General Mills recently announced that five varieties of Cheerios would be “going gluten-free.” The varieties are Original, Honey Nut, Frosted, Apple Cinnamon, and Multigrain. On Monday, the company issued a massive recall of some of its gluten-free boxes of Cheerios cereal. The recall affected nearly 150,000 cases of Original and Honey Nut Cheerios which were made in July at its Lodi, California, facility citing “potential adverse health effects” for people with celiac disease or wheat allergies.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder which affects an estimated one in 100 people across the globe. The illness is hereditary and, therefore, occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to small intestine damage. Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, and wheat. The absorption of this protein leads to damage on the villi, which line the small intestine, and promote nutrient absorption. Once the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body. An estimated two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.
Upon learning of the mishap General Mills issued an apology stating the company was embarrassed and apologetic about the incident. It occurred at one of the production facilities in California where the flour entered its gluten-free oat-based system resulting in Honey Nut and Original Cheerios being exposed and incorrectly labeled as gluten-free. The voluntary recall of the products made on certain dates at the Lodi facility was immediately issued.
General Mills issued the apology on all social media platforms and its website asking people to check the “better if used by” code dates in order to verify if the product in their possession was exposed to wheat flour. The company also explained that this was an isolated incident, only at the one facility, which has already been addressed to ensure that it would not happen again. The Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios produced at our other facilities are, and will continue to be, FDA compliant and gluten-free.
The company, whose headquarters is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has plants, mills, and regional offices worldwide. It has made a big investment in its plants and supply chain to ensure the company’s gluten-free Cheerios are indeed gluten-free. Cheerios are made primarily of oats, which naturally do not have gluten, however, the cereal manufacturing process can still allow small amounts of gluten to intermingle. At the time this occurred, the facility in Lodi lost rail service causing the gluten-free oat flour to be unloaded from rail cars and moved to trucks. General Mills believes this one-time incident allowed wheat flour to accidentally become introduced into the gluten-free oat flour system, introducing the allergen into products labeled as gluten-free.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an email which stated it had received 125 reports since mid-September of consumers who had encountered adverse effects after eating Cheerios labeled gluten-free. However, it is not aware of any deaths or hospitalizations as a result of the cereal. After hearing of such complaints, General Mills immediately recalled 1.8 million boxes nationwide of gluten-free Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios. The company has stated that it cares very much about the health of its customer and will work extremely hard to earn back their trust. If anyone has concerns or questions, General Mills is asking them to contact the company’s dedicated consumer line at 1-800-775-8370.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
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Cheerios: Gluten Free Cheerios Recall Information
Celiac Disease Foundation: What Is Celiac Disease?
Top Image Courtesy of General Mills – Flickr License
Inside Image Courtesy of General Mills – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Chris Metcalf – Flickr License