I’m sure that many of you have already heard the news that has been tearing through the Celiac/gluten free community this week – General Mills recalled 1.8 million boxes of “gluten free” Cheerios due to the presence of wheat.
Why the quotation marks around the words “gluten free”? Because since General Mills announced their lot testing and gluten-removal process, I have been very skeptical. My concerns proved to be valid on Monday when General Mills made their announcement.
Now two days after the recall was announced, there are still so many questions:
– How did 1.8 million boxes – 13 days worth of production – slip through your testing? (Their testing is obviously not sufficient) Do you continue to plan on testing your products this way?
– What are you doing to clean that facility now that the gluten free production lines have been contaminated?
– These lines have been contaminated since July – does that mean that all of the Cheerios made at that facility since then are unsafe?
– This mistake slipped through your fingers without you noticing – how many other times could this have happened?
– Why did you not take the complaints of people getting sick seriously? (Their response was that people were reacting to the oats or fiber content)
I must say that it saddens me to read comments online about people wanting to give Cheerios a second chance. “Switch to Freedom Foods – their cereal is great!” I want to yell. “Jennifer’s Way has muffins that are way better than Cheerios!”
When Cheerios was first announced, many people rejoiced over the idea of regaining a comfort food that they thought they had lost when going gluten free. It’s a feeling of normalcy (what is normal anyhow, when everyone seems to have one health issue or another). However, we must recognize that as “normal” as we try to make our lives, we have a dietary restriction that requires us to contently be on our guard. It is our livelihood. It is our health. And by putting our faith in large companies that don’t seem to care about our wellbeing we are putting ourselves in danger.
General Mills has not been taking our concerns seriously. They ignore the complaints that their cereal is making people sick and blame it on a sensitivity to oats or the fiber content. They say they are “embarrassed” about the situation (to which I say, “You are embarrassed while there are people across the country rolling in pain because of your monstrous mistake – I’m sorry you feel embarrassed.”). They post jokes about us on twitter (in case you missed it, one of the gluten-free Cheerios team members posted “At some point I need to just run into a room full of moms & dads and yell ‘GLUTEN,’ just to watch this ensuring battle.”) If they don’t take our disease seriously, why are we trusting them? Why are we giving them our money?
It is my hope that this truly awful incident begins to steer the community in a different direction. We need to support the businesses that truly care. There were so many new and growing companies at the GFAF Expo last weekend. Companies that were founded by people with Celiac Disease. Companies that test their products and have a gluten free certification. Companies that make it their mission to make products that are free from gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, nuts, casein, corn, GMOs, preservatives, and artificial flavors so they can truly help people who are suffering. Sure they need to make money, too, but they are doing things the right way and for the right reasons. They are the companies and individuals we should be investing in. By investing in them and being vocal about what we will not tolerate as a community, we pave the way for the future of our community to be better, stronger, and safer.
If you haven’t read my recent recap of the GFAF Expo, I mentioned a lot of really wonderful companies that I felt were doing good work. I want to help support them because they are supporting us. I hope you’ll visit their websites and perhaps buy a cookie or two.
Also, Gluten Dude began using the hashtag #NoCureNoChoice – take us seriously; don’t try to do gluten free if you’re going to do it half-heartedly; this is our livelihood. I encourage you to use it while posting on social media.
These are my opinions. I will never be the person who tries to force someone to eat a certain way. But if you are still eating Cheerios and are getting sick, I urge you to report it to both General Mill and the FDA.
Stay safe, everyone.
Contact General Mills (You will need the box information, so do not throw it away!)
General Mills Customer Service:
Contact the FDA
From the Gluten-Free Watchdog website:
If you believe you became ill after eating Cheerios, FDA is asking that you contact FDA’s MEDWATCH, the Adverse Event Reporting System. You can do this online https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/index.cfm?action=reporting.homeor via phone (800) 332-1088. Choose option #4 to speak to a representative.