Hang with me today. Lots to discuss as I recap the Cheerios Gluten-Free Summit.
I’m going to 1) answer as many of the questions you asked as possible; 2) give my thoughts on the Summit and what GM is doing to keep Cheerios safe for celiacs; and 3) talk about my experience (and insecurities) with my fellow celiac advocates.
There will be a short intermission between each segment, so if you have to use the potty, that would be a good time to do so.
I will say this up front. I think GM’s intentions are pure here. Naturally, they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t see it being very profitable, but the folks in the milling factory were extremely passionate about what they are doing and those are the people, not the ones in corporate, that are making sure the final product is safe.
Ok…onto your questions
What is their “proprietary” process for making the Cheerios gluten-free? Honestly…there’s not a whole lot “proprietary” about it. They are using machines, available to any company, that mechanically sorts and cleans the grains, removing any items that are not pure oats. They do this by size and weight, adjusting the settings for each batch of oats that comes in. What is proprietary are the steps/repetitions taken. They have been working on this process for 4 years and created a new facility just for this process. Note: there are NO chemicals being added to remove the gluten. This is strictly a mechanical sorting/cleaning process using dedicated gluten-free lines.
Why don’t they just use certified gluten-free oats? Simple…there aren’t enough of them out there.
How often will they test the product for gluten? 3 times…at the oat level, the flour level and the finished product level.
Will they release the results of the tests? They will not. As long as it falls below 20ppm is all that matters and they assure us it will. I said they are better off with total transparency. They did not agree.
Will the ingredients change? Not at all. Same ingredients…just a much cleaner grain. Note: the only exception is the MultiGrain Cheerios, where they will be replacing the wheat and barley with sorghum and millet.
Will the price change? No. All prices will remain the same. This is actually pretty impressive, considering they have probably spent millions setting up the new process.
Are ALL Cheerios going gluten-free? No. Just plain (yellow box), frosted, honey-nut, apple cinnamon and multigrain for now.
Will they be GMO free? The yellow box Cheerios are non-GMO. The others are not.
Cheerios contains wheat starch. Will it still? Nope. It actually hasn’t in some time and will be removed from the ingredients list.
Will there be both gluten-free and non gluten-free options available? No…for the five varieties mentioned, they are completely replacing the non gluten-free versions. Important note: there will be a stretch during the roll out in late summer when both will be on the shelves. Look for the gluten free label as they are the ONLY ones that are gluten free.
So Dude…what do you think? Will the Cheerios be safe for celiacs?
As mentioned above, I do think GM is doing this right. They’ve invested a sh*t load of time and money into this and are not taking this lightly. They want to set the standard. The folks at the milling factory were straight out of central casting and they are ungodly passionate about what they are doing.
“Dude…just answer the damn question.”
Fine. I have no idea if they will be safe. While I’m confident in the process, until the final product comes out and is tested by a third party (aka Gluten Free Watchdog), I will not recommend for or against trying them. Time will tell.
Here is something else to consider. I had no idea what cross-contamination of oats really meant. I mean, I know what it means but I honestly didn’t think there were actual pieces of wheat and barley in the oats themselves; just a dusting or what not. I could not have been more wrong.
Take a good look at the image to the right. The GM folks showed us this and it actually was a stunner. The oats are THAT cross-contaminated??
And therein lies the challenge and the leap of faith you will need to take in GM. Are you confident they can remove 99.5% of those evil little grains so the oats are safe for us? Again…I believe they will do everything in their power but time will tell.
By they way…I’m not here to tell you to eat Cheerios or not. Regardless of whether they are safe, processed cereal is just not my thing. But it might be your thing so I’m just laying out the facts.
Some closing thoughts about the Summit and time with my fellow advocates
Between you and I, I left the Summit feeling down; feeling out of place; feeling unsure of myself as an advocate.
I’m not quite sure what happened.
Perhaps it was two straight days of talking about gluten. I know I’m a celiac advocate, but to be honest, I don’t love talking about gluten besides on this blog and my social media. And after 48 hours, I’d had enough. Several of the advocates asked me if I do this full time, as most of them do. I was like…”shoot me”.
Perhaps it was because a few of the advocates seemed to come with their own agenda and it was a huge turn off. I expected the 9 of us to mesh perfectly and for whatever reason, it just wasn’t the case. At least not in my eyes.
Perhaps it was my own ego. I consider myself to be one of the more vocal advocates out there and maybe I had some unrealistic expectations going in and once those expectations weren’t met, I sort of fell into a shell of myself.
And perhaps it was this. On the final day, we sat in a large conference room for a brain storming session with GM and their PR folks. One by one, we were pulled out to shoot a video interview across the hall that is going to be used as a part of their promotion for the gluten free roll out.
8 out of the 9 of us were chosen. I was not.
The funny thing is…I would have said no if I were asked. And perhaps they knew that. But it just left me with a real shitty taste in my mouth and it made me realize that I advocate very differently than most. Not better. Not worse. Just very different.
I don’t belong at GM helping them to promote their products.
As I finish up this ridiculously long post, I realize this is where I belong. This is home.
95 thoughts on “Gluten-Free Cheerios? Here’s the Deal.”
Thanks for your insight! That was really shady they didn’t ask you to participate in the video..even if you’d said no. That speaks volumes to me! I didn’t use to eat Cheerios..never will. There are plenty of other organic O type cereals much cleaner and less shady so I don’t get this Cheerio fascination at all. Maybe it’s just me…Maybe certain celiacs are just longing to feel like they aren’t..
