1.8 Million Cheerios Boxes Pulled Out from the Shelves
General Mills decided to recall 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios that includes the regular Cheerios and the Honey Nut cheerios, which could put people who are allergic to wheat and those suffering from celiac disease risk.
The senior vice president and president of the cereal division for General Mills, Jim Murphy, said in an apologetic letter to the public, “I am embarrassed and truly sorry to announce today that we are recalling boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios produced on several dates at our Lodi, California facility.”
Murphy said that their Lodi production facility had lost rail service for some time and their gluten-free oat flour has been off-loaded from the rail cars to the delivery trucks to their facilities on the dates that were in question. He also added that this was an isolated incident which involves purely human error when wheat flour was unintentionally introduced to their gluten-free oat flour system.
This voluntary recall was done primarily because the cereals were contaminated with wheat when they are sold as gluten-free products.
According to General Mills, the contamination happened during 4 days of classic Cheerios production and 13 days Honey Nut Cheerios production at their Lodi facility last July. Meanwhile, other plants of the company were not affected.
Kirsite Foster, the company spokesperson, said, “There have been reports of illness by consumers online. Two complaints of illness have been reported directly to General Mills related to the affected products.”
One of the multiple postings on the Facebook page of Celiac Disease Foundation said that her son who is 4 years old suffering from celiac disease has a very serious case of allergy. He has eaten Cheerios for the last few weeks and has been sick on and off for 2 weeks.
General Mills, however, released a statement on how to identify affected cereal boxes.
The cereal boxes have a plant code “LD”. The classic Cheerios have expiration dates from July 14 to July 17, 2016; while the Honey Nut Cheerios have expiration dates from July 12 to 25, 2016.
The recall came after the General Mills Minneapolis had launched gluten-free Cheerios. Early 2015, the company announced that they found a way to eliminate small amounts of barley, rye, and wheat that are unintentionally added to oat supplies when the oats are being grown or transported. The company began shipping gluten-free Cheerios in five flavors last July.
On their official Cheerios Twitter account, the company released a statement saying, “We want to reassure you that this was an isolated incident and we have implemented a solution to ensure that this will not happen again. We’ll also continue to test products and our oat flour supply to ensure our products meet the gluten-free standard. We care about what you and your family eats and we are truly sorry for this mistake. We will work extremely hard to earn back your trust.”
According to Ken Goldman, an analyst from JP Morgan, the recall actually acted 1.8 million boxes which is about 1% of the annual production of Cheerios. “Our biggest concern is over reputational risk, because the gluten-free Cheerios just launched,” says Goldman.
He said that in a worst-case scenario, the “new messaging around gluten-free characteristics will be impaired”, and the company could face high costs.
General Mills said they would pull out the affected cereals from the warehouses and shelves of their retailers.
Just last month, they said they plan to place 35,000 pallets of Cheerios on display as part of their gluten-free campaign wherein they said it is one of the largest merchandising events in the history of the company.