My Trip to General Mills, a.k.a. Betty Crocker Central

Full disclosure: My trip to Minneapolis, MN, for the General Mills Gluten-Free Bloggers Summit was mostly paid for by General Mills. Transportation, parking, and food before and after including transfer from the airport before and after this event, I paid myself. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own.
Earlier this past week, I was in Minneapolis at General Mills, with most of my time spent in the Betty Crocker Portrait Kitchen. I was one of 11 folks invited to General Mills Gluten-Free Bloggers Summit. Now a few of you reading that tidbit of info might be quite surprised. It’s no secret than in general I’m anti-processed foods, anti-baking mixes, and, last but not least, I’ve mentioned that I have a gluten reaction each and every time that I eat General Mills gluten-free products that contain grain. So when I received the invitation via Danna Korn, I experienced a sequence of strong emotions. First, there was a feeling of pride and honor at being selected to provide input on General Mills’ products and efforts; i.e., being considered a voice in the gluten-free community. Then there was the turmoil within. How could I attend if I couldn’t eat General Mills products safely? Would I be a hypocrite by attending after previously expressing dissatisfaction with General Mills and staying away from sharing their products on my blog in any way? I was so conflicted, I discussed the issue with a few friends/mentors. I finally decided I couldn’t miss the Gluten-Free Bloggers Summit. I simply had to attend to provide honest, “no holds barred” feedback. So I immediately shared the fact that I am super sensitive to gluten and cannot eat General Mills baking mixes or cereals with Danna Korn. I told her I’d still very much like to attend to provide input though. Danna replied that General Mills wanted ALL honest feedback, so “come on.” So I did, armed with my “wish list” and information on others’ issues with General Mills gluten-free grain products.
Danna Korn and Amy Plew (Event “Organizer”)
There were 10 bloggers in all, plus Danna Korn and Shelly Gannon. Danna has been working with General Mills for several months. She’s recognized as a gluten-free expert. She is the author of the ”Dummies books” (i.e., Living Gluten Free for Dummies; Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies, which she co-authored with Connie Sarros), and will have a new one, Baking Gluten Free for Dummies, coming out in the near future. She’s authored other resource books, too: Eating Gluten Free: Delicious Recipes and Essential Advice for Living Well Without Wheat and Other Problematic Grains, Wheat-Free, Worry-Free: The Art of Happy Healthy Gluten-Free LivingGluten-Free Kids: Raising Happy, Healthy Children with Celiac Disease, Autism, and Other Conditionsand Kids with Celiac Disease: A Family Guide to Raising Happy Healthy Gluten-Free Children.  You may also know her as the author of the GlutenFreedom site and the creator of Raising Our Celiac Kids (R.O.C.K.). There’s no doubt about it, Danna is a dynamo—a true force to be reckoned with. I admit that I loved it every time that she said “living and loving the gluten-free lifestyle.”
Shelly Gannon has a daughter with celiac and another daughter who is gluten sensitive. She is a big player in the Twin Cities R.O.C.K. group. You may recognize the Gannon name. Shelly’s husband is retired NFL quarterback, Rich Gannon.
Who were the gluten-free bloggers? That info wasn’t disclosed to those of us attending beforehand. Linda (The Gluten-Free Homemaker) and Lynn (Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures and her allergy blog, Lynn’s Recipe Adventures) figured out we were all attending, which kind of gave us a little comfort factor. Linda and I have been online friends for a good while now. (If you remember, I did a guest post on her blog recently on Cushaw Squash and shared a Cushaw Pecan Pie recipe.) If I am remembering correctly, I got to know Lynn online shortly before she went gluten free and have cheered her on ever since. Her recovery since going gluten free has been nothing less than amazing.
Although I didn’t know who else was going other than Linda and Lynn, I did know I would be the first to arrive per the event organizer. I selected a very early non-stop flight rather than deal with changing planes and possible missed connections. Once at the hotel, I headed to their restaurant, Kip’s Irish Pub, for breakfast. It was almost 9:00 and I was the only patron. I received both undivided attention and an excellent breakfast: one fried egg, hash browns, and maple pepper bacon. The latter was the main focus of my meal. First, I had to confirm that this bacon was gluten free. My server told me that it was made by Hormel and that she and the cook confirmed it contained no allergens from the packaging. When a product says something like ”Allergens: None,” that means it does not contain any of the eight major allergens as defined by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (effective January 2006). Such an allergen statement doesn’t rule out barley, rye, or unsafe oats for those of us who are gluten free. However, rye is only in bread, crackers, or whiskey, with the latter being safe due to distillation. I was sure oats would not be an ingredient in this bacon and the inclusion of barley seemed unlikely. However, I was already checking email on my laptop, so I looked online quickly and saw no gluten ingredients. It appears that this product is only sold to food service establishments, but my server said you could buy this bacon in their local grocery stores. I’ll definitely be looking because this bacon is totally amazing! Okay, it has some other stuff that you wouldn’t want to eat often (if at all), but it is the most delicious bacon I have ever eaten in my life!
After breakfast, the hotel had my room ready and I headed upstairs to settle in and get caught up with gfe while I waited for others to arrive. Linda and I got together first. That was such a treat for me! Linda is so pretty in person and so personable, too. (By the way, she’s put up a new photo on her blog and I think it’s great!) She’s also a woman of conviction and has no problem expressing her gluten-free concerns. Linda and her blog are terrific as those of us who frequent The Gluten-Free Homemaker regularly know, but meeting Linda in person is far, far better. We sat and chatted like old friends for a good while.
Next Lynn arrived from Tulsa and the three of us sat and chatted in the lobby. Lynn is sincere and straightforward, and just a really sweet person. She’s never shy to express herself either. The three of us caught up and mused over who else might be attending the summit.
Then Maureen Stanley (Hold the Gluten–blog and podcasts) and Jill Elise (Hey, that tastes good!) appeared in the lobby and we beckoned them over. We didn’t recognize Maureen at first. She of magnificent and abundant curly hair, had her locks pulled back. The big smile and friendliness assured us it was her though! I’ve been following Maureen everywhere (her blog, Facebook, Twitter) for quite some time so I was thrilled to give her a hug and start gabbing. Jill Elise got married a while ago and moved from Philly to Connecticut. Somehow I had lost track of her and her blog after her wedding, so it was fun to meet her in person and get to know her better.
As all of us chatted in our little corner of the lobby, we surveyed every person who entered speculating if they were gluten-free bloggers. After a while, Vaness Maltin (of Celiac Princess blog and Delight magazine, and the author of Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook: Spicing Up Life with Italian, Asian, and Mexican Recipes and Beyond Rice Cakes: A Young Person’s Guide to Cooking, Eating & Living Gluten Free) arrived. Newly married, she looked every bit the Celiac Princess. Vanessa’s adorable anyway, but she just beamed with happiness whenever she talked about her wedding. She immediately showed us a photo of her gluten-free wedding cake on her iPhone. Wow, what a sensational cake it was! We all enthusiastically agreed that her cake was far better than Chelsea Clinton’s. (You can see it yourself on Vanessa’s site; look at her reception photos.)
Sitting in the lobby waiting for our group meet-up, we all eventually told bits and pieces of our gluten-free stories and our family’s stories. I’ve found this occurrence to be normal behavior for those of us who are gluten free. We just have to tell our stories, and, it’s always surprising how often our stories intersect and, also, how much they can differ.
We also spent a lot of time talking about that bacon. Seriously. Most of us were on east coast time and were getting very hungry. Of course, I had shared the tale of the amazing bacon and being a food blogger had taken a photo of it. Everyone was drooling over this sweet, peppery bacon. In hindsight, we should have just headed into the hotel restaurant and asked them to cook a pound of that bacon to share for our afternoon snack. (Why is hindsight so darned clear? Talk about a misssed opportunity.)
At the appointed time, the event leader/organizer (a contractor for General Mills) arrived with several of her colleagues, a few General Mills folks, and two more bloggers, Rachel (The Crispy Cook) and Amanda (A Few Shortcuts). While I had heard of Rachel’s blog, I didn’t know much about it or her. The name fits Rachel. She’s cute, funny, and very friendly. Amanda had been at General Mills for an earlier bloggers meet-up back in the summer. Her “Shortcuts” blog features gluten-free and dairy-free (and gluten-full) recipes, as well as coupons and deals. (I just learned that she has launched a new exclusively gluten-free blog, Growing Gluten Free.) The event leader told us that Amy Leger (The Savvy Celiac) and Shelly Gannon would be joining us the next day.