Yeah…I don’t know what to make of it. The PR folks, who were good people, said they ran out of time. It just totally made me feel like an outsider though. Maybe that’s where I belong.
How receptive were the other 8 advocates to these Cheerios?
I’d rather not speak for them. ..
I kind of figured but thought I’d ask. You felt like an outsider and essentially treated as one so I’ll make my own assumptions
Glad to see you know the differnce between advocate,
and sales rep.
Thank you for not selling out, and representing us in a
honest heartfelt way.
Stay the course despite the difficulties you are an
amazing dude doing amazing things. For not only us but
your family. Showing your children that truth can be tough
but yet worthwhile is the most awesome thing to do.
Much love and respect
Thanks Lesley. And on a related note, Gluten Free Watchdog just released some initial findings on the Cheerios. GM is not going to like it.
Thank you so much for advocating the way you do. You tell it like it is and that’s what I appreciate and respect. Whether or not we choose to try the Cheerios ourselves, you’ve given us the facts you’ve learned. Thanks again for being open and honest with us!
First – Great job reporting! Congrats on being selected because of your commendable advocacy.
Second – I don’t have a dog in this hunt because I can’t eat oats anyway.
Third – thanks greatly for the cross contamination revelation. Now I understand why I must watch every bite of food and why after 2.5 yrs of diligently trying to be free of gluten I still cannot get completely well but keep learning and trying. For me personally, your trip was worth everything for this info! Thanks immensely!
Fourth – I encourage you to advocate as you do (a little goofy to be fun & it works) because I always know you will be HONEST & TRUSTWORTHY … And that’s what counts and why I look forward to your opinions.
Fifth – I know you don’t like videos, but did you appear at least once with all the guitarists in the video at the end of your post?!?
I agree you don’t belong promoting Cheerios, and I would be worried following your recommendations if you did, but the fact you were invited indicates GM is trying their best to help and I applaud them for that. I can’t eat their products but maybe most can safely eat.
Thanks for all you do and keep up your perfectly fine advocating as you determine proper for you, which works!
GF Dude – Everything that “Hap” said…and more. Mostly, THANK YOU!
Thank goodness for your advocate style! It is the most honest and realistic and my household is so grateful for your time and energy. This review is fair and explains a ton and I look forward to seeing how it tests when Gluten Free Watchdog’s labs are able to get a hold of it. In the mean time – big pat on the back and thanks for being there for all of us average folk who want to do the best we can and enjoy things everyone else does – like a good dinner out, vacation dining, good beer, bread and sometimes even processed foods safe.
I think, as an advocate, you belong on the outside. Always better to look in with a skeptical eye. Thanks for doing this. I probably wouldn’t have bought them anyway.
i often think that being the outsider is the best place to be. I’m guessing your gut was telling you that no anger what the PR, it was dog and pony show put on by a big corporation. Even though it’s great that they are trying to offer better products, in the end someone in finance saw a way to make money. People will have to listen to their own gut (no pun intended) if they will eat a box cereal. I’m guessing it will be a good edition for kids since they are affected the most by not being able to eat like their friends. Thanks for the post and enduring days of feeling out of place!
Thanks for staying you, and keeping your ethics. Of course they did not want you in their videos LOL, let’s see, were you the only one of the 9 without your cheerleader outfit on so to speak – adopting a “this looks really good, now let’s see what it does in the real world” attitude? I have noticed in the past no one really wants to hear what you have to say in those groups unless you are over the top about how wonderful this is……. Thanks again for remaining credible, and not putting your bank account in front of your values 🙂
I think you had a great chance to be put of a movement that is growing….one step at a time…..the shady part comes from them covering there asses…..so I wish them luck
Dude… thanks again. After any 2 day (or longer) “conference” – we are all exhausted, and there is nothing wrong with feeling like an outsider. I love that you take time away from your family life and professional life to keep this blog going. It is one of the blogs I make sure I read because it always goes above and beyond to talk about the latest issues facing celiacs and NCGS folks. It is honest. You state your opinion, but you also don’t shove it down our throats about what we choose to eat/not eat.
On a side note, my celiac daughter (7yrs) was kind of down the other day about a treat at school or something – I don’t remember the situation exactly, but I do remember what I told her – and that was “It is just food. The important part is having fung with your friends”. Thanks for the words of wisdom.
I really appreciate your advocacy and believe that maybe what made you feel the outlier. As a contributor for a big blog, I’ve seen many bloggers write to gain advertisers and more exposure. They are not meaning to but they lost the fight for true transparency. They may not take to heart true safety the way you do. It’s there for anyone to read and I enjoy reading and learning from you.
Gluten Dude, Thank you for taking the time to check things out. I think I would have felt the same about advocating full-time. It is quite a lot just to keep up the lifestyle to stay healthy, but to have to think and talk about it 24/7? It would be depressing and a real drag. And I’m sure your wife would like to hear about other things occasionally. 🙂
Keep up the good work and as our favorite Albert (Mr. Einstein as far as I know) said “The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no-one has ever been before.” And that is a positive thing!
Maybe its just me, but I don’t find you to be a traditional “advocate”. You’re more like an honest reporter. I could see you having a tv show and being able to opine equally about celiac disease, good recipes, and human interest stories. You choose to advocate sometimes, but you’re not “paid” to do it so you don’t have the agenda of a typical advocate.
When I go to meetings and events, I’m usually on my own too because I’m willing to ask questions and form my own opinions. I feel a kinship with you there, GD.
