The Gluten-Free Cheerios Deception

Sign the petition here to help us ensure that gluten-free labeled Cheerios really means gluten-free for all.

If Cheerios made you sick, please go here and follow the information given by Tricia Thompson to report to the FDA.

Does the Celiac Disease Foundation really have our best interests at heart now that they are being sponsored by Cheerios?

Does the Celiac Disease Foundation really have our best interests at heart now that they are being sponsored by Cheerios?

You are being deceived.

All the bloggers sharing the news about General Mills’ gluten-free Cheerios are feeding you what you want. You see the headlines about the new Cheerios and gloss over their statements of, “This is what Gluten-Free Watchdog has to say. You’ll have to decide for yourself.”

Yes, we all have to decide for ourselves, but that little statement they make in the midst of their shiny happy posts gets lost on so many people. If you catch it, you might think, “Oh, yeah, cool. I have the power” and you most certainly do. What it’s really there for is to serve as a CYA clause. Haven’t heard of a CYA clause? That’s the fancy legal jargon for cover your ass. I’m not kidding. It’s there so you can’t eat the Cheerios, get sick, and go back to them accusing them of steering you wrong. They can point to it and say, “Caveat emptor.” They get to wipe their hands of the mess.

Those who are sharing the posts from The Gluten-Free Watchdog, either haven’t read Tricia’s posts or read them and choose to ignore the facts. Because how can you have that information, disseminate it to others and then comment, “I wonder why that is” when someone leaves a comment on their post or page, reporting they got sick. If they have to ask that, something is very wrong. To have Tricia’s information and not know the answer is incomprehensible to me. There is no mea culpa with them.

Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Fun recently shared her phone call with General Mills marketing representatives in this post. The insistence that the product is gluten-free when the sourced oats are not grown under a purity protocol is ridiculous. All of us blogging and advocating for the gluten-free community should know that this is an immediate red flag. Oats are naturally gluten-free, but they come into contact with wheat, barley, and rye in the growth, harvesting, and transportation and they can NEVER be truly gluten-free because of this. The marketing of this cereal to the gluten-free community as being safe, the lack of transparency, and the excuses for why people are getting sick (rather than accepting responsibility) violates the American Marketing Association’s Statement of Ethics.

Every box of Cheerios you open and pour into your bowl is a gamble with your health. There’s no way to ensure that all the gluten is removed in this process. How is this better than sourcing oats that are grown under purity protocol? One is gluten-light while the other is gluten-free. Someone used “mitigate” to explain (and defend) what General Mills is doing with gluten-free Cheerios. That word right there should tell you everything you need to know. To mitigate means to make something less severe, serious, or painful or to lessen the gravity of an offense or mistake. Everything done in the production of this cereal is a mitigation, not a true production of a gluten-free product. There is no way to mitigate the effects the cereal has had on our community though. The damage is done.

Would you gamble with your life and drink one or all of these knowing there is a high risk that one or more contains poison, but you wouldn't be able to tell until after the fact?

Would you gamble with your life and drink one or all of these knowing there is a high risk that one or more contains poison, but you wouldn’t be able to tell until after the fact? Would you allow your child to?

Do you still want to eat these Cheerios? Yes? Let me ask you this, would you accept a salad at a restaurant that forgot to leave out the croutons and you can see from the visible crumbs that they picked them off? Would you take chips from a bowl after people eating sandwiches/pizza/etc. just stuck their hands into? Would you drink Omission beer? Would you drink from one or more of those shot glasses in the photo, blindfolded, knowing only that each one contains a colorless, odorless liquid? Maybe they’re all water. Maybe some are water and some are poison. Maybe only one is poison. Maybe they’re all poison. Would you take that risk? Would you allow a loved one to chance it? I don’t know about you, but I’m not Westley and I’m not immune to Iocane or gluten.