After introductions, off we headed to Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano. Yes, an Italian restaurant. Even better, an Italian restaurant with an extensive gluten-free menu (PDF). Ravenous by now, we ordered a few gluten-free pizzas to share as appetizers, large salads to share, and then individual entrees. Oh, and right off the bat, we were brought fresh, gluten-free bread. So we got busy dipping crusty, chewy slices of bread into olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar—a simple, but divine pleasure. A short time later, the pizzas arrived. They were truly excellent. The Caesar salad was great, too. But, my Chilean sea bass probably took the prize. The texture, flavors, and presentation were perfect. Finally when we thought we couldn’t eat another morsel, desserts arrived. Raspberry sorbet and flourless chocolate cakes … the latter so rich and heavenly that one could have fed four people from one serving, because the portions were large and just a few bites was truly enough. (But please don’t ask me if I shared.) Besides enjoying this very fine, gluten-free meal, we all chatted nonstop throughout dinner, with some even playing musical chairs to allow interaction with more folks. Lots of information about celiac/non-celiac gluten issues and the gluten-free diet was shared, but we heard about key components of others’ lives, too. There was the dad who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with this daughter, who incidentally (or not?) recognized many family health issues when we told our stories. Finally, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before a full day of work the following day. Yes, I said work. This summit was in no way a mere social event. Oh, there were the fun moments when we were on “break” and food was involved and you’ll see those reflected in my photos, but othewise, we were focused and working hard.
The next morning we were shuttled to the General Mills facility where we convened in the Betty Crocker Portrait Kitchen for most of the day. We met up with the two local attendees, Amy Leger of The Savvy Celiac and Shelly Gannon. There were also side trips to nearby conference rooms for breakout sessions and the adjoining Betty Crocker kitchen for a closing baking event. We were fed gluten-free breakfast goodies from the nearby French Meadow bakery and a delectable lunch from Big Bowl (see gluten-free menu here—PDF). Those of us who eat gluten free did not indulge in the baked goods offered in the closing baking event. The rolling pins, wooden spoons, and spatulas had previously been used to make gluten-full items. One General Mills spokesperson told us that the products had been cleaned and heated to 200 degrees. When she was told that heating didn’t remove gluten, she looked at us like were looney tunes. That was yet another educational piece of the gluten-free pie for General Mills. It was an unsettling moment for sure because if that information is not known or understood, to me it raises doubts about the status of their gluten-free products.
So what happened in the sessions? Well, first and foremost, we spoke our minds. There was not a timid person in our group; that’s for sure. We were asked what we expected from the summit and, initially, in our responses, we talked about what we wanted in the products. I stated that their gluten-free products which contained grains, the Chex cereals and baking mixes, have caused a gluten reaction for me each time I’ve tried them. I added that I was not alone and I highly recommended that General Mills obtain certification from the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) under the Gluten Intolerance Group. I said that gluten-free consumers want better quality in their products—more nutritious flours and ingredients that provided more fiber than the typical ingredient of inexpensive, white rice flour. Along those lines, I said that we felt the prices of the gluten-free baking products were outrageous, considering the inexpensive ingredients. I added that the very expensive gluten-free Bisquick (over $6 in my area) doesn’t even contain shortening. I also talked about undesirable ingredients in products, like high maltose corn syrup. Others spoke passionately about such concerns as price, availability, and current General Mills products that should be made gluten free. Shortly thereafter, each of us was asked to tell about ourselves. We each told our personal story or those of our family members (as often it was the family member who was diagnosed with celiac/non-celiac gluten issues versus the attendee). I’ve heard a lot of stories since being diagnosed myself and leading my celiac/gluten intolerance support group and the stories shared at this event were as heartwrenching and compelling as any. The miraculous endings—yes, they are all miracle stories—made these stories bearable.
Later sessions brought more questions from General Mills and their contractors on what we want and need, why we need it, etc. These are simple questions that all of us who live the gluten-free lifestyle know do not always have simple answers. I teach my gluten free easily (gfe) approach all the time, but not everyone is quick to buy into the mostly non-processed foods approach. And, yes, I did point out that folks going gluten free often forget about real food being gluten free. But, I know that of the folks who follow a real food approach, even they occasionally like the convenience of a safe, processed gluten-free food (e.g., on the road, at a friend’s home). These sessions were rather intense as I indicated earlier. We tried to pack a lot into small blocks of time. The sessions were also encouraging and inspiring. There was a true dialogue and we felt like we were being heard. Being heard is paramount in getting our gluten-free needs answered.
A General Mills spokesperson addressed their gluten-free processing and talked about the order of processing gluten-full and gluten-free items and cleaning lines. Whoa! Furtive and surprised glances were exchanged among attendees. We were all under the impression that all of the gluten-free products were manufactured in a gluten-free facility. It turns out that some products are manufactured in a gluten-free section of General Mills (with “walls”), but not a dedicated facility. A subsequent check of the wording on the Chex boxes shows that they read, “Manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free environment.” Other gluten-free products are not manufactured in this section/”dedicated environment,” but in a part of the facility with gluten-containing products, hence, the mentionof cleaning lines and processing items in a certain order. I inquired and commented more on the testing of the products and the less than 20 ppm standard, urging the use of the GFCO testing and inspection to ensure I could eat the products safely. My questions were met with quotes on Codex standards and a statement that the GFCO is fine for small organizations. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Carol McCarthy Shilson, Executive Director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, stated that UCCDC supports the use of the GFCO as well. I brought up that fact that Codex standards used to be much higher and now we know those levels were determined unsafe. Both Carol and Danna supplied the previous accepted Codex level as 200 ppm. So we went from 200 ppm since my diagnosis 7 years ago to less than 20 ppm as the Codex standard established more recently. That is clearly a huge difference. As most of us know, the FDA has not finalized its requirements for what constitutes “gluten free.” Less than 20 ppm was in its original proposal, but no FDA standard has been set as of this writing. Perhaps once established, the level will be less than 10 ppm, the level to which GFCO certifies products. That would certainly be my hope as the GFCO-certified products do not make me or my son ill (and many others who have cited their reactions on blogs and gluten-free forums). Linda stated that her gluten-free son also has a reaction from current General Mills products. She added that with gluten-free consumers, trust is critical. Once our trust for a product and the manufacturer has been broken, we do not purchase or try the product(s) again.
I was thrilled when Carol McCarthy Shilson took the podium next. The UCCDC has long had my respect and has recently partnered with General Mills in its gluten-free efforts. This partnership means a lot to me (for one thing, it helps establish that trust that Linda spoke of). I respect the UCCDC and am constantly sharing the UCCDC’s Celiac Fact Sheets (especially the Facts and Figures info) because I think their data is such an eye opener, providing much-needed visuals in regard to the incidence of celiac disease that one won’t find elsewhere. Carol shared her story (she is celiac herself), how she ended up at UCCDC, and some of the revolutionary and award-winning research that Dr. Bana Nabri is conducting, in the areas of celiac and non-celiac gluten issues.
Several more discussions took place before our final event in the Betty Crocker Kitchen. There was even a quick trip to the General Mills company store before we headed home. One blogger wanted to purchase lip gloss for her gluten-free daughter, but put it back when she couldn’t determine if it contained gluten or not. Finally, we all packed into a van and headed to the airport, talking all the way. We eventually had to split up. Some of us headed off to the French Meadow Bakery, which carries gluten-free items. Others headed to Burrito 360, a Mexican take-out place there. Vanessa had done the appropriate reconnaisance for us beforehand. I enjoyed a soft taco filled with marinated chicken (oil and herbs only) and veggies. Tasty and humongous for a whopping total of $3.73—talk about a safe bargain!
Betty Crocker Test Kitchen
 
