A mini-warning about gluten-free Cheerios

Cheerios went through a major change recently that has caused some serious issues. General Mills made the decision to make Cheerios gluten-free, which includes a few of the Cheerios varieties — Original, Honey Nut, Apple Cinnamon, Frosted and Multi-Grain. So now everyone can enjoy the classic breakfast cereal, even those who can’t have gluten.

Cheerios explained the change on their website: “We believe that Cheerios should be enjoyed by everyone. By simply removing stray wheat, rye and barley grains from the Cheerios’ oat supply, Cheerios will still have the same great taste, but will be gluten-free.”

Unfortunately, things didn’t really go according to what they had planned. On Monday, General Mills announced a massive recall of 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios produced at a plant in Lodi, California. According to General Mills, human error is to blame. Both types of cereal were inadvertently made with wheat flour on multiple days in July, and wheat flour is, of course, not gluten-free. The recall only affects the original Cheerios and Honey Nut, not any of the other gluten-free Cheerios varieties.

Jim Murphy, president of the Cereal division at General Mills, wrote on the company’s blog, “As president of General Mills’ cereal business, I am embarrassed and truly sorry to announce today that we are recalling boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios produced on several dates at our Lodi, California facility.”

After 39 Cheerios consumers with celiac disease or gluten allergies complained about feeling sick after eating Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, the FDA was called in to investigate — and their findings solidified the inclusion of wheat flour in the products.

The blog goes on to explain exactly how this happened: “General Mills was in the process of changing five varieties of Cheerios cereal to meet the FDA standard for gluten free products. The company had tested its oat supply, and confirmed that it met the standard for gluten free. The company had also tested the oat flour used to make its gluten free products at its Lodi facility, and confirmed that its oat flour met the FDA gluten free standard.

During the dates in question, the company’s Lodi facility lost rail service, and the company’s gluten-free oat flour was off-loaded from rail cars and transferred to trucks. The company believes this isolated incident resulted in wheat flour being inadvertently introduced into the gluten-free oat flour system at its Lodi facility, adding an undeclared allergen – wheat – into products labeled as gluten free.”

Cheerios is asking customers with wheat allergies, celiac disease or a gluten intolerance to check the “BETTER IF USED BY” date on the cereal boxes to ensure your cereal is gluten free. Detailed instructions can be viewed on their website.

While such a massive recall is never a good thing for business, we are so happy the mistake was caught before more people got sick. Be safe out there, gluten intolerant friends!

(Image via iStock)