016, the FDA has received 46 reports of people with celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten or wheat linking their illness to General Mills cereals, including Cheerios and Lucky Charms. Let's forget about Lucky Charms for a minute, let's focus on Cheerios. During the 18 months from January 2016 to July 2017, General Mills has shipped something like 450 million boxes. That's about one complaint for every 10 million boxes of Cheerios, or about one complaint for every 100,000 people with celiac disease. And those numbers don't include Lucky Charms, which account for some portion of the 46 complaints since early 2016. If General Mills is having an issue with sorting oats, then why have complaint ratios gone down so sharply? Also, General Mills uses its optically sorted gluten-free oats for other products. The FDA is certainly taking all of this into account. When they get complaints, they look at large amounts of data to help them put things into perspective. Has the FDA seen corresponding numbers of complaints for different General Mills products made from the same oat sorting process? It doesn't seem so. Celiac.com has covered the gluten-free Cheerios story from the beginning, and will continue to do so. We stand on the side of science, and accurate information. Beyond the obvious gluten-contamination that led to the recall, we have been skeptical of claims that General Mills' sorting process is flawed, and that their products, including Cheerios are routinely contaminated with gluten. If this were true, we think the numbers would be very different, and that the pattern of official complaints would reflect that reality. We also feel that General Mills would be facing down lawsuits from hungry trial lawyers looking to put a big trophy on the wall. We have simply not seen any good evidence that supports claims that Cheerios and other General Mills products are contaminated with gluten "hotspots" that cause reactions in people with celiac disease. We have also not seen evidence that rules out adverse oat reactions as the cause of many of these claims. If someone out there has different numbers, or better information, we are all ears. However, until we see convincing evidence to the contrary, Celiac.com regards Cheerios and other General Mills products as safe for people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity. We do offer the caveat that people should trust their own judgement and avoid any food they think makes them sick. Stay tuned for more on this and other stories on gluten-free cereals and other products. Read more at BuzzFeed.com and GeneralMills.com.
  9. Celiac.com 10/27/2017 - Cereal maker General Mills has announced that it will no longer label their flagship cereal Cheerios as gluten-free in Canada. Has Canada Changed its Gluten-free Standards? No, the standard for labeling gluten-free foods in Canada remains same, at up to 20 ppm allowable gluten. Such foods are safe for the vast majority of people with celiac disease, according to both U.S. and Canadian regulatory agencies, the EU, celiac researchers and numerous celiac disease support groups. Health Canada, the agency responsible for setting food safety standards in Canada says that gluten levels below 20 ppm are safe for people with celiac disease. That is also the standard for gluten-free products in the United States and the EU. Have Cheerios Changed? No, the Gluten-Free Cheerios sold in the U.S. are the same Cheerios that are sold in Canada now, and the same Cheerios that will be sold in Canada after the labeling change. Cheerios routinely test below 20 ppm, and are currently labeled as gluten-free in both the U.S., and Canada. Cheerios has not been the subject of a mandated recall in with the U.S. or in Canada, which indicates that the product remains safe for the vast majority of people with celiac disease. So, Why is Cheerios Changing its Label in Canada? It comes down to a technicality over oat testing standards. Canadian labeling laws require manufacturers follow a specific testing requirement for products made with oats, such as Cheerios. Under that Canadian testing requirement, oat products with gluten levels above 5 ppm, but under 20 ppm are considered "Investigative," a status under which the agency "notifies the regulated party of the result." They then "follow up with the regulated party to determine the source of the gluten." Moreover, the agency advises "the regulated party, such as General Mills in the case of Cheerios, to review their Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and process controls." The agency may require "corrective action." As a result, cereal maker General Mills has announced that it will no longer label their flagship cereal Cheerios as gluten-free in Canada. General Mills stands by its testing process and said Cheerios sold in the U.S. will continue to carry the gluten-free label. A statement by General Mills reads: GM: "Each serving of Cheerios products in Canada are gluten free, as defined by the current regulatory standard of containing less than 20 ppm of gluten. General Mills Canada has made the decision to voluntarily remove the gluten-free label from our Cheerios products in Canada until Health Canada and The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) publish a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats. At this time the product is not changing, just the label on the box. We look forward to labeling the Cheerios products in Canada as gluten free once consensus is reached on a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats." Comments made by both General Mills and the CFIA suggest the decision to remove the gluten-free labels from Cheerios stem from an issue around how products containing oats are tested for gluten in Canada. According to CBC News, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed that the move by General Mills to remove the gluten-free label was voluntary, and said the company had "informed" the agency of its plans in August. "This was a business decision made by the company and not a directive from the CFIA," the statement said. The statement from GM continues: "While Gluten-Free Cheerios products comply with the gluten-free standards in Canada and the United States, we have made the decision to remove the gluten-free label from our Cheerios products in Canada until the government agencies publish a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats. At this time the product is not changing, just the label on the box. For nearly a decade, General Mills has served consumers with Celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. Since Gluten Free Rice Chex was launched in 2008, General Mills has grown its portfolio of gluten-free products to more than 1,000 items. It is now the second largest provider of gluten-free foods, including seven varieties of Cheerios, in the U.S. The company has also introduced gluten-free products in more away-from-home food outlets like restaurants and schools, and in new regions such as Canada and Europe." GM spokesperson Mike Siemienas said the company was waiting for "Health Canada and The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) [to] publish a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats," and that General Mills looks forward to labeling the Cheerios products as gluten-free once consensus is reached on a consistent testing protocol." So, while Cheerios will no longer carry a gluten-free label in Canada, Canadian standards for gluten-free products have not changed, and remain the same as American standards, at up to 20 ppm allowable gluten. The Cheerios sold in Canada are no different than Cheerios sold in the United States, where they will still carry a gluten-free label. So, only the Canadian label will change. Cheerios will remain the same. On either side of the border, people with celiac disease can continue to enjoy Cheerios with confidence. Those with oat sensitivity, or who react to high fiber levels, should use their own judgement about Cheerios, as with any other product.