Keep doing what you do, GD. You’re our advocate and that’s why we like you so much. (even if sometimes it is an uncomfortable position to be in).
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the experience. I don’t eat cereal anymore, and have not been able to tolerate oats, and after seeing the photo of the oats, wheat and barley, now I know why! Wow!
I’m sorry that you felt out of place (that’s a horrible feeling), but maybe it’s because you saw that it was a dog-and-pony show and weren’t buying what they were selling. GM obviously sees a way to make money through this big investment, and I suppose you can’t blame them for trying. Nonetheless, thanks for being our advocate in this.
Thanks Gluten Dude! I appreciate your willingness to attend, be open and to report what you saw from advocates point of view. Even if asked, I would have guessed that you would have declined the video tapping (In fact I would have bet a paycheck on it). My guess is they sensed it. Setting aside the advocate roll for a moment. If a journalist was sent to cover a story and then starts to promote the very subject of the story, the credibility of the journalism is greatly compromised. At the very least gives me pause.
I believe you carry yourself differently and approach your GF advocacy from a different place and voice. This may have added to that feeling you had whilst there with the other folks attending.
I personally believe General Mills does have passionate people that want to bring gluten free safe foods to market, but I also realize they are a business. I’m actual hoping they are successful with their products, but I do not want it at the expense of the health of those whoe lost the genetic dice roll and came up craps (Celiac).
Again, I appreciate the work and advocacy that you do. If you return to Minnesota, I still owe you a burning bros beer (or thirty).
Thank you for going and getting the scoop. I have looked forward to your Cheerios review and appreciate it very much. I depend on your honesty and objectivity and do feel, with others, that your place is outside the crowd. You are not alone, we are standing right behind you. I miss Cheerios but I am always suspicious when products are sold in the US and not Canada (knowing my Canadian standards tend to be stricter than US). Thank you again; that was a big effort/commitment on your part and your family’s part, and I am pleased that GM recognized you for your valuable work. Have a great, gluten-free day!
Thank you, GD, for going to this summit and advocating for all of us! I’m not sold one way or another on safety, but probably won’t take it upon myself to subject my guts to testing out the new Cheerios, though I do appreciate all of the companies who are striving to produce safe products for all of the Celiacs out there!
Thank you again for all that you do for us – you are our voice!
I don’t think celiac advocate’s should be doing PR for products, especially one that has not yet been tested as safe. It would compromise that advocate’s ability to comment on that product. Having said that I can undetstand feeling singled out , inexplicably, feels bad. Thanks for the report, luckily celiacs can live a very happy and healthier life by not eating processed foods such as machine sorted Cheerios
“Regardless of whether they are safe, processed cereal is just not my thing.”…….and therein lies the challenge.
Well said. Less store bought, more home made.
I am not one for petitions and such, but Jamie Oliver’s quest for teaching kids the basics of cooking, that’s one effort I can see bear fruit in the long run, as compared to the marketing of convenience everything.
Except that here in Canada Jamie Oliver does TV commercials for a major supermarket promoting frozen dinners and other processed foods! I’m still surprised every time I see the commercials.
I would say, 1 out of 10 celiacs were honest, and that was you. Thank you for your fierce advocacy. I’m not a celiac, but a simple food allergy mom, and I learn from you. So thank you! 🙂
Thank you Dude! I need someone like you on these missions because you weren’t posing for pictures with a giant box of Cheerios. I would have loved watching your video though! I don’t subscribe to your blog so that you can lie to me or convince me to try different products. I subscribe because your humanity shines through my computer screen and I think you are just like the rest of us……and on any given day that changes. Stay true to who you are, even if that means you get dissed from the GM video fest! Thank you for advocating, even if it’s just a part time gig!
Thanks for all the great feedback so far. And if you are wondering why it took me five days to write my post…I was waiting for the check from General Mills to clear.
Yes…I’m just kidding.
Hopefully next time you go to Minnesota you’ll have some more time to relax. You need to visit the 45th parallel distillery (close by in Wisconsin) and do a tour, go to Bittersweet Bakery and Pizza Luce, Sassy Spoon and Brasa!
The kind of advocating that you do for us, is important. Don’t discount yourself. And thank you for doing it.
Hi Gluten Dude – You so graciously welcomed me into your world a few weeks ago when I decided to go GF for non-Celiac health reasons. I’m learning, I’m floundering, but I do appreciate not only having you here as a resource, but as an advocate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been down the cereal aisle and said to myself, “why the heckeroni doesn’t Cheerios make a GF cereal?” I know it’s a lot to do, including an entirely separate manufacturing plant, but hey… they are Cheerios right? Thank you for sharing your experience and I look forward to hearing more. Cheers, Holly
I feel like Celiac is being continually minimized because people don’t see the instant deadly results like with peanut allergies. We just have to keep on showing people how wrong they are. There was a time when these were minimized too.
The journey of life is sometimes exhausting. Perhaps you need to take some “me” time.
Thanks for taking the time out of your life. I know why they failed to ask you to be part of the advertising. That to me speaks LOUDEST!!!
How is it any different from those who “interview” and only show the people who don’t even know what gluten is in order to make fun? NO different to me.
I nearly died, am still sick, in chronic pain, fail to absorb iron properly, end up in hospital frequently because I can’t digest nutrition properly. All because of a profession hell bent on making money. I went to doctors regularly and they wrote me off with the easiest thing they could come up with. The one or two who took actual time to try and figure it out were poorly educated about the real need for actual nutrition.
After being so poorly treated by one profession for four decades, I refuse to simply TRUST another just because they SAY something is SAFE.
