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Monday, September 28, 2015
New Jersey GFAF Expo Ticket Giveaway

This coming weekend is the Gluten and Allergen Friendly Expo in Secaucus, New Jersey.  This annual event is a great way to try new gluten-free product, meet your fellow celiac community, and eat without worry. Attendees get FREE samples, coupons and discounts from 100+ gluten-free brands, FREE classes, a FREE goodie bag, and a FREE 1-year subscription to Delight Gluten Free Magazine with advance online ticket purchase!

The Expo will feature over 100 gluten-free vendors sampling and selling delicious products. All products at the show are gluten free, but many vendors will also showcase items free from the top eight allergens. The Expo also includes a dedicated area featuring nut-free products. In addition to trying delicious samples, guests can attend free lectures, connect with gluten and allergen-free restaurants, vendors, stores, associated non-profits and much more! Click here for the full presentation schedule.

Tickets are available for purchase both online and at the door. If you want to save 30% on your ticket price, click HERE and enter code MEETUP30NJ on check-out.

I am also giving away two pairs of tickets. Enter to win below and bring a friend or family member! Each winner will receive two free tickets to the day of your choice.

See you there!


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Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Cheerios Update: Phone Call with General Mills
Photo source

On Tuesday, I spoke to two marketing representatives from General Mills who were representing the new gluten-free Cheerios. I wish I got off the phone with Cheerios and General Mills with great news, but I was really frustrated when I hung up the phone. I went into this call really prepared. I asked my readers and Facebook fans to share their concerns and comments with me. I watched all of their videos and read the FAQ pages to educate myself about the gluten-free Cheerio process. I read all of the scientific reports by Tricia Thompson at Gluten-Free Watchdog. I read blogs, Facebook, and Tweets for people both for and against the new Cheerios. I made sure what I was reading was recent and not driven by the blogger promotional trip to General Mills in the spring. I was prepared.

Yet, I felt disappointed with the call. I got off the call feeling like the celiac community isn't safe eating these new Cheerios despite the years of research and development. I really do not think General Mills is quite there yet with a truly gluten-free product and that complaints of people getting sick need to be taken very seriously.

Before reading the rest of my post, I do encourage you to watch the Cheerios videos and read the FAQ page to familiarize yourself with the process.

I took a ton of notes from our call, but here are some of my key takeaways:

1. General Mills does not use gluten-free oats to produce their Cheerios.
General Mills uses oats that could be grown in the same fields as wheat, barley, and rye. GM told me that there aren't enough gluten-free oats in the country to fulfill their demand for Cheerios production. They are committed to using "cleaner" oats that have less foreign pieces of gluten grains but there is no immediate plan to switch to gluten-free oats. GM is working to improve "cleanliness" of the oats but this didn't seem safe enough to me. Broken pieces of wheat/rye/barley, residue, dust, etc. are all big concerns to me.

2. The production process is 100% NOT gluten-free from farm to finish. 
Even though the Cheerios gluten-free page outlines the production process, I had questions since the wording in the FAQ is slightly different from the video. The video mentions a "gluten-free production line" while the FAQ says "oats are processed in a dedicated gluten-free facility." I asked the GM team to break this down for me to explain the difference along the way.

Step 1: Oats are transported from the farm to the sorting facility. Since these oats could contain fragments of wheat, rye, and barley from the beginning, this facility is NOT gluten-free. Gluten enters the building. Period. GM then sorts the grains mechanically (see video) and the final oats are considered gluten-free. Again, this is NOT a dedicated gluten-free facility yet the final product is deemed to be gluten-free. This seems confusing to me.

Step 2: Mechanically-sorted oats are transported to the mill where the oat flour is produced. These oats are either transported via dedicated gluten-free trucks or on a conveyer belt to the nearby facility. This step seemed questionable to me. Does a conveyer belt from a non-dedicated facility guarantee a gluten-free product? Yes says Cheerios.

Step 3: Oat flours is transported to the Cheerios production facility. The oat flour is transported to the facilities that actually make the Cheerios via dedicated gluten-free rail cars. If more oats need to be transported than available rail cars, the dedicated gluten-free trucks from step 2 are used. Ok, fair enough.