There is an unprecedented amount of people in our community getting sick from gluten-free labeled Cheerios. Instead of compassion for these people who mostly likely didn’t know how the cereal was being processed or tested, I’m seeing gaslighting and condescension. “I didn’t get sick so it’s not a problem.” “Some people with Celiac can’t tolerate gluten-free oats.” “You should only eat organic, unprocessed foods.” These are the same people who won’t support the Change.org petition even though this is a community-wide issue and could affect how Big Food does gluten-free processed foods in the future if General Mills is allowed to get away with this. I’m reading comments from people who reported to General Mills that they got sick and got responses that every box is below 20ppm or “that’s unusual.” Gaslighting when they could be giving callers a simple apology and assurance that they are working on it.

Food giants like General Mills only have one thing they care about. They want profits. They only did this mass change of Cheerios because they thought it could increase their declining sales. If you think they care about you, ask yourself why they didn’t pull this from the shelves voluntarily when they started getting call after call from consumers who had gotten sick. Or go back further in the timeline and ask yourself why they didn’t do this right from the get go.

“People are actually walking away from cereal because they are avoiding gluten,” says Mr. Murphy. At a time when cereal sales, including Cheerios, are weak, “we can’t afford that.”

Cheerios Will Now Really Be ‘Gluten-Free’, The Wall Street Journal website. Posted February 11, 2015

If you’re reading blog posts and comments on said posts and on social media, the same people saying Cheerios are safe and cheerleading for them are using the same excuses for people getting sick as General Mills gave Erin on the call. As bloggers, we all have a responsibility to our audience and not turn a blind eye to this situation and any others like it.

Advocating for celiac disease and the gluten-free community is #1 priority for those of us promoting ourselves as “authorities” and “experts” in this field. We cannot ignore the number of individuals becoming ill from this product and we must pull together, tell the truth and demand change from General Mills.

Gigi Stewart, petition comment used with permission

We’re supposed to be looking out for each other and we’re not. Gluten-free magazines are taking ad money from Cheerios when their product is clearly not produced in a manner that is safe for us. They are sponsoring the Celiac Disease Foundation, a resource I’m sure many of us turned to in our early days of going gluten-free.  I will not be renewing my subscriptions for any gluten-free magazine, using or referring other people to resource, or attending any gluten-free conferences that are taking money from General Mills. In my opinion, they have compromised their integrity much like the NFCA did with Domino’s.

Someone commented that I shouldn’t have started the petition because I didn’t try the Cheerios. Why would I try them when I had enough information to know they aren’t safe? Why do I need to try them to see our entire community is at risk here? When I was still in the mental health field advocating for the well-being of my clients, I didn’t need to be abused by their abusers to do so. I don’t have to experience something to know that wrong is being done.

I have nothing to lose by advocating for our community. Nothing. I should be working on my next novel and instead I’m fighting an uphill battle with like-minded bloggers because everything about this situation is shady. There are people in our community who don’t have our resources, who don’t have access to the internet and this information. They are buying the cereal, trusting in the gluten-free label. I cannot, in good conscience, let it keep happening.

Our community needs products they can trust. Celiac/gluten-sensitivity doesn’t care about socioeconomic status. Not everyone who needs to be gluten-free can afford to eat organic, unprocessed foods. There is a need for cheaper more accessible processed gluten-free foods for those who are on public assistance. Some kids may be on the spectrum and for them, their cereal is a sensory issue and they know when their parents try to switch brands on them. This isn’t about one diet being the right diet. We all eat gluten-free and do so differently, but it has to be safe. We rely on the new labeling regulations to keep us safe and trust manufacturers to do right. This is not happening here and it’s why General Mills needs to change the way they do gluten-free Cheerios.

We need to stop gambling for the sake of our community. Hundreds are/were glutened and the reports that seemed endless on social media are what prompted me to start the petition because we deserve better. We deserve to know that if we pick up something labeled gluten-free, that the company is processing and testing it properly to ensure our safety. We deserve to buy something for a loved one, knowing the look of glee on their face won’t change to one of pain.

