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.