Monday, October 5, 2015

Cheerios Are Not Gluten-Free

I rarely post something quickly without taking at least a day or two to make sure I'm not overly angry, happy, or any other emotion that could be affecting how rational I'm being about the matter. I'm deciding to make an exception. I've been putting a lot of thought into all of the controversy surrounding Cheerios for the last several months, and I'll admit that I could not stop being angry or frustrated this whole time. I'm now at my tipping point.

I'm sure most people have heard at this point that General Mills has issued a recall on approximately 1.8 million boxes of Original and Honey Nut Cheerios. They were all made in their Lodi, California facility, and according to General Mills, all other boxes meet FDA regulations. If you'd like to read their recall "apology," you can do so on their blog here. If you want additional information, simply google "Cheerios Recall." I guarantee you'll find a plethora of information.

Why does all of this make me angry? There are far too many reasons to address them all, so I'll cover the top ones:

  1. General Mills claimed the gluten-free Cheerios were being manufactured in one dedicated gluten-free facility. They're now revealing that there are multiple locations, although I have not yet seen an explanation from General Mills explaining this discrepancy in their story. The closest they've come is the following comment to a post on their blog post. 
  2. They've claimed their testing methods included testing 12-18 boxes per "lot," yet when asked how the final product passed testing, they admitted they did not test any of the 17 lots included in the recall. The photo below is their response to someone on their Facebook page regarding the testing. 
  3. Based on the information above, I now know that if you piece together all of their information, they are testing 12-18 boxes/lot. If there are 17 lots in 1.8 million boxes, then there are over 100,000 boxes per lot. Do they really think that testing 12-18 is adequate? That means they are testing less than .018% of the boxes. That would be the case if they are actually testing as often as they said they were. I invite them to tell me if I'm wrong. 
I'm not the only one upset about this. I could honestly go on and on, but I won't because simply complaining never fixes anything, so here is my "positive spin." I said previously that I had faith that General Mills could do this. I have MUCH less faith, but I still have faith they can do this. In my opinion, they need to take the following steps:
  1. Admit they made a mistake, recall ALL boxes of "gluten-free" Cheerios, and take the time to fix their processes. It does not matter how long this takes, they need to make sure ALL boxes are gluten-free before claiming they are. This includes pulling the commercials that are pulling at the heartstrings of so many gluten-free consumers. 
  2. In order to fix their processes, they should use the suggestions recommended by Tricia Thompson of Gluten Free Watchdog. She is still of the opinion that the problems can be fixed, but I get the impression she is losing faith as well. 
  3. Find a way to make this up to all of the consumers who got sick because they trusted that a large manufacturer wouldn't lie to them. If General Mills wasn't lying, and they truly believed their processes were creating a gluten-free product, then they need to do A LOT more research prior to re-releasing the product. 
I want to hear your thoughts. I know many people are angry, but I want to hear construtive thoughts. How do we as a gluten-free community help General Mills to fix this mistake or simply admit defeat and go back to not labeling them as gluten-free?

**Update (10/6/15): According to Gluten Free Living magazine, the FDA has received at least one box that tested over the regulated limit of 20 ppm gluten. The level was 43 ppm which is over twice the legal limit. They have not disclosed if this box was part of the recall or not. 


  1. I just want them to fix it so my kids can enjoy cheerios again. W/o the gluten, they are fairly healthy. My kids had a couple of boxes before we realized they weren't really GF. They didn't have gut distress, but did have more fatigue and irritability. It boggles my mind why Gen Mills thinks they have to be secretive and different about how they "remove" gluten/wheat

    1. I understand that companies need proprietary methods so other companies don't steal their ideas that they potentially spent millions developing. Beyond that, they are definitely being secretive about too many details. They've also been caught in multiple lies at this point. I'm sure they'll say their words were misunderstood, or consumers understanding was not what they meant, but at this point, they've stated they did not test these boxes AND they've stated they test the end runs (which would be the boxes). Whether someone screwed up or not, there is much more wrong than just these 17 lots.

  2. It does feel like they are being deceptive and think gluten intolerance and celiac is a joke. Just use GF oats and be completely transparent about their "system" for gluten wheat removal. PLUS, better testing. This is feeling like a horrible old news report about innocent people being exposed to lead or something and the authorities just looked the other way.

    1. They've said they aren't using certified gluten-free oats because there isn't a large enough supply of them. I will admit they are correct currently on that fact. What I don't understand is why they don't just create additional gluten-free oat fields. They are General Mills--they could most definitely pull that off. I would think it would have been cheaper than coming up with their proprietary sorting method as well.