I knew that actual pieces of wheat and rye make it into the oats supply. I have not touched even the “certified” gluten free ones since my diagnosis.
I get the exhaustion from being with these folks for a long time. It is hard to hold up against a concerted effort to “convince” people that their intentions are “pure” and that is enough. The actual result has to be proven safe! Publishing the actual test results and showing the PPM is no big deal unless there is something to hide. TRUE transparency gives Celiac’s the power to control our health. It is the only way to actually LIVE.
I guess I am exhausted from 20 years of the total b*ll sh*t. I have watched while one after another, things are magically “safe” because of a single study with a small number of people who were actually willing to consume gluten for the research. I would not do so for any amount of money NOR would I with a gun to my head. Being shot is a faster death than the slow tortures of starvation and agony brought on by gluten. So why would I trust any study with volunteers who are willing to consume it. NOT TO MENTION the actual violation of the Hippocratic Oath that states “First do no harm” – these studies are CAUSING HARM on purpose!!
Why would you even want a large corporation to be able to use a video of you in a way that serves their own interest? They’re selling GF to the faddist masses. You were spared, Dude.
Feeling left out? Could this be some unresolved playground issues from your childhood?
There is more truth to your comment then you’ll ever know…
I been there, friend
I really appreciate you going to this event to check things out. Please don’t feel a need to change who you are – this is WHY you have such a loyal blog following! On a side note, while GM is perhaps fab at their marketing, they forgot to have someone from HR on the project. Any girl scout can tell you that if you exclude ONE person from a group, that’s not good manners. They have no obligation to use everyone’s video/interview footage, and should certainly have said so to everyone, as they shot a few reels (or pixels, or whatever it is these days).
Very enlightening about the cross-contamination situation. I waffle back and forth: one can get certified gluten-free oats, or organic oats, but not both. I have yet to get a belly ache from regular oats, but of course I’m much more gluten intolerant/sensitive than before I stopped eating gluten. I’m going to get the celiac gene test soon so I know if I’m “just” intolerant, or if my kids and other family need to watch out. Anyone else had that test, and what did you do with that info?
Thanks again, Dude!
and that my friend is the reason I didn’t go. And neither should you. I get why you did but you and I both know what is going on here and YOU would not be used for such a thing. Your message is a pure one, to stay well and help people who suffer from this disease. Period. You don’t have an agenda, your not looking to sell something, your looking for honest answers to help yourself and many others suffering with this nasty tricky autoimmune disease and as much as GM cares I don’t believe that THAT is their main goal as well. Do you ?
Love you dear
Thanks Jen. I’m sorry you weren’t there for strictly selfish reasons, but it was totally not our scene.
The east coast misses you…The Mrs. and I hope to see you soon.
Your report is a perfect example of why you are an excellent celiac advocate. Thank you!
I agree with Vik (Hi Vik if you’re the Vik I think you are) and I appreciate your non-biased report back to all of us.
Thank you for representing us and enduring the entire 2 days to be able to help us to make informed decisions.
And, for showing us how scarily cross-contaminated oats are? Eye-opening.
Yep it’s me 🙂 hiya!
I cannot express my gratitude enough for you and your family taking the time to search for GF answers and sharing your experiences and feelings. Putting yourself “out there” is not easy let alone as an advocate. I think you should be proud of the fact you were not “invited” to the interview shoot, which in my opinion was the real reason to gather GF advocates for the summit. The fact you felt uncomfortable means GM did not definitively answer any questions.
In the end, each of us is responsible for what comes out of our mouths and well as what we put into our mouths.
Thank you so much for taking the time to be you—-FAIR and HONEST and ETHICAL……which is more than I can say for GM hiding behind their “propriety process”. If they were that excited about the whole process where is the transparency and test results??????
I love your questions and I believe you made your point and a real difference by being you! 🙂 Keep up the good work.
Well, you know what, thank you for advocating for US. To heck with GM. We know at the end of the day, they are all about the bottom line. Yes, it’s great that they are using “cleaner” oats. No, I don’t agree that they should put a GF label on them, but it makes you wonder how many other “non-certified” things we eat are cross-contaminated, and how many gf things meet the 20ppm standards, and are really not truly gf. I know I haven’t felt good for 3 years now, and I am careful as can be.
As for that video thing, that was plain dirty. Even if they didn’t use it, they should have shot it. And I agree a lot with what HAP posted. So thank you again. <3 B
Thank you, Dude, for taking time away from your family to check out GM. Thank you for enlightening the “process” and cross contamination numbers, truly incredible. You dodged a big glutinous ball by not getting “chosen” for the video. Thanks for keeping grounded, having to go thru the bull to get to the pasture and sharing it all with us. You’re Solid!
Good job, Dude. Like Hap and others, I can’t eat oats anyways but I trust your take on these
products. Looks like another “gluten-free” product that isn’t Celiac safe.
Thanks for your work. Now, after a few days of being alone in the crowd, relish being back in
your place, surrounded by your people.
Ditto to all above plus my thanks for being you. You keep it real.
It sounds like GM and Cheerios wanted cheerleaders / advocates for their product/process and not true feedback or criticism. “8 out of 9” selected, and you weren’t? Tells me all I need to know. I’m not much of a cereal guy either, but if I was . . . I wouldn’t touch these (without further research done).
Bravo! I respect and admire you more than ever, Gluten Dude! I’ve read several of the other reports about this event and was anxiously awaiting what you had to say. I am not disappointed. Thank you for staying true to you and giving us the truth versus a commercial! I attended the “Gluten-Free Bloggers Summit” back in November of 2010. There are many similarities between my experience then and yours.