 
Cinde
Lynn, Vanessa, and Maureen (sporting her hair)
Amanda, Amy (Leger), and Shelly hard at work
 
 Linda and Cinde
 
Linda, me, Lynn, Vanessa, and Maureen
 
When I returned home, I commented to Mr. GFE that General Mills was brave to hear out all these gluten-free bloggers. He immediately said, “Not brave .. smart.” Yep, he’s right. In fact, the General Mills contractor leading the effort stated more than once that consumers are 12 times more likely to trust a blogger’s recommendation/review of a product than they are the manufacturer’s review. At the outset of our summit, he also stated something to the effect that to be clear General Mills is a multi-million dollar company and as such, its main goal is profit, but if General Mills can help gluten-free individuals while achieving that profit … then all the better. As others who attended have shared in their posts, we were told the CEO of General Mills has a family member with celiac. Now that’s what I call a vested interest in their gluten-free line of products! Let’s hope that vested interest plays a large role in ensuring that General Mills gluten-free products are made that safely, healthily, and deliciously meet the customers’ needs. General Mills has some exciting plans that I have agreed not to discuss at this time. I will tell you that I’ve been asked to help them formulate those plans to best meet all of our needs and I take that commitment very seriously.
Finally, as I’ve always said about gluten-free bloggers, we all bring something different to the table—no pun intended, but true. That was certainly true in this forum. You’ll definitely want to read the other bloggers’ posts to get their perspectives on the summit as well. I have included a link to the specific post on the Summit if the blogger has shared it to date; otherwise, you can simply check out the blogger’s site. You’ll want to do that anyway!
Vanessa Maltin (Celiac Princess)

Shirley
Not just gf, but gfe!

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Comments

78 Responses to “My Trip to General Mills, a.k.a. Betty Crocker Central”

  1. Kristina @ spabettie on November 8th, 2010 11:45 pm

    so much great information here, Shirley! I am happy you were there to represent all of us little people :)

    • Shirley on November 9th, 2010 8:26 am

      Hi Kristina–Thanks so much! :-) I think our group of “little people” (and I count myself as one) is growing all the time and the strength of our voice is growing, too—woohoo!

      Shirley

  2. Kathleen on November 8th, 2010 11:47 pm

    Wonderful summary.

