Gluten Free Cheerios

a hardy bowl of cheerios
Y’amal / Foter / CC BY

Who remembers Cheerios?   These are the first cereals introduced to most babies as finger foods or they were in my home.  I loved them before all the different flavors came out.

Camping trips I use to roast them with butter and garlic salt or seasoned salt or for a dessert sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.  We learned math counting them then eating them.   We practiced hand/eye coordination by placing them on Popsicle sticks and yes we have even put them on Christmas tree limbs so that santa could turn them into full size donuts.

Cheerios are amazing.

Now they are even more amazing with the new announcement from General Mills that all flavors will be Gluten free starting in July.   They are hoping to have them in all stores by the end of September.

I am excited!

From General Mills:

The challenging project took the grit of one General Mills inventor who believed in the project from the start. That was years ago, about the same time that Chex cereal was moving toward becoming gluten-free.

But yellow-box and four other varieties of Cheerios – Honey Nut, Multi-Grain, Apple Cinnamon and Frosted – will  become gluten-free and be on store shelves soon.

Oats by nature contain no gluten. But it’s another matter for the oats on your table to be declared gluten-free under the Food and Drug Administration’s strict guideline.

Then along came Phil Zietlow, a long-time General Mills employee, described as “an exquisite inventor.”

“Phil brought to the game extreme grit and persistence in the face of difficult circumstances,” says Mark Boyd, General Mills research and development technology  manager. “He thought of a way to make our oat supply gluten-free.”

Because oat and barley kernels are nearly identical in size, they’re difficult to separate in the manufacturing process. Zietlow worked on finding a way.

Traces of gluten 
The key ingredient in Cheerios – oats – are gluten-free.

But before oats are transported by rail they often get mixed with small amounts of other grains such as wheat and barley that contain gluten – a protein in grains that helps food maintain their shape.

Mingling can also occur in the farmer’s field, through the use of harvesting equipment or during transport.

To be considered gluten-free, a product must meet FDA requirements.

“We know there are many consumers – as much as 30 percent in the U.S. – who avoid gluten. And, people are looking for more gluten-free options for cereal. So it’s important,” says Jim Murphy, president of our Big G cereal division.

We found a way to sort ’em out.

‘Eureka’ moment

With full commitment from the company, a General Mills team built a test system shortly after gluten-free Chex debuted.  Soon, the team succeeded in separating oats from gluten-containing grains.

The process needed to be tried in a larger operation. The team proved the test in that environment as well.

So General Mills began construction at the current location that is now devoted to the new oat separation process.

“Making the cereal gluten-free is another stamp that we have put on Cheerios,” says Keith Pullman, manager of the location. “Cheerios is as pure as the driven snow, and we can now bring the benefits of oats to even more people – whether a parent of a celiac child or a grandparent who is gluten sensitive.”

Feb. 12, 2015

About three million Americans suffer from celiac disease, a disorder that impacts the small intestine when gluten is eaten. Gluten is a natural protein found in common foods like wheat, barley and rye.

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