Interestingly enough, some of the bloggers in attendance at that event asked GM then if they would be developing a gluten-free Cheerios. The Sr. Marketing Manager at the time, the person who was in charge of their gf products, told us that they didn’t see that happening because of the need for gf oats and the relationship with their current oat suppliers. I mention that because other reports have said that GM has been working on this effort for over 5 years. The timeline is slightly off for that to be true. You didn’t mention that so my comment is not related to your post, but just a question in general about the accuracy of the info they are presenting.
I’ve been sharing the cross contact issue with oats for a very long time. I’m glad their display has made folks aware of the real concern and why “regular” oats are not gf. That has never surprised me, but perhaps that’s because I’ve seen local farmers rotate their crops and grains get intermixed via what sprouts in the field and via the use of the same harvesting and processing equipment for oats as for other grains.
One thing I disagree on is that GM is doing it “right.” In my opinion, GM is opposing their “right” way upon the industry vs following what is in practice now as the right way. The main thing as you say is whether or not testing via independent agencies like Gluten-Free Watchdog will show that these Cheerios are safe to eat. Personally I would have preferred that they had spent their millions on growing more oats, a sufficient amount of oats, in dedicated fields with dedicated harvesting equipment and using dedicated facilities with dedicated processing equipment. Then their special process would not be needed.
Whatever the testing shows, I will not be eating GM Cheerios. I have had a gluten reaction to all of their products as have many others. I stopped trying them years ago.
Thanks again for your thorough report and being the independent advocate you are. We appreciate you!
Shirley, I was going to comment that I just discovered that this isn’t GM’s first Gluten-Free Summit, but you beat me to it. After reading GD’s post I searched for other reports and I’d found this Nov 2010 post from another blogger (link below) which I believe mentions you by name and references some of the concerns you’ve mentioned above. I’m a bit late to this older GM Summit redux (DXed 2013) so it was instructive to read the then-fresh take on the 2010 Summit alongside GD’s take on this latest one. It’s a little disappointing that they seem uninterested in having GFCO certification, both then and now. 20ppm is probably fine for me personally, but I’m sure plenty of others would be left wanting.
John, yes, Linda of The Gluten-Free Homemaker was part of the summit I attended and she did have many of the same concerns I did. Even with a less than 20 ppm gluten level, I prefer a third-party inspection agency. I will look forward to seeing the Gluten-Free Watchdog’s testing results. Even then, I won’t eat “gluten free” Cheerios though. I have always had reactions to their products (as have others). I wish that I’d been able to test the products I reacted to, but I had no test kids handy at the time. Thanks for the discussion! It’s great to see so many taking this matter seriously and not blindly following a company’s “gluten free” assertions!
Thanks Shirley. Jules sent me a link to your post after your GM visit and it was an excellent read. We’re cut from the same cloth.
Jules is always helping us out! Thanks for the kind words on my recap of my own GM experience and that last statement is quite a compliment. I really appreciate it! There’s a small core group of us who will keep “telling it like it is,” and that’s a good thing. 🙂
I’d be really interested to read more of the reports. Please would you share some links, or at least a successful search string. Thanks!
Eileen–My post is here: http://glutenfreeeasily.com/my-trip-to-general-mills-a-k-a-betty-crocker-central/ At the end, it has links to all the other reports (the ones that still remain anyway) from that event.
Great post, GD — well worth the wait. I commend your balanced approach in visiting GM: visiting neither as cheerleader nor with axe to grind. We’ll all have to decide for ourselves whether this product suits us; some will accept, others will reject. It’s an individual matter with no “right” or “wrong” answer. I get the feeling the rest of the GF bloggers were more enthusiastic than yourself about the whole production and that you probably won’t be invited back for more of these events, not that this would be any cause for concern on your part.
That CC graphic (200pc/15,000) is interesting. You mention being surprised at these visuals but frankly it’s pretty much as I expected — maybe not in degree (so high!), but certainly at least in nature.
I say this because I often buy bagged lentils, for which it’s de rigueur to do with these (by hand) what General Mills does with their oats (by machine). I’m sure anyone else who’s hand-sorted lentils would agree that this labour not uncommonly turns up what looks like (and probably are) kernels of wheat (or barley or rye), not to mention stone pebbles and other foreign, albeit generally non-hazardous materials (provided they’re removed!). I’ve also found foreign materials from hand-sorting buckwheat groats, to a lesser extent.
When I hand sort through a 2-lb bag of lentils, it typically takes me at least half an hour, perhaps closer to an hour in aggregate — I don’t usually do it all at once and other folks could be faster than me — and I find anywhere up to a dozen of these foreign kernels, plus the other junk. It seems GM is up against something similar, although on different scales of time and volume.
Still with that CC graphic, I’m at turns curious, and confused, me about how a ppm number is assigned to a test sample.
The curious angle: I suppose the numbers in the graphic come straight from GM, and they say an “average” batch of oats contains about 200 gluten-bearing kernels (wheat or barley). If that’s average, then what’s the worst case scenario? 300? 500? I’m guessing they weren’t very forthcoming on the statistics, although I’m sure they have the numbers somewhere, securely stored on file. It also raises the question of how effective is their mechanical sorting as a function of initial contamination levels. Can they tackle the “dirty” 500/15,000 batch as effectively as the more typical 200/15,000 one?
