Leading Celiac Disease Non-Profit Weighs In on the General Mills Voluntary Recall of Certain Yellow Box and Honey Nut Cheerios for Containing Wheat
Ambler, PA – October 7, 2015 – On October 5, Cheerios issued a press release announcing that certain lots of the Yellow Box and Honey Nut varieties of the cereal produced at their Lodi, California facility contained wheat flour, making them not gluten-free and thus unsafe for the celiac disease community. General Mills stated the incident happened because cross-contact with wheat flour occurred while oat flour was being transported from the mill to its Lodi California cereal plant. This affected an estimated 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is committed to fighting for food safety for those with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders. Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune condition that is triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Even small amounts of gluten can cause intestinal damage in a person with celiac disease and start an autoimmune reaction, even if that person doesn’t experience noticeable symptoms.
When the incident involving the cross-contact during the manufacturing process was confirmed, Cheerios issued a voluntary recall. This is because the Cheerios in question no longer met the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards for gluten-free food labeling passed in 2013: Foods labeled gluten-free must contain fewer than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten (among other standards). The FDA’s labeling rule does notmandate testing of the products labeled gluten-free. Cheerios tests their own products for gluten throughout production, but that testing was not sufficient to prevent Cheerios containing wheat from entering the market. NFCA has and will continue to advocate for third party review of this critical step in guaranteeing that Cheerios are safe for those with gluten-related disorders. If people with celiac disease have any concern over any products, ingredients or preparation methods of any manufacturer, we encourage the community to err on the side of caution and avoid the product completely.
“This recall is particularly difficult for those with celiac disease who typically manage this serious genetic autoimmune disease on their own, with little guidance from the medical community and no access to a drug therapy to date.” said Alice Bast, NFCA President and CEO. “With such a beloved product newly introduced to the market, patients are even more confused about gluten-free labeling and package claims.”
Over the last three months, NFCA has been consulting with members of our esteemed Scientific/Medical Advisory Council and other technical experts about their recommendations related to oat consumption and their view on the testing methods deployed by General Mills. The organization is closely monitoring reports of patient illness while also educating them about food safety issues, including how to report adverse reactions to FDA-regulated foods. NFCA will continue to provide the community with updates on Cheerios (and any labeled gluten-free product in which gluten is a concern) as more information becomes available.
NFCA appreciates the steps that Cheerios is taking to alert the public of this error and expedite the recall to make sure that every box of affected Cheerios is taken off store shelves. We urge the community to report all reactions to both General Mills and the FDA. Visit www.beyondceliac.org/FDA to learn more about how products can be reported to the FDA. To get in touch with General Mills, call Consumer Services at 1-800-775-8370.
In light of this recall, NFCA continues to urge all manufacturers making a gluten-free claim to explore certification through the Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP). NFCA endorses the GFCP because it is the world’s most rigorous testing program and provides the community with an added layer of assurance that products labeled gluten-free live up to their claim.
NFCA is affiliated with the leading researchers internationally and supports collaboration and partnership among scientists and institutions to optimize research potential with the goal of improving the quality of life for those who have celiac disease.
A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, NFCA is a leading source of free patient resources and industry training programs that not only help people get diagnosed, but also ensure they restore their health and reclaim their lives after diagnosis. For more information, visit www.beyondceliac.org.