Recently Canada dropped the gluten-free designation for Cheerios made by General Mills. However, the boxes produced in the United States still claim the cereal is okay for those who have celiac disease.
Is there a different definition of gluten-free from Canada to the US? Well, the US may allow the cereal, Cheerios, to have a different percentage of gluten that they believe is safe for consumers. These differences between the labels on the boxes, however, do cause a bit of a concern for those who suffer from celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes gluten to damage the small intestine. Celiac disease affects 1 in 100 people worldwide, and if you have undiagnosed celiac disease, you are at risk for long-term health conditions.
Symptoms of celiac disease include cold sweats, migraines, joint pain, uncontrollable shivering, and light-headedness. Celiac disease also brings on intestinal pain, painful bowel movements, and fatigue.
Gluten, a protein found in rye, wheat, and barley, ingested by those who are sensitive to gluten will cause the immune system to attack the small intestine. Attacks lead to damage to the small fingerlike protuberances lining the small intestine (villi). Villi promote nutrient absorption. When villi are damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed into your body.
Celiac disease has no cure, and it is hereditary or runs in families. Those with a parent, child or sibling who have celiac disease have a 1 in 10 risk of developing the disease. Celiac disease develops at any age after foods or medicines containing gluten are eaten. Celiac disease can lead to serious health problems if untreated. These include developing autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), herpetiformis (itchy skin rashes), dermatitis, osteoporosis, infertility, anemia, miscarriage, epilepsy and migraines, intestinal cancers, and short statures.
Treating celiac disease means staying away from gluten, which means no bread and definitely no beer. Even if you eat small amounts of gluten, like a sip of beer or a speck from a loaf of bread, small intestine damage can occur.
Cheerios are rich in nutrients and have fiber and protein. The company claims the first ingredient is oats, which should make it healthy and fit for celiac disease suffers. However, through research and experience, there are those who have found that advertising for Cheerios is deceptive. The first ingredient in Cheerios is trisodium phosphate. The name alone is scary, but read what uses trisodium phosphate has
- Toilet bowl tablets
- Cleaning agents
- Enemas or laxatives
- Food additives
The second ingredient is cornstarch, which has very little nutritional value.
The third is sugar. Refined sugar damages your health more than you think. Sugar causes weight gain and stop the immune system from working. Here are some risks associated with sugar:
- Premature aging
- Various cancers
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Tooth decay and gum disease
Cheerios also has added vitamins. Added vitamins sound healthy, but the added nutrients in your favorite cereals are harmful to young children, senior citizens, and pregnant women.
The Environmental Working Group tested snack bars and breakfast cereals and discovered more than 140 of these food products are health damaging because of over-fortification. Fortified foods cause almost 50% of American children who are eight and under to eat possibly unsafe quantities of vitamin A (retinol),niacin (vitamin B3), and the mineral zinc.
Need more startling information about America’s favorite cereal? Recently testing completed with a laboratory listed with the FDA, found glyphosate deposits in popular foods including Cheerios. What is glyphosate? Well, it is an active ingredient in Roundup herbicide and possible a carcinogen.
Now, think about celiac disease and Cheerios. On the upside, they are available in a variety of flavors, and children love them. On the downside, they have multigrain as an ingredient, which includes those grains that cause intestinal damage to celiac sufferers.
Back to the gluten controversy
General Mills has announced that Cheerios will not use the gluten-free status in Canada, but it will continue to market the cereal in the US with the gluten-free branding.
“We are confident that each serving of Cheerios products fully comply with the gluten-free standard in the US and contain less than 20 ppm of gluten,"a spokesperson said in an email to BuzzFeed News.
Who should consumers believe? The Canadians or your own General Mills?
The controversy started with claims, at the beginning in 2016, from more than 40 reports of people with celiac disease or sensitivity to wheat after they ate a bowl Cheerios or Lucky Charms. In 2015, General Mills recalled 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios polluted with wheat flour due to a human blunder. A year after the recall, complaints are still coming in about the side effects of eating Cheerios. After eating a dish of Cheerios, a man sent in a complaint to the Food and Drug Administration moaning that he felt as if he was dying. He had all the symptoms of a celiac sufferer, plus the added symptoms of intense intestinal pain. He felt that the Cheerios he ate contained gluten levels that were not safe for celiac disease sufferers. He is only one of the several hundreds of recorded calls.
According to a General Mills spokesperson, the reason Canada dropped the gluten-free designation was that there was not a consensus about testing products containing oats. The spokesperson also states there is no health risk with any of the products currently on the shelf. The only thing changing is the label on the box. General Mills voluntarily removed the gluten-free designation from the Canadian cereal boxes
The Canadian Celiac Association suggested that those with celiac disease should not consume Cheerios due to the process General Mills uses for sorting gluten-containing grains from the oats. Documentation states that cross-contamination takes place when sorting oat grains with wheat grains. Celiac groups in Canada claim mechanical sorting is unreliable since barley and wheat are similar in size, shape, and color as oats.
Another group, The North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease, an organization of medical professionals based in Illinois, avoided drawing such a line in its own statement on the issue, saying that while celiac experts believe it is safe to eat uncontaminated oats, manufacturers using the mechanical separation method need "consistent, stringent, transparent and reliable testing methods."
The group went on to say that patients eating oats from any source may have celiac symptoms. Symptoms are due to an increase in fiber or food intolerances. The group did not exactly state that Cheerios should not be labeled gluten-free.
The answer to this puzzle? You must make up your own mind up to guard your health and the health of your family. If you feel Cheerios are not gluten-free and cause problems, then you should not eat the cereal. The best policy is to read the nutrition labels on the products and, of course, decide for yourself.