The confusion angle: 200 parts per 15,000 is of course nowhere near the mandated 20 ppm. If you do the math it’s over 13k ppm, measured strictly on a grain count. The graphic seems to claim that one part per 15,000 is acceptable, but this only corresponds to 67 ppm based on a grain count. Either the claim is wrong, or the ELISA testing that this 1/15,000 treated sample would allegedly satisfy is measuring something else, which is not altogether unreasonable.
If the test is only sensitive to the gluten part of the offending grain, while the rest of said grain’s mass is not flagged, then I could see the grain ratio exceeding 20 ppm while the actual amount of gluten comes under the wire. This is probably the case, and probably also has something to do with why the science is not yet fully settled on gluten-removed beer: my understanding is that the test doesn’t detect residual gluten fragments (whose effects on the celiac digestive tract are not fully understood), so the results are of limited validity.
But this is all just hypothesis based on what ought to be “reasonable”, so I’m not really sure and still a bit confused.
Just a clarification on what ppm means. Ppm in this case is parts per million or mg/L of the protein of interest (in our case glutenin or gliadin depending on the lab and standard used for testing). It is not a direct measure of grains in the sample, but a concentration of protein extracted from a sample. In this case you can’t use the whole wheat grain as a measure because it isn’t made up of only gluten. So your assumption later is correct, they are not testing for whole wheat content. As far as gluten removed beer is concerned I think the hang up there is that the standard used in testing is the whole glutenin or gliadin protein, so the enzymatic products might not be detected if they aren’t big enough to react in the ELISA test. This is where mass spec is a better tool. Where that gets tricky is that the jury is still out on what the peptide size and sequence is that makes us sick. This is why most sources will say that is better for us to stay away from gluten removed beer.
Thanks for the response, Sarah. When the math didn’t play out it got me to thinking. I suspect the peptide size and sequence questions won’t have a single unique answer, much as is the case for the ppm issue; some folks are fine with eating to the 20 ppm legal standard — a number which as I understand came out of clinical trials — but others need a better threshold than this to maintain their health. Perhaps we’ll see it play out in similar fashion on GR beer. Until then I won’t even think about trying any of them.
As for this cereal, I’m not sure I’ll bother trying it, either. About a year or so before my DX I saw Cheerios on sale and thought, “Hmm, been a while since I had them, guess I’ll pick up a box.” The first spoonful reminded me WHY it had been so long. Just too bland for my liking, without even entertaining the gluten question. I might give the multigrain variety a try since it has sorghum and millet, which kind of makes it a different cereal than anything they’ve offered before, depending on exactly how much of these go into the recipe — but first I’d like to hear some numbers that back up the product’s safety, and I’m not optimistic I’ll like it anyway.
Pro, sarahG, just straight up pro. You are an asset to this community! Hugs!
Great post John. I am an aspiring scientist, in school now, so I really appreciated your analytical approach. You brought up some very important points.
Thanks so very much for taking time off from your full time job to be a reasoned advocate for those suffering with Celiac and NCGS. I really appreciate the sensible way that you took time to carefully consider all aspects of the General Mills announcement before sharing with us. It shows that you ensure that we get an unbiased opinion that we can use to choose wisely for ourselves.
One thing I did not read about was what happens to the oat flour once it leaves this special processing plant. One of the other bloggers and there was something about GM cleaning their processing plants.
If they take this “safe” oat flour into the plant where they use gluteny flours, is it still going to be below the 20ppm?
Do they test the final product to be sure it stays below the 20ppm?
I do have to say that I don’t eat processed cereal products. I eat everything in as close to its natural state as is safe.
Thanks everyone again for you kind words and support. This certainly is HOME.
I’ve been waiting for this post and really thank you for your time and energy. Your community counts on your honesty and straightforward approach. No Cheerios for me. Best to you.
Thanks so much for making the trip, sharing your thoughts & experience with GM, and writing about it all! I agree with others who’ve said consumer/patient advocates have no business filming promotional reports for companies whose products they’re evaluating. It totally undermines their credibility!Though it is a processed food it’s very useful for recipes & quick snacks, so we’ll be looking forward to trying the multigrain & honey nut varieties if Gluten Free Watchdog gives them a good report.
Thank you for this, so useful! I really appreciate the calm, rational way you approach these things. It’s super helpful in letting me make an informed decision, which can be very tricky in the current environment. 🙂
They invited you because you are so well know. They had hoped to bring you into their fold. They realized you are an advocate extraordinare, and that does not mesh with their purpose. Yes, maybe the cheerios will be “safe” for many gluten intolerant people, and even some Celiacs. In my opinion, if it is not 100% safe for ALL Celiacs, it isn’t safe for Celiacs. Sorry you were let down by the experience, but even in advocacy, egos can come into play. Sad. Thanks for going. They needed to hear from someone like you. They know you represent a whole lot of voices. One step at a time. That’s all we can do.
Thank you for being an advocate for the Celiac community (again!) even if it means you not feeling so great (again). I have so much respect for you and your cause. I appreciate your honesty.
I wish there was a forum where we could all hang out and talk. Being the only celiac I know is really isolating.
I have felt like this before when going to a brand event as a blogger. I want to be impartial and true to my readers, and sometimes it feels like all the other bloggers around me are just promoting the brand, no questions asked.
Stay true to yourself, (I know you will). It’s so worth it in the end.
No need for me to repeat what others above have written so eloquently. You did not fail your followers … you listened, you questioned, and you provided honest, from the heart answers via your blog above. Keep doing what you are doing (anything other than raw honesty would be out of character, and not what we have come to expect … and appreciate).
