Sunday 29 October 2017

Saying Cheerio to Cheerios...

Every wonder why the Cheerios Kid pants are brown?

Ah Cheerios, the staple of a childhood breakfast. I have a love/hate relationship with these little Os. While I remember them clearly from my childhood, sitting with my sister on Saturday mornings, watching Bugs Bunny cartoons and jamming as many of these little nuggets of crunch in my face as possible, milk dripping down my chins to be wiped by my Strawberry Shortcake nightie. Fast forward twenty five years and I'm cursing the little bastards as I drag them, wet and sticky, from between the cracks of my toddler's car seat.

Since my diagnosis, (of Celiacs, not the other diagnosis, that psychologist/FBI Profiler had NO idea what they were talking about), one thing that I missed a lot was my favorite cereals. Since childhood, I rarely ate cereal at actual breakfast time. It was always an afternoon snack, or a drunk late-night meal where I still dripped milk down my chin and wiped it up with my Strawberry Shortcake nightie.

There are LOTS of Gluten Free cereals out there but they lack the sugary, crunchy, bad for you and in no way a part of a balanced breakfast, allure that traditional cereals hold. No one was more happy to see Gluten Free Rice Crispies than me. I did a very embarrassing, Balky Bartokomous style dance in Walmart. Or so my children say, I was drunk with joy, and a lot of vodka. Lots of common cereals have come up with Gluten Free versions of themselves and I appreciate it, I do. One has to wonder though, HOW Gluten Free are they?

The US Food and Drug Administration and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency say that anything under 20 Parts Per Million of Gluten can be labeled 'Gluten Free'. Which is awesome. This is the level for which the smart doctory types have determined that we Celiacs can eat a food and not want to die afterwards. All these cereal companies have to adhere to these guidelines prior to labeling an item 'Gluten Free'. The Government has done a great job setting a standard and holding companies to it through testing.

Here is the problem that Cherrios is facing. Oats themselves are Gluten Free on their own. I could run through a field of oats and eat them like a deranged cow in heat. However, Oats aren't the only thing a farmer grows. Farmers rotate their crops in their fields and they often (usually) use the same equipment to harvest and process these crops for sale. Which of course they should, have you ever seen a combine? Those things are right out of a fucking Transformer Movie.


So the oats (which are Gluten Free) are being harvested and processed on the same equipment as the wheat and the barley and the rye. So now the oats are cross contaminated and no longer gluten free. Then, the oats get to the cereal factory where they are made into the little Os on machinery that has just made other cereals that contain gluten, so now they are cross contaminated again.


This is why we can't have nice things. 

It's no ones fault, its just the way things are.

So, this is kind of how it went down. I always imagine this as a text...because I'm an odd woman.

GM : Don't worry, all traces of cross contamination are removed at the farm level.

CELIACS: Can you prove that?

GM: Trust us...

CELIACS: Well, it's kind of important that we know for sure. Can you prove that there is no cross contamination at the factory level?

GM: We tested. A whole bunch. We tested bigly, with lots of important testing stuff. It’s all very technical, you wouldn’t understand.

CELIACS: Try me.

GM: It would be a waste of time. You really wouldn’t understand.


GM: Oh...Hey CFIA, how's it goin? I didn't know this was a group text.

CIFA: Yup, we are here too and we would like to see your testing results and procedures please.

GM: Gotta go, my mom's calling and I have to do my chores.

GM has left the group

So do I think that GM was being cagey? No, I doubt it, I think they have a lot of shit on their plate (or in their bowl, so to speak...get it?) because they are kind of busy feeding millions of people and they have tried their best to feed the Celiacs but they really couldn't guarantee anything. In a recent article by CBC, General Mills has been requested to remove the Gluten Free label from their boxes in Canada. 

Now, have I tried the Gluten Free Cherrios? Your're damn right I did and they were delicious. However, they didn't sit right with me. I kinda felt like I had eaten at an all you can eat Chinese Buffet...that kind of feeling. Maybe it was because my body isn't used to having oats at all, or maybe it's because my cereal box was a 'hot spot', which is how it felt later in the bathroom, trust me. So I haven't been eating them and losing the Gluten Free label on Cheerios is not a big loss for me. 

There you go, a little science, a little PR and a little bit of diarrhea. I consider this post a win.