Gluten-Free Cheerios Not Recommended by CCA

General Mills Canada announced last week that five Cheerios flavours sold in Canada will carry a gluten- free claim. Original Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Multi-Grain Cheerios, Apple Cinnamon Cheerios and Chocolate Cheerios will be rolled out across the country in August. The Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) held a conference call with representatives of General Mills Canada and General Mills US on August 2nd 2016 to discuss our concerns with the gluten-free label on these products.


The Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) recommends that people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity DO NOT consume the gluten-free labeled Cheerios products at this time because of concerns about the potential levels of gluten in boxes of these cereals. The CCA is receptive to evaluating any additional information that General Mills is willing to disclose.

Why is the CCA concerned?

Oats are a naturally gluten-free grain; however, it has been documented that oats are frequently cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains, especially barley and wheat. Health Canada scientists have tested commercial oat samples and found high levels of gluten contamination. Cross-contamination can occur because oats often are grown in rotation with other crops, harvested and transported with equipment that is also used for gluten-containing grains.

We know the following:

  1. Oats are an extremely high risk grain and even “gluten-free oats” are at high risk for gluten contamination.
  2. It is very difficult to remove gluten-containing grains from oats using optical and mechanical technology alone because barley and wheat are similar in size, shape and color as oats. Broken kernels present in the grain also add to the sorting challenge.
  3. General Mills is using a cleaning system that they developed based on mechanical sorting to remove barley and wheat from regular commercial oats.
  4. Gluten contamination in oats is not distributed evenly through a batch; therefore, “hot spots” of high contamination can occur.

Based on the information provided to date, our scientific advisors are not convinced that the testing procedures described by General Mills are sufficient to detect these contamination “hot spots” in the oats and oat flour or in the boxes of cereal that may contain those contaminated oats. As a result, some boxes of cereal in the market may be safe for people with celiac disease while others contain significant gluten contamination that has not been detected using current testing protocols.

The CCA is receptive to evaluating any additional information that General Mills is willing to disclose. Until then, the CCA stands by its advice that people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should not consume Cheerios products in spite of the gluten-free claim.

CCA’s Position on the Safety of Oats

The CCA relies on advice from our Professional Advisory Council (PAC) and other scientific experts for recommendations on the safety of oats for people with celiac disease. The PAC “Position statement on consumption of oats by individuals with celiac disease” indicates the need for evidence-based, peer-reviewed, published data that demonstrates the levels of gluten in oats that have been cleaned using mechanical and/or optical sorting procedures.

There are three product brands currently on the market made with gluten-free oats that are manufactured in facilities certified by the CCA’s Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP):

  • Holy Crap Plus Gluten Free Oats
  • Quaker Oats (several types)
  • Nairn (several products)

These companies have demonstrated to independent parties, trained GFCP auditors and GFCP technical personnel, that both their processed oats and finished products meet Health Canada’s standard for gluten free and are safe for individuals with celiac disease.

What if I eat Cheerios and have a problem?

We realize that some people with celiac disease will decide to eat Cheerios. The CCA recommends that if you experience a reaction to the cereal, you should notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (MAPAQ in Quebec), General Mills Canada, the store that sold you the package and the CCA.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (all provinces except Quebec)
Please keep the remainder of the cereal package and any unopened boxes purchased at the same time until it is clear whether CFIA is interested in testing the package for gluten.

MAPAQ (Quebec only)

General Mills Customer Service

Canadian Celiac Association
Email or Facebook

How do I help get the message out that “gluten free” must mean “safe for celiac disease”?

This is an issue of significant concern to the Canadian Celiac Association.

  1. Contact General Mills Canada Customer service and tell them that you would like to eat Cheerios, but not until you are sure the product is safe for people with celiac disease.
  2. Contact Health Canada (Bureau of Chemical Safety) and tell them that you want “gluten free” to mean “safe for people with celiac disease” so that you do not have figure out if the test protocols used by a particular manufacturer are adequate to detect gluten contamination.
Please copy the CCA on your messages to Health Canada.

Anne Wraggett
President, Board of Directors
Canadian Celiac Association

P.S. Has the CCA made a difference in the quality of your gluten-free life? You can help us continue to address food safety issues with a donation to the CCA at

For a PDF copy of this email visit:

Donors to Match Celiac Research Fund

by Anne Wraggett, CCA President

At our National Conference in St. John’s last month, two CCA members offered to match all the donations up to $10,000 made to the CCA’s J. A. Campbell Research Fund between June 24 and August 31, 2016. That means that if you make a donation of $50, the research fund will grow by $150.

What does the CCA’s J. A. Campbell Research Fund do? It makes two awards each year: up to $25,000 to an established researcher and up to $5,000 to a young investigator (usually a graduate student working with a mentor). The research projects have to study something related to celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or the gluten-free diet. The projects frequently have a scientific or medical focus, but they can also focus on issues that affect the life of someone who must eat gluten free.

Applications are reviewed by the members of our Professional Advisory Council and the grants are making a BIG IMPACT! The CCA provided Dr. Elena Verdú with a small grant a few years ago and now she heads a research lab investigating host-microbial and dietary interactions in the context of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario.