Dude, allow me to join in with the crowd on this one – the fact that you stick to your guns and don’t blend into the cheerleading crowd is part of why you’re at the top of my RSS feed, and other GF bloggers are at the bottom, or have been booted off after a short stay. It’s kind of amazing to me how much work you put into this *without* it being a source of income, but I really value the freedom that comes with that.
Your honesty and frankness isn’t something that’ll be appreciated in marketing departments, but it’s absolutely part of why you’ve brought such a vibrant community together. Thanks for all of the work that you do, especially when it feels disheartening!
(Also, thank you so much for sharing the CC photo – WOW. I’m gobsmacked at that, and now want to find out how all that barley and millet get *in* there to begin with!)
Yes, you didn’t fit into the crowd they were looking for. I believe the term Ted Nugent uses is “sheeple.”
Yes, that’s a good thing.
Yes, that’s why we love you.
I want so much to give this a thumbs up, Soldier! That was everything I was thinking when I was reading the blog post and this is my first time here.
I found a box of gluten free honey nut cheerios in my Safeway. Loving them and having no problems thus far 🙂
Celaic’s should NEVER trust their health to symptoms!
There are some nutrients and vitamins which are so critical to life the body maintains storage of them for times of famine and natural disaster. When you damage the villi responsible for absorbing those nutrients, you will notice few if any symptoms of it until it reaches a critical point. BY then it’s likely that emergency care in a hospital might be required.
One example is iron. It can take some time before the storage of iron is reduced enough to notice. Some of the early symptoms like dizzy spells and leg cramps can easily be written off to other issues. And they come and go for a period before doctors will think of anemia. IT can become critical before the villi recover enough to absorb it sufficiently well to avoid being admitted to the hospital.
It is always best to avoid rather than hope damage is not being done.
Many with actual celiacs disease though have a near immediate reaction every time gluten enters the system. If Claire is celiac and not simply sensitive, she may have simply gotten lucky and had a box that had no contamination, but there is still a chance one in however many can still be contaminated and she might have a reaction another time. Even if only in one bowl from that box. Or she could have celiac disease and just not be on the severe end of it.
We’re usually real excited parents when a gluten-free variety of an iconic kid’s food becomes available and tried the n Gluten free
Honey Nut Cheerios on our 13 year old. To my wife’s dismay, within the hour he was complaining of stomach ache and nausea. We’ve never had an issue with Bob’s Mill or Udi’s oat products. Whatever GM is doing it isn’t enough
It seems real hit or miss. Which means they aren’t doing it right, or so it seems.
This is my first time finding your blog. I had just seen the ad for their “process” and wondered what the heck they did to mechanically remove gluten from a grain that itself doesn’t contain it and only gets contaminated by shared fields and facilities. Seeing it had made me suspicious that it was just hype so I came looking and found my way here. Thank you for the very clear explanation. And while it may make it safer for gluten sensitive people, I can say as a celiac who’s excessively sensitive to gluten, I don’t feel safe trying it. For myself and many celiac sufferers, the less than 20ppm isn’t good enough if there is that actual 1 out of 200 grains still left in the 15,000 volume. It would be nice if they could get a certified gluten free oat source, but at least there are other oat cereals out there that do.
As for feeling bummed out from the summit, try not to feel down on yourself, particularly for not getting picked for their promotion. That honestly tells me you were doing the right thing and didn’t fall into their ploy. It tells me you still carried suspicions of just how gluten free this product is, and rightfully so. While it’s good enough for many who simply have a sensitivity to gluten in the same manner as one has a mild allergy, such processes where gluten grains still enter the facility and process is a high and dangerous risk for many of us on the severe end of things. All it takes is a mote of the stuff for some like myself to wind up with severe reactions. Your instincts were telling you something apparently and it flagged you to their PR people not to use you, that you’d be less than convincing. That’s a good thing!
Well..if it wasn’t for the new Cheerios I bought Friday I wouldn’t have found this site.SO for that I am grateful.
However, after having bought GF oats for YEARS (and at quite a price) I sat at the King Sooper and couldn’t believe the box said that “Oats were naturally Gluten Free” (Or something to that effect).
I had a bowl yesterday, and this morning…and I’m not a happy camper. YEP…the Celiac Monster after being silent for years after being on a strict diet, has awoken and is mad as heck! I did miss the taste- but right now it is not worth it (and especially today- thank you for the bathroom breaks in this article).
I found this because I googled whether Cheerios were really safe for celiacs. Well my vote is that if you have a problem with oats(Which I do unless they are the very expensive GF oats), or if you have celiac (as opposed to being Gluten Sensitive) you may have a serious problem -if you are anything like me.But I understand everyone is different.
I read what was on the box…and I knew better. But I took a shot. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Thanks for being there Dude, I’ll be reading you more regularly – and like your other reader, I found several different flavors of cheerios saying they were GF. Of course I’m writing in Sept 2015 – so I held off a long time before trying. But I’m giving them to my daughter who does not have celiac.
I have an 11 year old daughter with Celiacs. She has been sick now for over a week! We couldnt figure out why she wasnt getting any better. She starting eating the new “Gluten-Free” Cheerios about 10 days ago. I am PISSED. She has been in pain , missed a week of school, and missed soccer practice/game because we trusted the LABEL!! Oh I am so mad I could scream. Lost all faith in Cheerios. Thanks a lot.