We deserve better than the rhetorical, deceptive bullshit being served to us.

 

Gluten Free Watchdog Cheerios News:

Manufacturer Use of Regular Oats in Gluten-Free Foods

General Mills “Gluten-Free” Cheerios

More thoughts on gluten-free Cheerios

Gluten-Free Cheerios: Take Two

Gluten-Free Cheerios: Take Three

Updated Position on Gluten-Free Cheerios

Sick After Eating Gluten-Free Cheerios?

 

My previous posts:

Pissing In The Gluten-Free Cheerios

Effecting Change

 

Gluten-Free Homemaker

Gluten-Free Cheerios: Safe or Not?

Gluten-Free Cheerios: Safe or Not? Part 2

 

In Johnna’s Kitchen

Five Things You Need to Know About “Gluten-Free” Cheerios

Effecting Change

Cheerios

Please sign and share the petition on Change.org.

We are divided.

On one side of the gluten-free community who have gotten sick from the so-called gluten-free Cheerios, those who have seen them get sick and are refraining from trying them, and those who are aware of the processes and testing General Mills is employing and refuse to go near them.

The other side of the gluten-free community are those who have eaten the so-called gluten-free Cheerios without overt symptoms and those who have been compensated in one way or another to be cheerleaders for gluten-free Cheerios and are leading unsuspecting people into the the void.

You cannot ignore the reports of all the people who have said they have gotten sick when my post Pissing In The Gluten-Free Cheerios was shared on Facebook or on the Change.org petition I started. It’s there, in black and white. This is a high rate of reporting on something labeled gluten-free.

You would think that with all these reports, there would be more compassion from the community as a whole. That we would unite to make sure more of us in the gluten-free community don’t get sick.

Right?

I’ve seen comments from those who ate the gluten-free Cheerios, say they didn’t react, then wonder why people are upset. Or they are asymptomatic and say they’ll keep eating them.

Did we all forget that lack of symptoms doesn’t mean no reaction? That lack of symptoms could mean gluten is doing silent damage to your body? That enough silent reactions could lead to bigger health problems down the line?

How about those who are being rewarded by General Mills? The ones who  were flown up there and have been singing gluten-free Cheerios praises ever since?

Many of us got into blogging to share our stories and recipes. We do it without pay or any type of compensation. Eventually, some find sponsors who compensate the bloggers for their posts in favor of their product(s). I think there are only a handful of bloggers who can walk the line of advertising a product and maintaining the integrity of their blog.

Yes, I said integrity.

If you have integrity, how can you keep cheering on a product like gluten-free Cheerios and encouraging people to buy it when so many are falling ill?

As a former advocate in the mental health field, seeing wrong and wanting to make it right comes naturally. When a vice-principal sits across from me telling me he’s sure another student isn’t bullying my client because “he wouldn’t do something like that” when I know my client would lie to me, I don’t sit there and say, “Okay, if you say so.” No. I tell him he better take care of the situation or if I get another report of bullying from my client, I’ll make sure it will be the last.

Integrity, once lost, is hard to regain. Those of you beholden to General Mills need to re-evaluate what is more important: your integrity and the safety of the gluten-free community or monetary gain?

I don’t mince words. I don’t sugar coat. I don’t blow smoke. My former clients know this. While it stung being held accountable in the moment, they appreciated me because they knew my actions meant I cared.

This situation of people getting sick is unacceptable. After reading so many comments from people about their physical reaction, I started the petition. Action needed to be taken.

We need to unite. We need to stop thinking that just because “I didn’t react” that everyone else is wrong or out to get a food giant. We need to put aside personal gain and support those who are suffering.

This is a community issue and we need each other to effect change.

The 2015 GFE Retreat

Back: Johnna, Me, Shirley, & Linda Front: Valerie, Katie, & Diane Photo from Johnna Perry, used with permission.