With your help, and thanks to our two very generous matching donors, we can add an entire year of funding to the Campbell fund in just 6 weeks!! Help us reach that goal!

There are 3 ways to make your donation:

  1. Click here to make your donation online using the secure facilities of, OR
  2. Call the office toll free at 800-363-7296 to make a credit card donation, OR
  3. Mail your cheque to the national office today.

Canadian Celiac Association
5025 Orbitor Drive, Building 1, Suite 400
Mississauga, ON L4W 4Y5

Please identify your donation for CCA’s J. A. Campbell Research Fund on your cheque.

Thank you for your generous help with this project.

Anne Wraggett
CCA Board of Directors

Beware of Barley Malt Containing Beverages

malt barley root beer

Courtesy CCA National

malt barley root beerToday is one of those hot hazy summer days when not much sounds better than sitting beside the pool and enjoying an “adult beverage”, that is, something with alcohol in it.

This year, the range of beverages that do not contain gluten is larger than ever before thanks to the popularity of ciders, hard root beer, and what the industry likes to call “one pour” or “ready-to-drinks” beverages.

The concern is that you need to determine if there is gluten in the form of barley malt in the product based on its category. Hard root beers are a good example: Crazy Uncle has no gluten ingredients; Mad Jack is a combination of a regular lager beer (containing gluten) and root beer. Nearly all of the ciders contain no gluten but a few include barley malt. Holy Crow Bruised Apple Cider Ale tells you right from its name that it contains gluten.

If you live in or near Quebec the problem gets even worse. Some beverages sold at the SAQ (Quebec liquor stores) are fine but the beverage with the same name sold at Costco has malt added to it. In Quebec, only malt beverages can be sold in alternate outlets like Costco and corner stores.

The solution is to extend the motto “read every label every time” to “read the ingredient list ON THE BOTTLE YOU ARE ABOUT TO CONSUME every time”. A bother? Yes. Worth it to keep yourself safe? Absolutely.

May 2016 Chapter Meeting Minutes


We all enjoyed Pizzas from Jim’s Place in Vernon, what a nice treat. We had a small number attend 19 in total. We also had gift certificate from Inspired by Happiness for a free cake. These are the best cakes ever I think that everyone agreed as they had samples to try.

mary-hicks-thank-youMary Hicks our dietician is retiring from her position as our dietician. The chapter presented Mary with a small token of appreciation for all the work she had done for our members. Selina deVries will be taking on the position of dietician for our chapter (Thank you Selina.)

Marilyn gave her treasures report to all the members. Our current balance is 7707.00 and 14,000 in GIC investments.

Jennie Johnson updated us on membership. We are still having problems getting correct information from National. It was suggested that if we have members that cannot afford to renew or join our chapter that we on a case by case bases maybe support them by paying half of the fee. We all agreed that National needs to look at a new business plan. It was suggested that they drop the membership fee and hope to get more donations. Our chapter is losing members as are most other chapters.
Marie sent out 100 new letters 80 e-mailed and 20 mailed it helps save money if we can e-mail the newsletters.

Our Chapter donated $300.00 to the Vancouver Chapter to help with the cost of having a booth at the Family Medicine Form later this year.
Irene will be going to the conference in Newfoundland and will bring back information to our meeting in Sept.

David Fowler has been helping with getting information up on our web page at no charge. The chapter decided to send David a small token of apparitions for all his work on behalf of our chapter. We now have advertisers on our web site.

We as members agreed to donate to National. We first need to know what the money would be used for. We do not feel we want the funds to go into general revenue.

The next meeting is September 11, 2016 a regular potluck.

Donate your Shoppers Optimum Points


shoppers-optimum-cardThe CCA has teamed up with Shoppers Drug Mart’s Optimum Points program to give you a convenient way to help the CCA. By donating some (or all) of your Shoppers Optimum Points to the CCA, you are making it possible for us to use your points at Shoppers Drug Mart toward the purchase of products and supplies we need for our ongoing operational, education and support activities.

To donate your Shoppers Optimum Points, please visit: You can select the Canadian Celiac Association on their list of registered organizations. If you are not presently a Shoppers Optimum Member, just ask for a card at your next visit to Shoppers Drug Mart. You can get a card issued, on the spot, at no cost.

We thank you in advance for helping us “optimize” our fundraising dollars and continue working for a better Canada for all who have to eat gluten free.

Don’t Listen to your Bartender


By CCA Board of Directors
For many people, bartenders have become experts about gluten in beer. After all, they are educated by brewery representatives who have a job selling beer, not those dietitians and doctors who seem to just make your life miserable and unfulfilling! Over a period of four weeks we were told by CCA members and other celiacs that at least 12 different mainstream beers are “OK for people with celiac disease”.

beer-not-gluten-freeDespite the obvious appeal of listening to those bartenders, there are a few problems with their analysis:

  • Symptoms are not a good indicator of the absence of gluten in a product.
  • Beer is not distilled so the proteins are not removed from the grain ingredients – including malted barley.
  • We do not have verified technology to measure the amount of gluten in beer. That means that a gluten test might give you a number but we have no way to know if that number is correct, or if it might be significantly underestimating the amount of gluten in the beer.
  • As per Health Canada, any product containing barley or malt directly added is not allowed to be called “gluten free”.

