The challenge and complexity of navigating a gluten-free diet is highlighted by the decision of General Mills to remove the gluten-free label from Cheerios in Canada, though still deeming the product safe for those avoiding gluten at or above 20 ppm.
Cheerios are tested to 20 ppm per General Mills but the Canadian Celiac Association warned against the consumption of Cheerios because of the challenge of avoiding gluten contamination in their processing of oats. Wheat, barley, rye and oat fields are often in close proximity or rotating crops, and farming equipment can be cross contaminated. General Mills has a mechanical method of sorting crops to remove the potential gluten-containing grains; however, this method may not be fool-proof in avoiding “hot spots” of gluten in certain batches, even though batch testing may consistently achieve <20ppm.
Because of this labelling complexity, it’s no wonder why so many of our Nima users are testing packaged foods. Hot spots is a common term that comes during Nima testing. Nima is just taking a sample so it can’t guarantee your entire plate or packaged food is gluten-free, but it can give you one additional data point for you to make an informed decision.
What about Nima results for Cheerios? Many people ask us if we’ve tested Cheerios or know results from folks who have. While one Nima test result can’t guarantee an entire box of Cheerios is gluten-free (or if every future box will be GF), it’s an extra precaution to take before digging in. We looked through our community data results over the past few months of testing. Cheerios have been tested more than 30 times by the community.
Here are the unique Cheerios products tested by the Nima community (all labeled GF) at least one time (and some 15 times!).
- Very Berry Cheerios
- Strawberry Cheerios
- Pumpkin Spice Cheerios
- Honey Nut Cheerios
- Fruity Cheerios
- Multigrain Cheerios
The results? 87.5 percent of test results for the pea-sized sample of Cheerios were gluten-free, and for 12.5 percent, Nima detected gluten. All gluten found results were from Honey Nut Cheerios. As a reminder, Nima can occasionally detect below 20ppm, so the results could still have technically been “gluten-free” by FDA standards.
Some folks won’t chance eating Cheerios. Others have them on occasion when it’s the only gluten-free option. Some include Cheerios in their normal breakfast routine. In our opinion, it’s always a good idea to let Nima take the first bite. Your chance of detecting hot spots without Nima are 0%. Your chance of detecting cross contamination with a pea-size sample is not 100%, but it greatly improves your chances.
We will be following the Cheerios labeling story closely, to see if it stirs up more discussion in the U.S. In the meantime, we are working hard on making #nimatested product searches more visible and available in the Nima app so you can aggregate the community test results for packaged foods and see what everyone else is testing.