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Cheerios Varieties Labeled Gluten-Free Recalled Because They May Contain Gluten

Oct 7, 2015

General Mills has voluntarily recalled about 1.8 million boxes of original Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios labeled gluten-free because they may contain wheat, a source of gluten.

The "undeclared allergen" could cause adverse health consequences for those with wheat allergies, celiac disease or gluten intolerance, the Washington Post reports. Such people should not consume the recalled products, the company said in a statement.

Jim Murphy, senior vice president of General Mills’ cereal division, said he was "embarrassed and truly sorry" for an incident that allowed wheat flour to be introduced into the gluten-free oat flour system at a production facility in Lodi, California, according to the Washington Post.

The Food and Drug Administration said that since mid-September, it has received 125 reports of "adverse events from/about consumers who ate Cheerios labeled gluten-free." The FDA said it’s "not aware of any reports of hospitalizations or deaths from the consumption of Cheerios labeled gluten-free."

The affected original Cheerios were produced over four days in July, and the affected Honey Nut Cheerios were produced over 13 days, the company said. About 150,000 cases of Cheerios shipped nationwide fall under the recall, the Post reports. The "better if used by" dates for recalled Honey Nut Cheerios: 12JUL2016LD, 13JUL2016LD, 14JUL2016LD, 15JUL2016LD, 16JUL2016LD, 17JUL2016LD, 18JUL2016LD, 20JUL2016LD, 21JUL2016LD, 22JUL2016LD, 23JUL2016LD, 24JUL2016LD, and 25JUL2016LD. "Better if used by" dates for recalled original Cheerios: 14JUL2016LD, 15JUL2016LD, 16JUL2016LD, and 17JUL2016LD.

General Mills the affected boxes will be removed from store shelves and warehouses. Customers with affected products can contact General Mills for a replacement or refund.

Jim Murphy explained that the introduction of wheat into the gluten-free Cheerios was inadvertent. Rail service to the Lodi facility was interrupted at a time when "gluten-free oat flour was being off-loaded from rail cars to trucks for delivery to our facility on the dates in question." The bulk trucks carrying the oat flour are believed to have recently carried wheat, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and wheat was inadvertently introduced into the flour supply.

For people with celiac disease, the body's immune system reacts to the gluten in wheat and some other grains and causes damage to the intestine, making it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, especially fat, calcium, iron, and folate, WebMD explains.

Celiac symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, and weight loss. Children may experience growth problems and show signs of may show signs of malnourishment, according to WebMD. Teenagers could have delayed puberty. Adults with celiac disease may develop osteoporosis because the body cannot absorb sufficient calcium, and women may experience infertility and miscarriages.

One in 133 Americans has celiac disease and needs to follow a gluten-free diet to control symptoms. To serve the gluten-free market, General Mills announced earlier this year that it would retool its facilities so that five varieties of Cheerios would be gluten-free. Gluten-free Cheerios produced at the Lodi plant on other dates and Cheerios produced at other General Mills facilities are safe for those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities, the company says.

General Mills executive Jim Murphy offered sincere apologies "to the gluten-free community and to anyone who may have been impacted."

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