Step 4: Cheerios are produced using the processed oat flour. OK, this is the part I had a real problem with in the production process. Cheerios are produced on gluten-free production lines BUT the facilities could be shared. All gluten-free production is segregated from general production, but these facilities are NOT 100% gluten-free. Hmmm... so the facility is gluten-free or not?

3. Gluten testing is done internally by Medallion Labs. General Mills currently has NO plans on publicly releasing gluten testing results from their internal testing. GM did say that "other labs" have done testing too, but it was unclear to me which labs and which tests were actually being used. For more details about the test methods, visit Gluten-Free Watchdog for much more in-depth information. In my opinion, if Cheerios has nothing to hide they should make their test results public. Transparency is key in the celiac community.

4. People are getting sick from eating the gluten-free Cheerios. General Mills acknowledged they have heard about people getting sick from the new Cheerios. They also were aware of the petition with signatures more than 1,600 names of people supporting change to the Cheerios production process. The Cheerios reps did emphasize that General Mills always takes consumer complaints very seriously. This is where I felt GM got the most defensive and had some answers that sounded more like excuses to me.
  • "People might be reacting to the high fiber content of Cheerios." 
  • "People might be reacting to oats themselves." (Note: I mentioned to GM I have a sensitivity to oats and/or the avenin, the protein found in oats and then they gave me this answer.)
  • "People aren't used to eating oats." For a long time, celiacs were told NOT to eat oats. GM seemed to think introducing a new grain into the diet could cause an initial reaction.
  • "Talk to your doctor if you think you are having a reaction to Cheerios" or "Speak to your doctor first before eating Cheerios." If you have medical concerns about your products, why call them gluten-free? 
As expected, Cheerios never came out and admitted that their product might actually be making people sick. They did say they will investigate all of these claims seriously if people contact General Mills directly.

5. Cheerios in Canada are NOT gluten-free. This was a great question from Facebook and Twitter. General Mills thought this was a great question too! Health Canada updated their statement on oats in Canada in May. You can read their entire report here.  General Mills said they are working directly with Health Canada to figure out how to produce gluten-free Cheerios for Canada.  My question is why gluten-free Cheerios in the US aren't safe enough to sell in Canada? I understand our FDA standards aren't identical to Health Canada but are the US Cheerios not allowed to be sold by the regulations in Canada. I need to research this more. 

***

If you got sick from eating Cheerios, YOU MUST contact General Mills and the FDA. Here is how:

1. Contact General Mills by website, email, phone, fax, or letter. I encourage you calling them directly. Whichever method you use, the box information is critical to your complaint. Do not throw away your box! Keep everything and read them everything they ask for during your complaint. 


2. Contact the FDA by phone or website. This information comes directly from the Gluten-Free Watchdog website: 
If you believe you became ill after eating Cheerios, FDA is asking that you contact FDA’s MEDWATCH, the Adverse Event Reporting System. You can do this online https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/index.cfm?action=reporting.home or via phone (800) 332-1088. Choose option #4 to speak to a representative.
I want to hear from you too! I now have a direct line of communication to General Mills and I want to be your voice. Leave your comments below so I can share them with the Cheerios team.


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Monday, September 14, 2015
Save the Date: Celiac Education Day and Free Blood Screening in Chicago
It is time to sign up for the annual celiac disease blood screening day at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. This is a wonderful yearly event that allows people who might otherwise not be tested due to insurance restrictions to get tested for free. Pre-registration is required and there are only 500 spots available. Don't delay, register today!

You are eligible for the Blood Screening if:

  • You have been on a gluten-containing diet for at least 12 weeks prior to testing
  • You have a close family member that has celiac disease or Type 1 diabetes
  • You have Down Syndrome;
  • You have a related autoimmune condition such as rheumatoid arthritis; Type 1 diabetes
  • You have digestive problems, chronic fatigue, osteopenia/osteoporosis; Type 1 diabetes
  • You have other related symptoms or conditions

To learn more and to register, please visit www.cureceliacdisease.org

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Friday, September 11, 2015
Do You Have Questions About the New Gluten-Free Cheerios?
Let's ask General Mills ALL of our gluten-free Cheerios questions.
See below!

