General Mills announced on Oct. 5 that it is voluntarily recalling 1.8 million boxes of the new gluten-free version of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios produced in July, because of contamination with wheat.
The company said in a press release that an “isolated incident” at its Lodi, California facility resulted in wheat flour being “inadvertently introduced into the gluten-free oat flour system” during the manufacture of the specific products.
The recall followed several consumer complaints to the FDA about adverse reactions to gluten-free-labeled original Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, which the agency began to investigate in September.
On Oct. 6, the FDA released the results of the investigation, which found that 35 samples from different General Mills facilities did meet the federal standard of less than 20 parts per million of gluten in cereal labeled gluten-free. However, one sample was above it, testing at 43 parts per million of gluten.
In a blog post, Jim Murphy, the president of General Mills cereal division said: “I am embarrassed and truly sorry” for the human error that led to the recall. “We sincerely apologize to the gluten-free community and to anyone who may have been impacted,” he said.
Murphy said indicated the error stemmed from a delivery mix-up, rather than the oat supply itself. The FDA has said of the recall that it will work to ensure “the underlying cause is identified and addressed.”
General Mills announced five gluten-free Cheerios products in February. While some companies use specially grown and processed pure, uncontaminated oats to qualify as gluten-free under FDA and Health Canada standards of less than 20 ppm of gluten, General Mills has taken a different approach.
The company introduced a mechanical process for cleaning oats, which is intended to remove even the smallest microscopic fragments of wheat proteins from the company’s whole grain oats used to make gluten-free Cheerios.
However, dietitian Tricia Thompson of the independent Gluten Free Watchdog website has concerns about the sorting and testing processes, and in August called on General Mills to consider some changes for gluten-free cereal production.
The cereal affected by the recall include boxes with the following “better if used by” labels:
Honey Nut Cheerios:
Yellow Box Cheerios:
General Mills’ other gluten-free Cheerios – including Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, Frosted Cheerios and MultiGrain Cheerios – are not impacted and are not being recalled. No other General Mills cereals are affected.
Consumers requiring further details on the recall can call General Mills Consumer Services at 1-800-775-8370.