So…Nature’s Path was at the Gluten-Free Expo in NJ this past weekend. (Yes…this is relevant.) It was discovered they were handing out samples that were…wait for it…NOT GLUTEN FREE. And because they were samples, there were no ingredients listed. Can you believe it? Not only that, but the next day, someone sent me an image of their “Love Crunch Bar” that says Certified Gluten-Free on the front. And what does it say on the back? MAY CONTAIN WHEAT. Seriously. It’s companies like this that I don’t want anywhere near me or my stomach.
This leads me into my “WE ARE NOT LAB RATS FOR YOU TO EXPERIMENT ON” celiac rant.
If you did not hear the news yesterday, Cheerios VOLUNTARILY (like they had a choice) recalled 1.8 million boxes of gluten-free Plain and Honey Nut Cheerios “because an isolated incident resulted in wheat flour being inadvertently introduced into the gluten free oat flour system.” (their words, not mine). You can read the whole statement here.
Now…let me bring you back 10 days, after I’d been hearing story after story of my fellow celiacs getting sick after eating Cheerios. I emailed my connection at Cheerios the following:
Notice there was no attacking…no disrespect. If Cheerios is going to be on the shelf, I’ll do what I can to educate and help the community.
A few days later, I heard back, not from my connection, but from their Brand Media Relations Manager (I gotta get me one of those). Here is what he told me:
We made Cheerios gluten-free to help provide an affordable, nutrient-dense option for those seeking a gluten-free option. And Cheerios are gluten free. However, even oat-based gluten-free products may not be tolerable for all people with celiac disease. Because the circumstances of any one individual are unique, even gluten-free Cheerios may still not be an option for all celiacs. We care deeply about our consumers, and particularly about the Gluten Free community. We also know that no one product may ever work for 100% of the celiac community.
If consumers have questions or concerns, please have them contact us directly. We’ll provide information to help them and their physician make an informed decision about our gluten-free products.
Typical corporate mish-mash, flim-flam, jib-jab. Typical corporate arrogance.
We don’t make mistakes.
The issues must be with the consumer…not us.
We know more about celiac disease than you do.
Oh and yeah, finding a physician to have our back would be nice. But have you read these doctor horror stories? And what would a physician possibly say about eating Cheerios anyway? A doctor’s visit for a celiac usually entails “Don’t eat gluten.” Thanks doc.
Not loving his answer, I then followed up with this:
- Why are you using mean testing instead of testing individual boxes?
- Will you release your testing scores and if not, why?
- Do you find it a bit…thinking of the right word here…questionable for Cheerios to pay bloggers and popular websites (UpWorthy) to promote your product?
His response? Silence. Nothing but silence. I prodded him a bit further and he simply danced around the questions, not answering any of them.
And now I know why.
Now I know why they don’t test individual boxes.
Now I know why they will not release their testing scores.
Now I know why so many celiacs have gotten sick the past few months after eating Cheerios.
Now I know why I should always listen to my gut (no pun intended).
But there is still so much I don’t know.
I don’t know why we have an FDA rule that mandates that any food item labeled gluten-free must fall below 20PPM, but the rule does not require manufacturers to test their final products to prove that they actually contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
I don’t know why it took until October 5 to announce the recall when this incident happened in July.
I don’t know how they came to find out about the incident. Did they test a few boxes that came back real high and then reverse-engineered what happened? We’ll never know.
I don’t know why so many are willing to forgive and forget already and are happy that they haven’t gotten sick yet. I got a comment on Facebook that said “Ok. So the multigrain ones are NOT affected?” My response was simply: “Seriously?”
I don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky…stormy weather.
Look…do I think the folks at GM are evil people who are intentionally poisoning us for profit? No I don’t. But damn…transparency goes such a long way, especially within our community. Instead of denying for months that your product was causing our community harm, don’t you wish you kept the lines of communication open just a bit more?
And instead of paying bloggers and other websites to promote your product, don’t you wish you took a more “sincere” route?
And instead of using “Phil” as your marketing ploy (trying to grab at our heart strings), don’t you now wish you used a different approach? Because Phil’s niece most likely got sick. I actually feel bad for Phil. I met him. Good guy. Been at GM for 51 years. Got used.
And here’s the million dollar question: What becomes of the “dedicated gluten free facility” where the incident happened? Does it simply get hosed down and you call it a day? How will you prevent cross-contamination using the same facility?
So disgusted. So disappointed. So tired of needing to write these kind of posts.
I created a new hashtag on Twitter last week that came from an awesome suggestion via email after all of the jokes about gluten free on TV last week.
It’s #NoCureNoChoice (please use and share.)
It simply means…you can’t do gluten-free half ass. We have to live this way for the rest of our lives. We take enough risks every time we eat outside our home. If you make a product and you label it gluten-free, it damn well better be safe for us.
Do it right for the celiac community or get out of the gluten-free business.
And that includes you Cheerios.
Update: Just got this word straight from Cheerios: “Finished product testing was not done on these run dates at Lodi (the facility where the incident happened), and therefore this problem was not discovered at the time of production.”
Process that folks. For 13 days, no testing was done on the finished product. Just wonderful. GM…[expletive goes here].