    I bought some bacon in the US last September and every couple weeks when I go shopping, I look for it. A pepper bacon with a maple flavour that was subtle. I wonder if that’s it. I can’t find it anywhere now.

    The baguette looks very similar to Against the Grain.
    All the food looks great.

    • Shirley on November 9th, 2010 8:29 am

      Hi Kathleen–Thanks, dear. :-)

      That DOES sound like the bacon! And, you’re right on the baguette, too. It probably was from Against the Grain. I’m not much for bread usually, but I really do like their baguettes! ;-)

      We had some absolutely terrific food and it was quite an encouraging and hopeful event!
      Shirley

  3. Kim @ Cook It Allergy Free on November 9th, 2010 12:39 am

    Wow! Shirley, I knew I could count on you to make us feel like we were right there with you! Kudos to all of you for speaking your minds and being heard. What an awesome experience! And man, I am so so glad that they picked you as one of the voices!
    This was an excellent recap of the event. It is absolutely fascinating to me that they did not know about the utensils…Hmmm. Makes you really wonder.

    • Shirley on November 9th, 2010 8:32 am

      Awww, Kim, thank you for that very, very sweet feedback! I know I go on too long and include too many photos, but if you felt like you were there with me, then I achieved what I wanted. :-) Yes, we are an outspoken group … friendly, but forthright for sure. ;-)

      I don’t think anyone can truly get the gluten-free lifestyle without living it … know what I mean? So manufacturers and non-gf family and friends need lots of tutoring.

      xo,
      Shirley

  4. Debi on November 9th, 2010 1:43 am

    I think it’s wonderful that you went and you stuck to your guns with what you wanted from GM. It sounds like it was an amazing experience. I’ve learned not to take my own voice for granted when it comes to giving feedback about my gluten-free experience with companies/restaurants. Most will listen. I’m so glad that you all were able to provide some teaching moments to them, too! :)

    I think it’s great that Danna is working with them. She’s been doing gf for a LONG time. I can’t wait to see her Baking Gluten-Free for Dummies!

    • Shirley on November 9th, 2010 8:39 am

      Hi Debi–Thanks! I love that going gluten free has empowered us all. Folks who don’t listen aren’t interested in feeding us safely. Everyone should want to feed others food that nourishes them and doesn’t poison them, right? ;-) I wasn’t the one who pointed out the issue with the cross contamination. Amy Leger was on that immediately! I knew I was not going to eat any of the baked goods anyway, so I was a bit distracted at that point, checking out the huge Betty Crocker kitchen. ;-)

      Danna is a true powerhouse! Yes, she says she’s been doing this for 20 years. Like most of us she went through a very rough time at first in getting her son diagnosed as he was fading right before her eyes. She’s done so much to help the gluten-free cause and will continue to do so in working with General Mills!

      Hugsss,
      Shirley

  5. Alison St. Sure on November 9th, 2010 3:15 am

    Shirley,
    I am so glad you were one of the chosen bloggers to represent us! Great write-up.

    • Shirley on November 9th, 2010 8:42 am

      Gosh, Alison, thank you! :-) Your words mean an awful lot to me. :-) I’m so glad you enjoyed the write-up!

      Shirley

  6. stephanie @ glutenfreebynature on November 9th, 2010 9:47 am

    Hey Shirley,

    Oh I have been waiting with baited breath for this post: I was dying to hear all about your trip. And this post was no disappointment. Kim is 100% correct, I feel as if we were right there with you!

    Thank you for being our voice. Like I’ve said before, I could think of no one better to represent us.

    hugs
    Stephanie

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 11:49 am

      Hi Stephanie–You are the absolute sweetest–thanks! I am happy to be a voice for all of us who want to eat safely and well if we are consuming gf processed products. :-) I always worry about my rambling posts so hearing that feedback from you, Kim, and others on feeling like you were there with me at the summit is such a wonderful thing. It’s truly much appreciated!

      xo,
      Shirley

  7. Fatcat on November 9th, 2010 10:47 am

    Shirley,

    Can you give us a blog post on sharing a kitchen in our homes? I share with 4 gluten eaters and I try to be careful, but I could probably use some help with this.

    Dana

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 11:58 am

      Hi Dana–I’ll admit this topic is a tough one and not something I necessarily feel good about offering advice on. In our house, even when I had two gluten eaters plus me, the gf one (before son went gf), there was very little gluten-containing food. I was pretty emphatic about cooking only gluten-free food following my gfe approach. Nobody complained because gfe meals are good and one doesn’t feel deprived. The same holds true when we have guests. And, having almost 100% gf food in the house has kept me safe. Even now with just Mr. GFE’s bread and treats that are self contained, I am relentless about keeping them “cloistered” and keeping my counters, etc. wiped down. The safest route is really to have a 100% gf house or as close as possible to that. I will consider doing a post like this in the future and soliciting input though, but again, mostly to seek other’s input. I do appreciate the question. In the mean time, I’ll refer you to Linda’s well-done post on this topic from a while back—Managing Gluten in the Kitchen. Be sure to read the comments, too, as readers offer their own helpful advice.

      Hope that will help! Hugs,
      Shirley

  8. Rachel on November 9th, 2010 10:55 am

    What a great time I had with you and the other bloggers in Minneapolis. And you really captured the personalities of Lynn, Vanessa and Maureen in that wonderful photo above!

    I agree that I would have liked to have known which of my blogger buddies and buddies-to-be were going to be in attendance at the very least so I could have visited their blogs ahead of time and figured out what questions I might like to ask them and know what their special expertise would be.

    The very detailed summary of our Minneapolis experience above is great. I had already forgotten things about that day and am glad to have your information. I have already been thinking about improvements to my mixed gf/gluteny kitchen and threw out one shared, beatup cutting board and will be getting my husband dedicated cutting board and colander to avoid pasta poisoning. Celiac disease is so insidious with its internal health dangers that even though he doesn’t show symptoms of being “glutened” with our set up now I don’t feel confident that he isn’t ingesting small amounts of gluten.

    Keep up the great blogging!