Back: Johnna, Me, Shirley, & Linda
Front: Valerie, Katie, & Diane
Photo from Johnna Perry, used with permission.

I just spent an amazing weekend with some of my favorite people. It’s been two years since I last blogged about getting together with friends at Shirley Braden’s for a retreat. It was another year of menus with multiple dietary restrictions, but no one ever felt deprived.

Johnna's Scout Cookies. Chaz immediately wanted one when I texted him a picture.

Johnna’s Scout Cookies. Chaz immediately wanted one when I texted him a picture.

Most of us arrived Thursday. Shirley had vegetarian chili cooking in the slow cooker and Jennifer whipped up her famous salmon cakes. Right before dinner, Shirley baked some sweet potato biscuits and Linda made sure her Chopped Veggie Salad was good to go. There was also wine and Johnna’s Scout Cookies. And how can I forget her sriracha cashews?

No one went hungry and everyone ate easily according to their needs. Notice how healthy doesn't have to be boring?

No one went hungry and everyone ate easily according to their needs. Notice how healthy doesn’t have to be boring?

While we sat in the living room chatting and checking social media, I autographed a couple of books my friends brought. It was an honor since packing space is a premium when we come to the retreat and my book is pretty thick. I enjoyed a Viennese Tea Cookie and a Penguino from Mariposa, a gluten-free bakery based in San Francisco that Diane ordered some treats from.

This is what I finished and published instead of creating new recipes. I wouldn't take back that decision at all.

This is what I finished and published instead of creating new recipes. I wouldn’t take back that decision at all.

Just a few of the Mariposa treats. All gluten-free, most are vegan. Penguinos, croutons, graham crackers, & Viennese tea cookies. Thanks to Diane for ordering & shipping them to us.

Just a few of the Mariposa treats. All gluten-free, most are vegan. Penguinos, croutons, graham crackers, & Viennese tea cookies. Thanks to Diane for ordering & shipping them to us.

The next morning, I made a meatless variation of my Winter Hash, using Japanese sweet potatoes and spinach. We topped it with leftover chili, egg, and avocado. We took our time getting ourselves together for the day and before we left for our trip into Fredericksburg, the goodies I ordered from Annie May’s Sweet Café arrived. Let’s just say some of my friends discovered a new kind of crack in the Mini Oatmeal Cream Pies. We also pulled out the Kite Hill brie style cheese to enjoy on some of the Mariposa batard. I thought the cheese needed to be baked with some preserves. We also had Treeline cheese. Both cheeses are nut based and so much like real cheese that I wished they had been around when I had to be dairy-free. I can still enjoy them now though. They are both great brands to look out for if you miss cheese. (And better than the popular faux cheese with tons of ingredients, imo)

Meatless Winter Hash, leftover Veggie Chili, egg, avocado, and bacon. Great way to fuel up!

Meatless Winter Hash, leftover Veggie Chili, egg, avocado, and bacon. Great way to fuel up!

Brie style cheese from Kite Hill on Mariposa gluten-free, vegan batard.

Brie style cheese from Kite Hill on Mariposa gluten-free, vegan batard.

Treats from Annie May's Sweet Cafe. Ginger Cookies, Lemon Cookies, and Mini Oatmeal Cream Pies. Everyone was happy.

Treats from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe. Ginger Cookies, Lemon Cookies, and Mini Oatmeal Cream Pies. Everyone was happy.

We wandered around downtown Fredericksburg, checking out stores that looked interesting or that we visit yearly. I usually find a Christmas gift or two, but this year, nothing screamed out: BUY ME! We stopped briefly at Kickshaws, a small market run by a friend of Shirley’s whom we met last year. She wasn’t in the store when we arrived, but they are working on expanding and adding a kitchen and they are now serving some pre-made foods and goodies. I spotted a delicious looking egg salad sandwich in the case (I’m a sucker for a good egg salad sandwich), Johnna bought some gluten-free, vegan brownies, and Valerie bought the gluten-free, vegan Peaches & Cream cupcakes. As for me, I bought some local ground coffee (you can never have too much coffee) and a snack package of green olives. I ate the olives on my flight home and they were DELICIOUS.