  10. Celiac.com 10/31/2017 - A press release by the Canadian Celiac Association announcing a label change for General Mills' Cheerios is drawing confusion and questions from numerous corners of the gluten-free community. The press release is also drawing pushback from General Mills, which called the CCA press release "inaccurate," and said it was "not based on facts." General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas says that "the only thing the CCA got right is that General Mills is changing its label in Canada." Everything else, Siemienas, claimed, was based on opinion, not facts. Siemienas added that General Mills has made efforts to work with the CCA, but that the organization "had its opinions formed" in advance, and seemed unmoved by facts. Regarding Cheerios, a statement by General Mills reads: "Each serving of Cheerios products in Canada are gluten free, as defined by the current regulatory standard of containing less than 20 ppm of gluten. General Mills Canada has made the decision to voluntarily remove the gluten-free label from our Cheerios products in Canada until Health Canada and The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) publish a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats. At this time the product is not changing, just the label on the box. We look forward to labeling the Cheerios products in Canada as gluten free once consensus is reached on a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats." The full text of the original CCA press release appears below, but since this article was written: "The CCA retracts its statement of October 20, 2017 and replaces it with this statement due to errors in the original statement.": October 20, 2017 (Mississauga, ON) The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has made an announcement that the words "gluten-free" will be removed from all Cheerios package sold in Canada by January 1, 2018. The Canadian Celiac Association first objected to the claim in August 2016 and strongly recommended that people with celiac disease not consume the cereal, even though the box was labelled "gluten free". The announcement came in a letter addressed to a Canadian consumer who was one of many customer complaints to be filed against the products. "We are delighted to hear that the regulators have determined that the claim must be removed from the packages", said Melissa Secord, Executive Director of the Canadian Celiac Association. "Based on the advice of the members of our Professional Advisory Board, the experts of the Gluten-Free Certification Program, and other professionals working in the field, we believe that there is not adequate evidence to support the claim. When added to many reports from consumers with celiac disease reacting to eating the cereal, we believe this is the safe recommendation for Canadians." The CCA will follow up closely with the CFIA and Health Canada to continue to monitor this decision along with other products sold in Canada to ensure access to safe foods for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. The CCA is currently working on a grant from Agriculture and Agrifood Canada to examine the scope of gluten contamination in oats grown in Canada, and to determine where the contamination occurs as the oats a processed (field, harvest, transport, processing). The project is scheduled to be completed in March 2018. Celiac disease is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, triticale, barley. In the case of wheat, gliadin has been isolated as the toxic fraction. It is the gluten in the flour that helps bread and other baked goods bind and prevents crumbling. This feature has made gluten widely used in the production of many processed and packaged foods. The Canadian Celiac Association, the national voice for people who are adversely affected by gluten, is dedicated to improving diagnosis and quality of life.
  11. Years before I developed full gluten intolerance (probably celiac) while I could enjoy many wheat products, I would get odd, unpleasant reactions to Ritz crackers and Cheerios. I did not think much of it and generally just avoided those products. I periodically retried them thinking it was a temporary problem with the product. I subsequently developed the same problem with any wheat and gluten product. Has anyone else noticed a similar prodrome to any food products?
  12. Is the new gluten-free line of General Mills cereals REALLY gluten free? They say on the box that they "remove wheat, rye, and barley" and only use oats. However, I've read that oats, unless certified gluten-free, are usually contaminated. The box says nothing about being certified gluten-free, nor is there any info on whether or not the facility processes wheat. My child with celiac disease does not experience symptoms, but his bloodwork numbers for Celiac are through the roof (over 100 even after 18 months of gluten-free diet). We're learning that he was getting cross contamination and are working toward eliminating that as much as possible, but I'm wondering about the possibility of misleading labels also causing issues.