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 12:07 pm

      Hi Rachel–Our fun time at General Mills was just too short, wasn’t it? Not that we’ve all met, we want more time together! :-) You make a great point that we could have really done some “up front” reading of each others blogs so that we could feel better acquainted and know what to ask of each other when we actually met. I guess we’ll know for next time … ;-)

      It’s so easy to replace a few things in the kitchen to keep our gf loved ones safe. Yes, your statement on celiac disease being so insidious and symptoms of being glutened not necessarily occurring bears repeating. Many folks naively believe that no reaction means a product is safe for them, but this is far from true. Statistics show that about 40% of celiacs have no symptoms before diagnosis. I suspect they do, but not ones they would associate with gluten. I read daily about folks consuming gf products they consider to be safe and then having continued vitamin and mineral deficiencies, recurrence of former issues like anemia, and more. The same holds true for many after eating gf and accidentally getting gluten. So we need to remove every possible source of gluten in our homes and diets.

      Thanks for the encouragement, dear! Oh, and that is a fun photo with Maureen doing her hair “twirl,” isn’t it? LOL
      Shirley

  9. Erin Elberson on November 9th, 2010 11:33 am

    Shirley,
    I am SO glad that you went, and what a great group! I am quite sure that none of you had difficulty speaking your mind, and I am glad they encouraged you to attend, given the gfe approach and your reactions.
    I was shocked to hear about the shared facility-when I read “gluten free environment” I “ass”umed that meant facility. Clever and yet disturbing wording on the part of GM.
    I would love to see certified products as well as more health concious blends. Thank you for being our voice.

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 12:12 pm

      Oh, Erin, thank you! That means a LOT to me. :-) Yes, a terrific group of folks coming from diverse places, but united in our overall mission!

      To be clear, General Mills states that they do R5Elisa testing, but I feel a whole lot better when I know that products are GFCO certified, which not only means less than 10 ppm, but also means spot checks and inspections every step of the way. Yes, I think that we all thought that a dedicated facility was involved. The GM person who spoke made it clear that she feels that this dedicated area/environment is gluten free, but I think many of us who have experienced issues with gf products manufactured in similar environments do not feel the same way. Gluten can travel far beyond what is expected.

      I’m encouraged and hopeful that GM will step up to the plate and respond to our needs!
      Shirley

  10. Wendy @ Celiacs in the House on November 9th, 2010 12:06 pm

    Shirley
    I hope you never doubt whether you should go to these manufacturer meetings. Your input is so important. The whole ‘cleaning’ the lines and the contaminated cooking utensils shows they have a lot to learn and it sounds like this band of feisty GF bloggers was just the team to tell ‘em like it is. I hope they listen and I hope the whole 20 ppm nonsense is debunked soon too.

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 12:17 pm

      Hi Wendy–Thanks so much for this comment and your other one, too. That latter one made me a bit emotional. You guys put so much faith in me and I appreciate that. Yes, I do carry our stories with me and share them as much as possible. We are the faces of celiac and non-celiac gluten issues. These faces cannot be forgotten when it comes to diagnosing new folks and taking care of the ones who are already diagnosed by feeding them well and safely. (And, yes, the 20 ppm limit needs to go by the way side!) I do know I like being a part of the “feisty gf bloggers” group. If feisty is what it takes to move the world, then let’s do it! As Mr. GFE always says, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” ;-)

      Hugs,
      Shirley

  11. Cinde on November 9th, 2010 2:41 pm

    It was such fun meeting you and the rest of the GF bloggers in person at the General Mills summit! I hope we will meet again in the future. :) Thanks for sharing this wonderful post and your great photos!

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 12:19 pm

      Hi Cinde–Oh, I feel the same way about meeting you … as I said to Rachel, we just needed more time together. Blogging events are always like that though … too much scheduled time and not enough unscheduled. ;-) Hopefully, there will be many more opportunities for us to meet and share with each other!

      I appreciate all your kind words! :-) Hugs,
      Shirley

  12. Maggie on November 9th, 2010 3:09 pm

    Wow Shirley. You are amazing! What a wonderful advocate you are for gluten-free living. Thank you so much for speaking on behalf of so many of us. I am so inspired by you and honoured to know you. I have one question for you – why isn’t is 0ppm?

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 12:32 pm

      Gosh, Maggie, I don’t know about amazing and your other very generous words, but thank you ever so much! Just doing what a girl’s gotta do. ;-) So grateful I had the opportunity and GM was willing to invite all of us and really listen—that’s huge in my book!

      Ah, the ppm question. First, I’m with you. I want to consume 0 ppm of gluten. That’s why real foods, whole foods, are the way to go and the basis of my gfe approach. BUT, the folks who submitted data to the FDA when they asked for comments and input on establishing the ppm standard for the “gluten-free” label say that there is not a test available to test down to 0 ppm. Others say that is not the case, but all seem to agree that the testing available, as well as financially feasible, for large amounts of products only tests to less than 10 ppm or thereabouts (I’ve heard 8 ppm quoted before and even 3 ppm I believe, but am not going to dig for that info, so please don’t quote me). GIG and its GFCO took the proposed 20 ppm upper limit and halved it to ensure absolute safety. Studies have seemed to say that less than 20 ppm is safe, but there are other scientific sources that dispute that per my understanding, and certainly individuals like myself who do. Even Carol McCarthy Shilson talked about those who are super sensitive and react to far less. It’s important to note that GIG submitted a letter to the FDA during the comments period and stated that several major gf flour/flour mix manufacturers could NOT meet the 20 ppm limit. Who knows if that has changed? No outside testing and inspections are being done of these companies (unless they agree to GFCO certification), and per my understanding, even when a limit is finally set by the FDA (who knows when that will be!), there will be no testing/inspections. It will be up to the company. (Fox guarding the hen house perhaps?) So, again, real food that’s naturally gluten free and GFCO-certified products are the ones I currently consume most of the time. Does that make sense? Sure hope I didn’t confuse things further …

      xo,
      Shirley

      • Maggie on November 10th, 2010 9:36 pm

        Makes total sense, thank you Shirley (that was a blog post in and of itself). Most of the time I try not to focus too much on the details, research etc because it worries me and I don’t want to be a worry-wart. So I try hard to make sure my kids have as little processed food as possible (crackers, healthier chips, organic hot dogs, gf waffles). Then I don’t have to worry about the research as much! I can rely on you and Heidi to keep me in the loop! Thank goodness for both of you. xo

        • Shirley on November 12th, 2010 8:30 am

          Hi Maggie–My pleasure to share that info, dear. You are an amazing mom and feed your family very safely and well! :-) As always you are too sweet with your kudos—thank you! Happy Friday!

          xo,
          Shirley

  13. Pat @ Elegantly Gluten-Free on November 9th, 2010 5:00 pm

    I am so glad you were able and willing to go to this event because large producers like General Mills need to hear what you think! I’m glad they were willing to listen to the extent that they did — a huge step, I’m sure — and I’m hopeful that they’ll be willing to pursue the concept of gluten-free further.