If only I could take the TARDIS to visit my friends ALL the time. Talk about having your cake and eating it too with all that wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

If only I could take the TARDIS to visit my friends ALL the time. Talk about having your cake and eating it too with all that wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

Kickshaws had a wonderful array of gluten-free, vegan treats on display. The brownies were divine and the peaches & cream cupcakes were pure bliss.

Kickshaws had a wonderful array of gluten-free, vegan treats on display. The brownies were divine and the peaches & cream cupcakes were pure bliss.

When we were done, we headed to Bistro Bethem for dinner where I ordered a delightful Bordeaux Blanc, the chef created two special vegan dishes for our table, and Katie Oliver joined us. While Katie isn’t a gluten-free blogger (or even need to be gluten-free), she is a friend of Shirley’s who introduced the two of us on Twitter a few years ago and it’s been BFF fun time ever since.

Not only did we have the menu items to choose from, but the specials on the board too. They were able to easily modify dishes to our needs. I ordered a Caesar Salad (no croutons) and the Stuffed Quail. I was not disappointed at all. Upon checking out the dessert menu, Johnna and I decided we needed to try the Butterscotch Pots de Crème and the Lemon Parfait. Johnna ordered one of each for the table to share. And Valerie ordered a blackberry sorbet. The Butterscotch Pots de Crème was my favorite. Let me tell you, it is a joy to be able to go out to dinner and pass something around, not worrying about getting sick.

Does this look unhealthy, bland, or like any of us were deprived? You can find great food with multiple food restrictions while traveling. Photos and photo collage by Johnna Perry. Used with permission.

Does this look unhealthy, bland, or like any of us were deprived? You can find great food with multiple food restrictions while traveling.
Photos and photo collage by Johnna Perry. Used with permission.

Back at home, after chatting, laughing, and getting into comfy clothes, Johnna made some milkshakes. We had to check the Basil Hayden’s for quality control first though. It’s required. Bourbon drinkers have to make sure the non-bourbon drinkers are getting the good stuff. Johnna used the leftover raw chocolate ganache in the Vitamix that Valerie made for raw tarts, bananas, ice, bourbon, homemade bourbon chocolate sauce, an avocado, and probably a few other things I missed while my back was turned coating the inside of the mason jars with the chocolate bourbon sauce. She garnished the milkshakes with coconut bacon and the brownies she bought from Kickshaw’s. I wanted to lick the mason jar clean, that’s how good they were. We also had some of Linda’s Chocolate Coconut Candy that she brought with her.

Did someone say chocolate?

Did someone say chocolate?

The next morning, I started off with a Ginger Cookie from Annie May’s Sweet Café with my coffee. While I love ginger and don’t mind a heavy hand with ginger in baked goods and dishes, I know it’s not everyone’s jam. These cookies were perfect with coffee (as I imagined they would be when I ordered them) and had just enough ginger to keep non-ginger lovers from being overwhelmed. Later, Diane toasted some the Mariposa batard and smashed some avocados to top it with, and Valerie made Key Lime smoothies using what was leftover in the Vitamix from the filling she made for more raw tarts. The breakfast was so simple and delicious in that simplicity.

This might have been my favorite breakfast of the weekend. I can't decide yet.

This might have been my favorite breakfast of the weekend. I can’t decide yet.

We ate dinner earlier than usual because Linda had to leave early. It was a whirlwind in the kitchen with Johnna making grain-free, vegan japchae and grain-free, vegan “crab” cakes. I think we all helped in some way or form. Just don’t tell anyone that I added lime juice to the “crab” cakes that wasn’t supposed to be in it. It’ll be our little secret, okay? For us meat eaters, we had real crab to pick apart and pick through.