I am so sorry for your daughter~ I have been off gluten for about 13 years so when I got the cheerios I knew by day 2. But if your daughter hasn’t been off wheat/gluten for a while the relapse can be really fast and hard! I’m so sorry!! The first bowl I felt a bit…funky, but it wasn’t an immediate “OH crud! I’ve eaten gluten” but by bowl #2 I was miserable.
Now, I don’t know what others on this site feel but my understanding is that OATS have to be GLUTEN FREE OATS and when they are the gluten society gives them their stamp of approval. The first time I discovered GF Oats was about 11 years ago. I called the company from my mobile to ask them HOW they had made GF Oats and they explained that they had to grow them an entirely different way. SO when I read the Cheerio box I was suspicious bc they say something to the effect that oats are gf naturally. Well- some celiacs can deal with oats, I cannot (and clearly your daughter can’t either). There are many cereals at grocery stores and health food stores that are GF -now the Oats (to make oatmeal ) that are GF are VERY expensive (about $12/bag). But the good news is there is a lot more food available (even at restaurants) than when I was diagnosed.
My daughter went off Gluten as a child- I remember having to make a ton of food for her to take to birthday parties (GF Cupcakes, candy, if they had Panda Express I’d have to bring PF CHANGS! Cha Ching!). But it’s getting easier. I hope your daughter is feeling better. Make sure you sign the fda thing to go to General Mills. They are doing an investigation bc people have been getting sick. Here is the site that I found it on: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/sick-after-eating-gluten-free-cheerios/. Good luck to you both! Dr Karen
Yeah, I found that they were not gluten-free ENOUGH for my gut. After a few days of MG Cheerios for breakfast, I realized why I was feeling so bad. DUH!
I’ve sent my comments to GM. Unlikely that will change anything. Too bad they can’t get their suppliers to dedicate some acreage to oats, and only oats. Then we’d have LOTS of GF oats!
I was diagnosed with celiac disease 1.5 months ago. After going gluten free, I have been amazed at how well I feel. I have been very hesitant to try Cheerios due to the fact that they had a recall back in Nov. and because oats are processed with wheat next to it most of the time. My husband bought a box of “Gluten Free” Honey Nut Cheerios cereal two days ago. I tried one bowl yesterday and today I’m super sick having to stay near the bathroom. 🙁 There must of been enough gluten in there to make me sick or maybe I have developed a bad reaction to oats too. I didn’t test positive to any oat allergy or intolerance. Is there a specific test I should ask for, or is it pretty likely that there was indeed too much gluten in our box of cereal for my body?
I appreciate your straight forward info on the GF Cheerios.I recently had a horrible reaction to them .I know for certain that is what I reacted to as I had been eating very clean ,not even GF flours for a few weeks. I thought some cereal sounded like a nice break from the fruits,veggies and fish. They tasted wonderful! But the after affects were a nightmare !! not just stomach upset….migraine, joint pains,rash like my skin was on fire…all over my body….generally felt like shit….3 days later Im still feeling bad. I will not be touching the GF Cheerios again!!! I dont care how clean they say they can get those oats.
I was diagnosed about 3 years ago with celiac disease, after having stomach problems all my life. after numerous biopsys blood test etc., I started a GF diet. Within a week I felt better than I have in years. I couldnt believe how I felt. I studied everything I ate. And I continued to feel well for about two and a half years.
I was a cheerios addict and ate them and oatmeal everyday. sooo when cheerios went GF I was really excited, and started eating them almost everyday. About six months ago I started feeling extremely bloated and having gas and bowel problems. so I went back to gastro and had all the test all over again. My GF levels are so high and the drs. think I am not following my diet. I figured that I had to be getting gluten in my diet everyday to have my levels be so high.Well, the only thing I eat everyday is cheerios. So I cut them out of my diet a week ago. And low and behold…….My stomach is definitly feeling better. I am very disappointed but I am almost one hundred percent sure that the cheerios have set me off again. I would be happy if someone could prove me wrong because I miss my cheerios. So I will be seeing a nutritionist this week and this is what I am bringing to the table. does anyone have any thoughts?
GF Cheerios have not been advertised nor been available in any stores in my area until just recently. I’m guessing the first batches of tainted cereal were being tested in major cities. They obviously recalled it but now that it’s made it’s way to small-town USA, I assume they have fixed the issue? Would love to have an update to this!
No General Mills did nothing to change their proprietary process. It is the same tainted product, same game of Russian Roulette for consumers. People are still being made seriously ill from General Mills oat flour.
My mom, my grandpa, and myself all got very sick after eating these. We all have gluten intolerance or celiac. They are NOT gluten free. They say they are, but they clearly have some more work to do.
my husband needed to fill out TX TDI T-47 a few days ago and was told about a document management site that has lots of sample forms . If others require TX TDI T-47 also , here’s a
Helpful discussion ! Speaking of which , others are searching for a ATF 4 (5320.4) , my boss saw a template version here
I just ate a bowl, and my tummy feels fine – Will continue buying!
I think the Gluten Dude’s apprehensions about the Cheerios are well-founded.
I have eaten many bowls of Cheerios and felt fine, until I didn’t. Until two days ago I have been relying on Cheerios as my on-the-go snack, carrying a container full of Cheerios daily with me to my job as daycare for my grandchildren, for months. No time for food preparation, I thought. Just pop them in my mouth. But I became suspicious of them after experiencing problems.
Since the oats Cheerios are made from have not been soaked and fermented, I conclude that Cheerios contain a lot of phytic acid. It seems that the phytic acid can’t be removed after the Cheerios are made, unless maybe one wants to ferment Cheerios. But that would be a waste of time since I read that they contain glyphosate, anyway.