    Good point, too, about the bacon snack opportunity missed — I need to be more on the lookout for opportunities like that, too.

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 12:36 pm

      Hi Pat–Thanks for your feedback! Yes, I agree … it’s a huge step, and kudos to General Mills for being willing to take it and open themselves up to criticism even as they learn and move forward.

      Haha on the bacon snack … why, why, why is hindsight 20/20? We were all sitting there starving and talking about that bacon and not one of us thought to go get some! I’m sure the hotel would have helped us out! ;-)

      Shirley

  14. Linda on November 9th, 2010 5:04 pm

    Shirley ~ That was a thorough recap, and you remembered some details that I didn’t. It was truly wonderful meeting you, and I’m so glad we had that time together at the beginning. I wish we had gotten a picture with the two of us. Thanks so much for your kind words about me. I can’t wait till we get together again!

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 12:40 pm

      Hi Linda–Thanks so much! Those words on my summary mean a lot coming from you. :-)

      You know I feel the same way about us finally meeting. Just for giving us that opportunity, I’m extremely grateful to GM! Yes, a photo of us together would have been great. Too bad they didn’t have a PR person doing that. As much as we bloggers take photos, even we sometimes just like to live in the moment and not be snapping away. ;-) Everything I said about you is true, Linda! So glad you changed your blog photo so everyone can see the real you. LOL

      Hugsss,
      Shirley

  15. Heidi @adventuresofaglutenfreemom.com on November 9th, 2010 5:54 pm

    I could just hug you my friend!

    I know how much you lamented on going, but I’m so glad you decided to do it anyway. You are a perfect choice to represent the gluten-free community as a whole Shirley, not just because of your knowledge, but because you are a key player in many different gluten-free circles (and carry all of our stories with you to events like these). You also did an EXCELLENT job recapping the summit (and I remember the 200ppm threshold!) for us and like Kim said, you made me feel as though I were right there with you… eating lots of Hormel bacon, LOL! (My dad is from Autin, MN and my late grandfather worked for Hormel…he was part of the first work “gang” that made SPAM).

    I am still trying to absorb the misconception I had that General Mills gluten-free products are made in a 100% dedicated gluten-free facility (rather than a gluten-free “environment”), but even more so, that they thought heat could “kill the gluten” (it’s a protein, not a bacteria). ;-)

    I do commend General Mills though for stepping up and asking for feedback from some phenomenal GF folks and it will be exciting to watch what happens next. While I am with you on eating mostly non-processed, naturally gluten-free, whole foods, there are times when I rely on convenience foods, especially for my kids and I need to know what exactly is in the food I’m feeding to them. No food is worth the potential consequences of repeat gluten exposure.

    Okay, I wrote a book as usual, off to read all the other recaps…

    xo,
    Heidi

    • Wendy @ Celiacs in the House on November 9th, 2010 10:43 pm

      I have got to say how much I agree with Heidi when she says you carry all our stories with you. Just think of how many stories you have heard as a support group leader, as a gluten-free blogger, as a close friend to the GF bloggers who have met you and loved you. You do carry our stories and you are the voice of so many people when you participate in something like this and it makes it safer for all of us and all those millions who will be diagnosed though our awareness efforts.

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 12:47 pm

      Hi Heidi–I’ll gladly take a big bear hug from you any time, my dear friend! You guys are making me teary here with all your beyond kind words. I hope I can live up to your expectations.

      How interesting on your family history in MN, especially your SPAM connection! Did you know that the SPAM museum is there in Austin? Our shuttle driver for the airport told us that he chauffeured one couple in a limo who had a gourmet SPAM dinner (can you say contradiction in terms? LOL) before heading to the museum. What a hoot, huh? ;-)

      Well, to be clear, the folks who had the misconception about the heat were not ones involved in actual processing and ppm testing per my understanding. Still, it does give one pause. If only heat did kill gluten, huh? No more worries about dedicated fryers … now that would be the life! But, nope, heat does not kill the gluten protein.

      Yes, one has to admire and respect General Mills and their team for their willingness to hear it all to improve and their business acumen for recognizing the need to do so.

      Love you my book-writing friend … you’re definitely another of my “sisters”!
      Shirley

  16. Diane-thewholegang on November 9th, 2010 9:58 pm

    What a great recap of your trip. I love that you shared lots of resources with GM and with us on this post. I hope they were listening and I hope they act. I’m not big on processed but there are folks out there that are and they need to be protected.

    Keep whispering in their ear Shirley while you grab their arm. :-)

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 12:50 pm

      Hi Diane–Thanks so much! Always love your kind feedback. :-) As much as we’d like to think (hope?) differently, those of us who are mostly eating real food that is naturally gf are the exception. So I absolutely hope that GM will move forward with great plans and keep us safe and satisfied. ;-)

      Ah, I’m more a grabber than a whisperer LOL (althought I think you might be seen as a loud whisperer), but thanks for the great advice!