One of my favorite pics of the weekend. I'm pretty sure it's because of the crab.

One of my favorite pics of the weekend. I’m pretty sure it’s because of the crab.

We weren't the only ones sad to say goodbye to Linda.

We weren’t the only ones sad to say goodbye to Linda.

Later, Shirley drove me, Katie, and Johnna down to Rick’s at Fairview Beach for drinks and sunset. Johnna and I hopped out to the beach for pictures (and I took off my slippers). I saw my first sun dog and we listened to No Green JellyBeenz. Decent band.

A Castaway that tasted like cough syrup because I didn't mix it first. I'm thinking that any alcohol intended for consumption should NOT taste like cough syrup. It was better after I mixed it, but once you get that idea in your head, that's all you think.

A Castaway that tasted like cough syrup because I didn’t mix it first. I’m thinking that any alcohol intended for consumption should NOT taste like cough syrup. It was better after I mixed it, but once you get that idea in your head, that’s all you think.

Grounding...

Grounding…

2015 GFE Retreat 172015 GFE Retreat 182015 GFE Retreat 19

We returned home and had “fourth meal.” The raw vegan tarts that Valerie made (from the Choosing Raw cookbook by Gena Hamshaw), baked Kite Hill “brie” with mango jam on Mariposa batard, and S’mores dip made with Enjoy Life chocolate chips and Dandies marshmallows (Mariposa gluten-free graham crackers and Johnna’s homemade vegan graham crackers). I went a little overboard and warmed up the chocolate bourbon sauce and added that to the S’more on my plate.

So many goodies that we all had a little of each.

So many goodies that we all had a little of each.

The next morning, we made bibimbap pizza using the leftover japchae and topping it with a fried egg. I know it’s technically not bibimbap, but c’mon…a fried egg on pizza! We said goodbye to Katie [insert sad Debi face here], did some art journaling, and said goodbye to Diane, Johnna, and Valerie. We totally forgot to try the Peaches & Cream cupcakes that Valerie bought from Kickshaws, so I got one out. I’m not necessarily a peaches and cream lover, but the cupcake was delicious and really felt like I was eating peaches and cream.

Me & Katie...check out her sass! One of the many things I love about her.

Me & Katie…check out her sass! One of the many things I love about her.

Leftovers on a Mariposa gluten-free, vegan pizza crust. We wound up just eating them with our hands.

Leftovers on a Mariposa gluten-free, vegan pizza crust. We wound up just eating them with our hands.

With everyone gone, I finished the book I was reading, The Ruins by T.H. Hernandez, who happens to be a friend I made when we were both focusing on our gluten-free blogging. We fell out of touch when she stopped blogging and reconnected as fellow authors. Funny how life works, yeah?

Shirley and Mr. GFE (yes, I finally got to meet Mr. GFE!) took me to Dockside at Colonial Beach for dinner. I chose the Norfolk style scallops and pretty much demolished my food. Hello, baked potato! Goodbye, you yummy thing.

I want a baked potato just looking at this photo. I know, I'm crazy.

I want a baked potato just looking at this photo. I know, I’m crazy.

I made some Earl Grey tea and indulged in the Lemon Cookies from Annie May’s Sweet Café Sunday evening. It was a great pairing with the flavors complimenting each other.

Before I knew it, it was Monday afternoon and I was saying goodbye to Shirley, Mr. GFE, and Sonny.

Even though I had an EPIC bar in my bag, these olives that I found at Kickshaws were a tastier treat on the airplane.

Even though I had an EPIC bar in my bag, these olives that I found at Kickshaws were a tastier treat on the airplane.

The weekend was indulgent, none of us was deprived of anything despite our varying needs, and once again, Shirley makes us feel as if we are home away from home.

Returned to the grind as soon as I was at the gate and continued on the plane. The Downward Spiral won't write itself!

Returned to the grind as soon as I was at the gate and continued on the plane. The Downward Spiral won’t write itself!