Gluten from barley is the hardest type of gluten to detect on a test. In beer, where the barley proteins are broken into pieces, detecting the “bad” part of the proteins is even harder. The conventional tests will give you a number for the amount of gluten in a beer sample, but there is no way to verify that number. Studies that use mass spectroscopy to look at the broken pieces of barley proteins have found gluten in all barley-based beers. This research article gives details if you would like to read more.

Some manufacturers use an enzyme that is supposed to break the gluten sequence in beer into pieces so that it won’t trigger a gluten reaction. This treated beer that is “Crafted to remove gluten” and sold in Canada must carry a statement that indicates that there is no way to accurately measure the amount of gluten in beer. This message has been seen on bottles of Daura Damm in Ontario. It was on the label around the neck of the bottle in very tiny print.

End result, the CCA does NOT consider beer made with gluten as safe for people with celiac disease, treated to remove the gluten or not. Beer is one of those things that does not meet the gluten-free criteria, just like wheat-based bread isn’t safe. There are alternatives that are not really the same (just like with bread). You either get used to them or you stop eating bread. The same rule applies for beer.

Would you pay a gluten-free “surcharge” at restaurants?

By Sue Newell, CCA National Office

We have been having an interesting discussion on the CCA’s National Facebook Forum about extra charges for gluten free food in restaurants. The discussion was triggered by a CBC article about a Laval woman with food allergies who filed a human rights complaint against a local restaurant, “insulted” she had to pay a surcharge to make sure her meal was nut and soy free.

Some people were willing to pay the extra to cover the extra food and staff costs of preparing an allergen-safe or gluten-free meal; others felt that everyone has a right to safe affordable food, and point out that the person with celiac disease is usually the person who picks the restaurant. Catering to people with celiac disease brings in more non-celiac customers.

The National CCA Facebook forum has become an important place for people across Canada to ask questions or share a new food discovery. Whatever topic comes up, you can be sure of a quick answer and (usually) a number of alternative suggestions.

The forum is a closed forum, which means your request to join must be approved, so that we minimize the junk messages, but all are welcome to contribute to the discussion or to be a passive reader. To ask to join, search for CanadianCeliacAssociation.

Kelowna Celiac has posted it in on their Facebook page below if you’d like to join the conversation there too.

Busting myths: So-called “gluten allergy”

wheat grain on stalk

Courtesy Kitchener-Waterloo Chapter Newsletter

wheat grain on stalkThere are a lot of myths out there about what celiac disease is, or what non-celiac gluten sensitivity is, but the one I come across most often is the mysterious “gluten allergy”. That may be an easy way to characterize celiac disease to “get the message across” to restaurant wait staff, but allergies and celiac disease do not even involve the same immune system.

“Gluten” is a collective noun – a word that describes a group of several different proteins: secalin in rye, horedin in barley, and glutenin in wheat, among others. Since all the proteins lead to the same reaction in someone with celiac disease, it’s easier to use one simple word, “gluten”.

People with a wheat allergy might be fine with gluten but there are three other classes of proteins in wheat that can trigger their allergic reaction.  Recent Canadian research suggests that about 0.2% of the population has a wheat allergy, about 5 times fewer that are believed to suffer with celiac disease.

You can have celiac disease, you can have nonceliac gluten sensitivity, you can have a wheat allergy, or you can have dermatitis herpetiformis. But a gluten allergy? As far as we know, such a condition does not actually exist. Unless you’ve engaged in scientific testing, with your response to pure gluten (not gluten that comes as part of wheat, rye or barley), how could you know?

That’s why wheat, and not gluten, is listed as a priority “allergen” on food labels. Gluten labelling is of course critical for us as celiacs, but for people with allergies, wheat is the one we can identify with. But remember, celiac is an autoimmune disease, nothing like an allergy and should not be confused as such.

Pizza Potluck Recap and Photos

mary hicks award

Thanks to Chapter President Irene Wiseman who took these photos of Sunday’s Pizza potluck.

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The turnout was small (perhaps the weather was a little too nice?) but those that attended enjoyed Pizzas supplied by Jim’s Place, a Chapter sponsor, in Vernon. Regular members brought salads and desserts.

Cake was supplied to us by “Inspired by Happiness“, another chapter sponsor. According to Irene, these were the best cakes that she has EVER purchased. Inspired by Happiness also provided each event attendee a coupons for a free cake. See what happens when you miss a potluck?

At the meeting portion of the potluck, there was discussion on how to revamp CCA membership. Some suggested that the membership fee should be done away with in the hopes that people would then be more likely to donate to the CCA. Volunteer burnout is also another issue with most chapter. It has been a factor with the Kelowna chapter – with many long-term executive members wanting to step down, but no one willing to step forward to take their place. If you are interested in volunterring please contact chapter president Irene Wiseman at [email protected]