      Shirley

  17. glutenfreeforgood on November 9th, 2010 11:01 pm

    This was great, Shirley. Thanks for the report on your trip. I’ve been curious how it went and I’m glad you were there to represent us. I can only imagine what a good job you did discussing the issue of getting sick from their products. Glad you suggested they get the “stamp of approval” from one of the groups that certify GF. It also sounds like you had some fun in between all the work. And yes, work. You provided them with lots of expert counsel. Mr. GFE is right, they were smart to bring you into the fold. You have lots of expertise to offer.

    xo

    • Shirley on November 10th, 2010 12:53 pm

      Hi Melissa–Thank you! Expert counsel? Hmmm, luckily I had Danna Korn and Carol McCarthy Shilson there to help with that. I was trying to share so much and had so much going on inside my head that the 200 ppm figure momentarily escaped me, although I’ve quoted it many times. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to get in all one wants to cover, even with notes, but I think all of us did a pretty good job. Linda was a big help on the cross contamination, certification, and trust discussions. I think they were smart to hear all our voices, not just mine. We all are the voice of the gf community! :-)

      xo,
      Shirley

  18. Ricki on November 10th, 2010 2:08 pm

    Oh my goodness, WOW! First, what a great experience–and so glad you were there to point out the little flaws (washing equals gluten free?? Yikes!!). I bet that GM really did appreciate all the brutal honesty–after all, GF folks won’t want to buy products that cause reactions. They are lucky to have you on board! Glad you also got to meet some fabulous bloggers and to enjoy some great food before and after the “work day.” :)

    • Shirley on November 12th, 2010 8:21 am

      Hi Ricki–Thanks so much for the feedback! I appreciate your kind words as always. ;-) Yes, clearly, there’s some work to be done at General Mills, but they are very committed to serving the gluten-free community well. I have no doubt of that, so I’m anxious to see what unfolds over the next several months.

      Hugs,
      Shirley

  19. Stephanie O'Dea on November 10th, 2010 4:53 pm

    Shirley, this is such a valuable outline of the events and information shared. thank you for spending so much time laying everything out in such detail.

    Since I don’t have gluten intolerance (my 6yr old does), I rely on you and other experts to steer me the right direction. I greatly appreciate the time, energy, and knowledge you provide!
    oxxo

    • Shirley on November 12th, 2010 8:23 am

      Hi Steph–Thanks so much, dear! I’m not an expert (or a medical professional as my sidebar disclaimer notes), but I am a passionate and committed volunteer in this effort. :-) It’s always wonderful to know that folks feel I am doing a good job of speaking up for them out in our gluten-full world. ;-)

      xoxo,
      Shirley

  20. Denise on November 10th, 2010 9:20 pm

    WOW….thanks very much for sharing your adventure with us Shirley. I loved reading each and every detail and love that you show photos as well. You are amazing and a wonderful friend to have. xoxo Live Love and Peace

    • Shirley on November 12th, 2010 8:27 am

      Hi there, Denise–Long time, no see … miss you! Hoping to remedy that with a get together soon. Must reply to your email.

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed my post. You are way too kind with your words, but I’ll take them! ;-) It was a great experience and I’m very encouraged about changes that will made by General Mills to serve us all better. If a giant company like General Mills get totally onboard and up to speed, then others will have to follow suit—and that we want very, very much want! Imagine walking into any restaurant or store and having abundant gf options (other than my faves, of course—naturally gf, real foods) that are safe and healthy … that’s what I want for everyone!

      xoxo to you, my Love and Peace gal,
      Shirley

  21. Cinde on November 12th, 2010 11:48 pm

    Hi Shirley,

    It’s Cinde from Gluten Free Taste of Home. Your photos look terrific! It was so nice meeting you at General Mills! Here is a link to my post about the trip if you want to check it out:

    http://glutenfreetasteofhome.blogspot.com/2010/11/i-attended-gluten-free-summit-at.html

    Happy Holidays!
    Cinde

    • Shirley on November 13th, 2010 9:59 pm

      Hi Cinde–Thanks for the kind words, dear! It was so good to meet you, too. :-) I really appreciate you letting me know your post was up. I think it was serendipity that you were invited to the General Mills summit since you were the Betty Crocker Coupon Queen in high school. It was just meant to be!

      Hope you have wonderful holidays, too, my dear! I’m watching my first Christmas movie right this moment. While it seems early, watching it is definitely perking me up after a few long days. ;-)

      Shirley

  22. Maureen "Hold The Gluten" on November 16th, 2010 10:38 pm

    Shirley!!! I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it was to meet you (finally) in person! Awesome blog post – you really recapped the event well. I truly hope our paths will cross again and we can share a big ol’ plate of bacon!!! :)

    • Shirley on November 19th, 2010 6:40 pm

      Hey there, Maureen–Just realized I hadn’t replied to you yet—yikes! (Your comment got lost in all my giveaway entries.) Thanks so much, dear. You know I feel the same way about meeting you! Such fun, especially when you “let down your hair.” ;-) Yep, there’s no way we’re missing out on the bacon the next time around! The first order of business will be ordering bacon for all!! :-)

      Hugs,
      Shirley

  23. Amanda on December 20th, 2010 3:57 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this!

    I had been showing signs of being glutened, but I could figure out why. After reading this, I realized we had been using more and more of the BC mixes, as well as eating more of the Chex cereal. Thankfully, we hadn’t opened the GM Bisquick Mix yet.

    I gathered up all my unopened products, and took them back to my local grocery store for a full refund. Reason on refund slip? “Not really gluten free.” Hopefully someone in the store will see it. I shared your blog entry with the official Facebook page for my local grocery store, and on my blog as well.

    I have seen several people in the LiveJournal Celiac group direct people here as well (which is how I first read this entry).

    I certainly won’t be purchasing any more of their products. If they get certified by GFCO, I will see about giving them another chance.

    • Shirley on December 21st, 2010 11:53 pm

      Hi Amanda–You’re welcome, and welcome to gfe! I’ll be interested to see if your symptoms go away now. To be clear, General Mills states that they ELISA5 test their products at less than 20 ppm gluten, which is the currently proposed FDA standard. So, if every single one of their products is meeting that standard 100% of the time, they are in keeping with the proposed guidelines. But, like you, I want to see their products GFCO-certified. (I’d also like to see the FDA change their guidelines to less than 10 ppm. It’s obvious that the products can be tested to that level.) I may never (or rarely) use the General Mills products as I have never been one to use mixes much, but I would like to use the Chex cereals occasionally for snack mixes and I know many other folks besides myself will use their products.

      Thanks for sharing the info as well as letting me know how you found your way here, too. Must check out your blog soon! :-)

      Shirley

  24. Peter Bronski on January 20th, 2011 10:57 am

    Hey Shirley!