If you read any gluten-free blogs or follow them on Facebook or Twitter, there is a good chance you have seen someone post about the new gluten-free Cheerios. Over the summer, General Mills announced their Cheerios are now gluten-free. You can read all about how General Mills made Cheerios gluten-free here. They also put up a blog post at the beginning of July that highlights the process.

As you know from reading my blog, I cannot tolerate oats even if certified gluten-free. I am one of those people with celiac that still has a severe reaction to oats. For three decades, my doctors told me to avoid oats altogether and I did. Once I introduced them into my diet, the brain fog set in. I decided I went without oats for so long that I didn't need them and cut them out immediately. Some celiacs react to the protein avenin found in oats and it looks like I am one of those people.

While I never planned on eating the new Cheerios, I know so many people who were excited about the opportunity to eat their favorite childhood cereal again. The excitement plus some of the controversy is why I starting following this story closely. Controvery?? Yes, there is a bit of a debate going on in the celiac and gluten-free community about how these Cheerios are produced and if they are causing a reaction or not. The customers seemed divided. Feedback is both good and bad. There are haters and lovers as with most stories in the celiac community.

Please read some of the links below to get a sense of how the community feels about Cheerios.

Gluten-Free Watchdog
Gluten-Free Cheerios: Updated Position Statement
Gluten-Free Cheerios: Take Three
Gluten-Free Cheerios: Take Two

I'm A Celiac
Having trouble with the Gluten Free Cheerios?
Why Eating a Bowl of Cheerios Makes You Feel Normal Again
Gluten Free Honey Nut Cheerios Are Here

Hunter's Lyonesse
Pissing in the Gluten-Free Cheerios
Effecting Change

Gluten-Free Homemaker
Gluten-Free Cheerios: Safe or Not?

Gluten Freeville
Newly “Gluten Free” Cheerios – To try or not to try?

Two Celiacs and a Baby
The Gluten Free Cheerios Saga – Part One

Gluten-Free Baking
Review: Gluten-Free Honey Nut Cheerios

Change.org
Change testing and production of gluten-free Cheerios to be safe for all.

I have the opportunity to speak directly with a representative of General Mills and Cheerios on Tuesday. I need your help. I want to ask ALL of your questions!! You can either post them in the comments section below or email me directly at gfreefun@gmail.com. I will do my best to ask everything and give you a full report of my conversation. I believe in transparency so I am encouraged by this opportunity to speak directly with the company. I want to address all of your concerns, share your feedback, and get some answers. Please send me your comments and questions as soon as possible! 




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Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Gluten & Allergen Free Expo Returns to New Jersey

One of the biggest gluten-free events of the year returns to New Jersey on October 3 and 4, 2015. Join me and the NYC Celiac Meetup Group as we attend the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo at the Meadowlands Convention Center. This event is a great way to sample many gluten-free products, meet others with celiac, listen to interesting gluten-free talks, and so much more.

Attendees get FREE samples, coupons and discounts from 100+ gluten-free brands, FREE classes, a FREE goodie bag, and a FREE 1-year subscription to Delight Gluten Free Magazine with advance online ticket purchase!

The Expo will feature over 100 gluten-free vendors sampling and selling delicious products. All products at the show are gluten free, but many vendors will also showcase items free from the top eight allergens. The Expo also includes a dedicated area featuring nut-free products. In addition to trying delicious samples, guests can attend free lectures, connect with gluten and allergen-free restaurants, vendors, stores, associated non-profits and much more! Click here for the full presentation schedule.

Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door ($20 for adults, $5 for kids at the door). Click HERE to buy your tickets today. 

SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR ALL NYC CELIAC MEETUP MEMBERS AND FRIENDS. Enter code MEETUP30NJ for a 30% discount on your tickets!

For more information on the Expo, visit www.gfafexpo.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Want to win free tickets to the expo? Be sure to follow Gluten-Free Fun on Facebook and Twitter

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