Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cheerios GMO-free, but not gluten-free

General Mills is scrambling to deal with contamination of Cheerios with gluten, possibly because wheat flour was mistakenly used in the mix at its plant in California.

General Mills is recalling 1.8 million boxes of the breakfast cereal it advertises as gluten free.The company made headlines last year when it announced that Cheerios would become the first breakfast cereal free of genetically-modified organisms (GMO).

Both claims are easy to achieve with oats because no oat varieties have genes imported from other species, as do most corn and soybean varieties on the North American market. Oats also contain no gluten.

The company said Monday it was recalling the original and honey nut-flavoured varieties of Cheerios produced on certain days at its Lodi, California facility. Only the “original” brand is advertised as GMO free.

The incident occurred when the facility lost rail service and the company’s gluten-free oat flour was being offloaded from rail cars to trucks for delivery, said Jim Murphy, president of the company’s cereal business, in a blog post on General Mills’ website. He said it was an isolated event and a result of human error.

“We sincerely apologize to the gluten-free community and to anyone who may have been impacted,” Murphy said.

Ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, by individuals with celiac disease causes an autoimmune response that attacks the small intestine, damaging the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients.