Thursday, October 8, 2015

Gluten Free Cheerios Recalled Due to Transportation Error that Caused Contamination

General Mills is recalling 1.8 million boxes of gluten-free Cheerios after FDA received 125 complaints from people having an adverse reaction, primarily gastrointestinal issues associated with celiac disease, an extremely painful disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten.

According to the report - "The company said Monday the foul-up occurred when the Lodi plant lost rail service and its gluten-free flour was transferred from rail cars to trucks.....General Mills said oat flour was contaminated when bulk rail cars full of the stuff were offloaded into bulk trucks, Foster said. The bulk trucks were believed to recently have carried wheat, she said."
An incredible error for a product purchased specifically because it is supposed to contain no gluten.

It is important to see how a monumental error can occur when responding to a crisis. In this case, people worked around the loss of rail service only to contaminate product by not considering the gluten issue in the stopgap measure - off loading into uncleaned transport vehicles.

Untrained logistics/transportation people?  This is a reminder of ensuring that all people within the organization are trained in food safety - both general food safety as well as the food safety issues specific to the activities that with which they are tasked.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications

When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.

Star Tribune
FDA says it received 125 complaints about gluten-free Cheerios before recall
General Mills said it knows how the gluten got into its flour and has taken steps to prevent it.

Federal food regulators said Tuesday they have received 125 reports of adverse health effects — mostly gastrointestinal problems — from consumers who ate gluten-free Cheerios.

After hearing of such complaints, General Mills Inc. on Monday recalled 1.8 million boxes nationwide of gluten-free Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, concluding they inadvertently contained wheat, which contains gluten.

The company said Tuesday it has added another layer of testing at its cereal plants to ensure gluten contamination doesn’t occur again.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in an e-mail that since mid-September, it has gotten 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.”

People with celiac disease, who are estimated to make up about 1 percent of the population, get sick from eating gluten, a protein that can lead to damage in their small intestine. Another 6 to 7 percent of the population is believed to be allergic to wheat or have gluten sensitivity. For the gluten-sensitive, ingesting gluten can cause gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

General Mills said Monday that it began investigating its Cheerios production system after becoming aware of illness reports to the FDA, as well as fielding a couple of consumer complaints directly.

General Mills News Releases
Oct 05, 2015
General Mills issues voluntary recall of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios cereal produced at its Lodi, California location on certain dates

General Mills is voluntarily recalling several days of production of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios cereal produced at its Lodi, California facility on certain dates in July of this year because of an undeclared allergen – wheat – with potential adverse health effects.

Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios produced on these dates at the company’s Lodi, California facility are being recalled because an isolated incident resulted in wheat flour being inadvertently introduced into the gluten free oat flour system at its Lodi facility. As a result, the products may contain an undeclared allergen – wheat – in products labeled as gluten-free.

General Mills will recall and retrieve affected cereals produced on those dates from customer warehouses and store shelves. Consumers with wheat allergies, celiac disease or gluten intolerance should not consume products bearing the affected code dates and should contact General Mills for a replacement or full refund.

This voluntary recall includes four days production of original (yellow box) Cheerios, and thirteen days of production of Honey Nut Cheerios at its Lodi, California facility with the following “BETTER IF USED BY” code dates and the plant code LD which indicates the product was produced at Lodi, California:

Honey Nut Cheerios Honey Nut Cheerios Honey Nut Cheerios Yellow Box Cheerios
16JUL2016LD 17JUL2016LD
22JUL2016LD 23JUL2016LD
25JUL2016LD 14JUL2016LD

Products containing wheat can cause illness or severe reactions for individuals with wheat allergies or celiac disease. Products containing wheat can also cause illness or discomfort for individuals with gluten intolerance.

General Mills is transitioning five varieties of Cheerios to gluten free. Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios cereals produced at General Mills’ other facilities, or on dates other than those noted at the Lodi, California facility, are not impacted. General Mills’ other gluten-free Cheerios varieties – 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 requesting refunds or calling with further questions should contact General Mills Consumer Services at 1-800-775-8370.

Media contact:
Tom Forsythe

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