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Celiac association applauds General Mills decision to pull gluten-free label from Cheerios

ABOVE: The gluten-free food label is an important tool for those living with celiac disease. As Allison Vuchnich found out not all Canadians are confident in the gluten-free seal and they are expressing their concerns to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

General Mills Canada says it’s removing the gluten-free label from future Cheerios cereal boxes as it awaits consistent government testing protocols for products containing oats.

The company says Cheerios products on store shelves do meet the current government standard for being gluten-free and don’t pose a health risk.

“At this time the product is not changing, just the label on the box,” General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas told Global News.

“We look forward to labeling the Cheerios products as gluten-free once consensus is reached on a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats.”

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The decision by General Mills is being applauded by the Canadian Celiac Association, which advocates for people with severe sensitivity to gluten.

“We support the General Mills decision to make this voluntary move,” said Melissa Secord, executive director of the Canadian Celiac Association.

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READ MORE: Reality check: Will Cheerios’ free wildflower seeds spread invasive plant species?

They first objected to the gluten-free label in August 2016 and released a statement strongly recommending that those diagnosed with celiac disease not consume the cereal, even though the box was labelled “gluten-free.”

The association said, even though oats are a naturally gluten-free grain, they can be in contact with gluten-containing grains, especially barley and wheat.

WATCH: You may notice a slight change to Cheerios boxes in the next few months. 

‘Gluten free’ label to be removed from Cheerios
‘Gluten free’ label to be removed from Cheerios

They expressed doubt in the company’s mechanical sorting system and claim of 100 per cent removal of cross-contaminants.

“We believe that there is not adequate evidence to support the claim. When added to many reports from consumers with celiac disease reacting to eating the cereal, we believe this is the safe recommendation for Canadians.”

General Mills says each serving of Cheerios products in Canada is gluten-free, as defined by the regulatory standard of less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

READ MORE: 1.8M boxes of Cheerios labeled gluten-free contained wheat

But the company says the gluten-free label won’t be on future Cheerios cereal boxes until Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency publish a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats.

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— With files from Global News