In my last two posts I mentioned Cheerios and how there was a controversy about them but I didn’t get into the specifics. People have asked about it so here it is:
General Mills and the FDA consider Cheerios to be Gluten Free and say they satisfy the government standard of >20ppm (parts per million) of Gluten per serving. Anything below 20 ppm qualifies for the Gluten Free label.
But…if you visit Celiac boards you will discover that the Celiac community does not consider them safe and many complain that they still get sick “gluten-ed” from eating them.
When my daughter first started eating Cheerios (with no immediate reaction) I was naturally still a bit concerned so I started asking about it on a Celiac Facebook page. The page admin sent an email to Cheerios and this was the response:
Thanks for the question!
Cheerios are made with Whole Grain Oats as the first ingredient. Oats are inherently gluten free, but the supply of oats contain small amounts of wheat, rye and barley that are inadvertently introduced at the farm or during transportation which prevents the product from being labeled Gluten Free. We have developed a process to remove the wheat, rye and barley from our supply of whole oats in order to ensure that the oats in Cheerios is Gluten Free. This is something we have worked on developing for several years. The other ingredients in our cereal products are already gluten free.
Whenever we manufacture gluten-free products, we take specific steps to ensure that the process and equipment used does not provide any opportunity for gluten or gluten-containing ingredients to get into our products. General Mills has stringent programs and precautions in place to ensure the product meets gluten-free requirements. We are confident that every box and every serving of Gluten Free Cheerios we make is below the FDA standard of 20 ppm. We hope this helps? Thanks for getting in touch!
So in a nutshell, while oats are naturally GF they are often cross contaminated. Some companies pay more and procure certified GF oats for their products but General Mills invented a process that “removes” the wheat, barley and rye form the previously contaminated oats. Well clearly the PROCESS does a good enough job to get the >20 ppm but does not actually make the oats themselves GF. Hence the reason highly sensitive people still keep getting sick. I hope that helps.
**Update Oct 2017 – Cheerios is now removing the “Gluten Free” label from their packaging in Canada! http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/cheerios-to-remove-gluten-free-label-canada-1.4370176