On Monday, General Mills recalled 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios that were labeled as gluten-free but may actually contain gluten. The contamination reportedly occurred in a factory in Lodi, California.
The incident, which involved wheat-contaminated oat flour being used in gluten-free cereal production, occurred in July and affects four days’ worth of cereal. General Mills currently manufactures many different gluten-free cereals, but only Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios are affected by this incident. Honey Nut Cheerios is the best-selling cereal in the country.
According to president of the cereal division at General Mills Jim Murphy, “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.” Murphy released this statement on the company’s blog.
Concerns arose when reports from 39 people indicated they suffered illness due to ingestion of gluten from the company’s cereal. The FDA then investigated the claims that the cereal was gluten-free and found the presence of wheat. More concerns have now arisen in regards to the way General Mills tests their cereal for gluten. Instead of buying certified gluten-free oat flour, which is expensive and in short supply, General Mills developed a method to test for gluten from composite samples from numerous boxes that they manufacture. However, this process may not accurately represent the presence or lack thereof of gluten in their product.
The cereal being recalled comprises “Better If Used By” dates spanning from July 12, 2016 through July 25, 2016. A full list of which cereals are associated with which dates can be found on General Mills’ website. Interestingly, General Mills cereal has always been used with oats, although the cereal itself is not made in an entirely wheat-free facility, which means those people who are extra-sensitive to gluten are put at risk.
For those with gluten-related illnesses and sensitivities, the results of ingesting too much gluten can be highly uncomfortable and even fatal. Sufferers of celiac disease, the most common gluten-related autoimmune illness, may experience depression, abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea after eating gluten.