The Gluten Free Watchdog Takes a Position on Oats: A review of “GF Cheerios: Take Two”


Move over Ralph Nader, there’s an independent voice in the gluten free community.
Tricia Thompson MS RD runs the Gluten Free Watchdog website. She routinely pulls gluten free food off shelves and tests it for gluten.
She has her work cut out for her. The new gluten free labeling law of 2014, although a first step toward identifying safe GF products, is a soft law. It doesn’t require manufacturers to test, doesn’t require a particular type of test or outside tests, and doesn’t regulate the frequency of testing. If labeled GF, the final product simply cannot contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or more of gluten.
Before the new law, only oats certified GF by an outside agency were allowed on the strict gluten free diet. Now General Mills will be mechanically cleaning regular oats and as long as they can prove them to be under 20ppm, they can be labeled GF.
chex clusters
That means GM will be launching SEVEN “new” GF cereals this fall—FIVE flavors of Cheerios, CHEX CLUSTERS FRUIT AND OATS, and even LUCKY CHARMS (which will be labeled GF under the nutrition panel).
image from general mills
Tricia Thompson recommends sticking with certified GF oat cereals. Should we follow her recommendation? It’s a personal choice, so learn as much as you can. Consider the following:
1) She knows her oats. In the past she has pulled oat samples (i.e. McCann and Quaker Oats) and discovered cross contamination can run from hundreds to thousands ppm.
2) She toured the GM facility (as did others) and realized that not each and every box was tested.
3) 12-18 boxes had samples taken. The samples were then mixed (diluted) and then tested, which means there could be boxes testing over 20ppm, but because of dilution, would not be discovered.
Is General Mills right or wrong to not offer outside certification in this story? Here are steps they’ve taken:
1) Over the last 5 years they have spent more than 700 million dollars and are dedicated to product safety and the new GF law.
2) They have invited several national celiac organization representatives to tour the facility and ask questions.

The gluten free labeling law was supposed to protect us. Does the law need to be re-examined? There is still doubt about using regular oats, and we hope that future testing by independents like The Gluten Free Watchdog will help us make decisions. Because it WILL be a PERSONAL DECISION whether you make the commitment to purchase only third party certified gluten free products or choose mainstream products labeled gluten free but tested “in house”. Especially products containing oats.
Read “Gluten Free Cheerios: Take Two” by Tricia Thompson MS RD HERE

6 thoughts on “The Gluten Free Watchdog Takes a Position on Oats: A review of “GF Cheerios: Take Two””

  1. I will not eat the gluten free cheerios, but will be glad when my husband does. It may eliminate some cross contamination possibility.

  2. Excellent & concise review, Laurie. We in the CD community are extremely fortunate to have GFW/Tricia Thompson looking into such matters. If not for her, large (and small alike) food manufactures would be able to do whatever they want without much resistance. The FDA certainly doesn’t ‘have our backs’ here. Thank you for writing this article and for encouraging readers to pause and ask questions.

  3. Thank you for posting this informative article and these vital statistics. Tricia Thompson is a tireless advocate for those living gluten-free, and her work is both thorough and trustworthy. I am grateful for the resources she provides; it is reassuring to have such an active advocate looking out for the community.
    It is such a personal decision where we each draw our lines regarding gluten-free manufacturing and cross-contamination, but people like Tricia truly help us make that decision in the most informed way possible.
    For those interested in another “Dude”‘s opinion (hint: he agrees with the GF Watchdog 😉 ), Gluten Dude has blogged on the subject, as well:

    Happy (and safe) breakfasting to all!

  4. Thanks for the link to the article. I’m heartened that General Mills is taking Tricia Thompson’s concerns seriously and is working with her to improve the products and testing protocol. For now I don’t think the risk is worth the benefit and I’ll be avoiding these products. There are plenty of other cereals that provide more gluten free certainty.

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