MINNEAPOLIS — General Mills Canada has decided to voluntarily remove the gluten-free label from Cheerios products in Canada until Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency publish a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats.
“At this time the product is not changing, just the label on the box,” said Mike Siemienas, a spokesman for Minneapolis-based General Mills, Inc. “We look forward to labeling the Cheerios products as gluten-free once consensus is reached on a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats.”
Each serving of Cheerios products in Canada is gluten-free as defined by the regulatory standard of containing less than 20 parts per million of gluten, he said.
Health Canada on May 29, 2015, issued a report on celiac disease and gluten-free claims on uncontaminated oats. The review confirmed the 2007 conclusions made by Health Canada on the safety of introducing uncontaminated oats into the gluten-free diet of people with celiac disease. The report may be found here.
General Mills Canada’s decision to temporarily drop the gluten-free claim pleased the Canadian Celiac Association, Mississauga, Ont., which first objected to the claim in August 2016 and recommended people with celiac disease not consume Cheerios.
“We are delighted to hear the claim will be removed voluntarily from the packages,”said Melissa Secord, executive director of the association. “We support the General Mills decision to make this voluntary move. Based on the advice of the members of our Professional Advisory Council (PAC) and other professionals working in the field, we believe that there is not adequate evidence to support the current gluten-free claim.”The Canadian Celiac Association received a grant from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to examine the scope of gluten contamination in oats, pulses and other grains grown in Canada, and to determine where the contamination occurs as the grains are processed (field, harvest, transport, processing). The project should be completed in March 2018.