    After reading your comment following my review of Bisquick’s GF baking mix over at No Gluten, No Problem (http://noglutennoproblem.blogspot.com/2011/01/product-review-bisquick-gluten-free.html) I came right over to re-read about your experiences at the General Mills GF blogger summit. Interesting stuff.

    A question for you – if GM is doing ELISA gluten testing to a level of 20ppm, the proposed standard, and yet you and others still feel like you’re having a gluten reaction to their products, is this an indictment of the 20ppm standard in general? Or that GM is not appropriately testing their GF products or preventing cross-contamination following the testing? Like GM, many respected companies – including Bob’s Red Mill – are not GFCO certified and do in-house gluten testing with ELISA protocols. What are your thoughts on them?

    I think the lack of transparency (and potentially, downright misleading labeling) on GM products regarding the GF (or not) environment in which they’re processed underscores the need for a clear GF standard in the United States, with clear guidelines.

    I also contacted GM earlier today. While all the attendees are great people and great GF bloggers, I couldn’t help but notice that 100% were women (as are all the featured bloggers on Live Gluten Freely). I’d love to see at least one male voice added to the mix!

    Thanks for your diligent reporting following the trip!

    Cheers, Pete

    • Shirley on January 20th, 2011 1:10 pm

      Hey Pete–Thanks for stopping by and leaving your usual comprehensive thoughts! As far as answering your question on what’s causing some of us to have reactions to GM products, personally, I *think* it’s a combo of both issues… that some of us are more sensitive than less than 20 ppm gluten AND that there might be gluten cross contamination. One of the huge benefits of GFCO certification as I see it is that they inspect and test throughout the process AND will do spot checks on products from time to time just off the shelf. That means much more to me than in-house gluten testing (Elisa-tested to less than 20 ppm or not), if you know what I mean.

      We absolutely need a definitive standard on what gluten free means, with all the loopholes closed.

      I also agree that a male voice giving gluten-free input to GM would be fantastic. In fact, as several of us at the summit were waiting for folks to arrive the first afternoon, we were speculating on you and other male gf bloggers possibly being included. We had no idea who was participating. GM didn’t offer much up on their criteria for selecting attendees, except to say that it was not who had the most readership, best stats, etc. … they said they looked at a number of factors. But, yes, they need a male voice, too. We all have such different perspectives. You would be a terrific participant! Hope that you’ll get to give them your valued feedback!

      Thanks for the kind words on my report! Always great to chat with you, Pete!
      Shirley

    • Amanda on January 21st, 2011 1:53 pm

      Hey Pete –

      I read your reply, and thought I’d let you know that Bob’s Red Mill states this on their page:

      “Which products are gluten free?

      All of our products marked with our gluten free symbol are produced in a dedicated facility and batch tested for gluten content. For a complete list of our gluten free products, click here. If an item does not appear on this list, it is not produced in our gluten free facility.”

      The “click here” goes to this: http://www.bobsredmill.com/userfiles/GF%20Product%20Listing%20Update%209-09.pdf

      True, they’re not certified (which would be super), but at least they’re clearly stating they’re using a dedicated facility plus batch testing. Bob’s Red Mill has yet to make me sick, and I’m extremely sensitive to even a wee bit of gluten. However, I’ve not yet sat and ate a lot of Bob’s Red Mill in one sitting, or over a period of days, like I did with the GM Betty Crocker products — made me ill. We’re using more Bob’s now, with our Breadman, so it will be interesting to see if anything bad comes of it.

      I think part of the problem with the 20ppm is it allows for the possibility of so much more left-behind gluten, that it can build up in one’s system faster, which then leads to a reaction– even in the less sensitive.

      Hodgson’s, however, is a dangerous one. They’ve freely admitted to me in e-mail that they do not have enough room in their GF facility to do all their products, so they run many of them on shared lines. This, however, is not on their boxes.

      I agree with Shirley. It would be great to see more feedback/blogging from the male voice on Celiac issues.

      Amanda

  25. Amanda on October 21st, 2011 11:22 am

    Have you ever had any follow-up with General Mills about this issue?

    I did a search of your blog and didn’t see anything, and I certainly haven’t heard anything from any General Mills GF sites that I follow. I’ve come across many a time where a box of Chex or some BC mix would have come in really handy, but haven’t dared to give it another try, after getting so sick from their “gluten free” products.

    • Shirley on October 21st, 2011 8:43 pm

      Hi Amanda–The only follow up I’ve had with General Mills is when they launched their new website earlier this year. As far as getting gluten-free certification from an independent organization like GFCO, GM has stated that they feel their own internal certification is sufficient. Testing of some GM products has been conducted by the Gluten-Free Watchdog program and some bloggers using the home gluten detection test kits. To my knowledge, all have shown that the products are less than 20 ppm gluten. Still … folks get sick from their products. Honestly, I’m not sure what that means. Does it mean that all these folks cannot tolerate gluten at that level? Or does it mean that there are products of theirs that fall through the cracks? I suspect the former is the case as I know for a fact I react to very low levels of gluten, far below the less than 20 ppm level. That’s all I know right now. If anything changes significantly and I am aware of it, I’ll definitely share.

      Shirley

      • Amanda on November 21st, 2011 7:48 pm

        Thanks, Shirley, that would be great! I would definitely love to hear any follow-up you may get from General Mills — at any point in the future.

        I can’t afford the home test kits, and it took me so long to recover from the glutening I got from the BC mixes, I’m very hesitant to try it again as they remain uncertified.

        • Shirley on November 22nd, 2011 9:41 am

          Amanda–Will do for sure! FYI–I still get emails at least once a week from folks who have found my post as they were researching online to see if General Mills products (“gluten-free” Chex cereals and baking mixes) could b causing their ongoing or new “gluten” problems. After hearing initially from them, I don’t hear back from all of them, but many do report back that once they eliminate the GM products, their symptoms go away. Coincidence? I think not, and I also think that is reason enough to stay away IMHO.

          Shirley

  26. Dianne on December 22nd, 2011 8:56 am

    Hi, I’m glad I found this article about Betty Crocker/gluten-free. I made a Betty Crocker gluten-free Devil’s Food Cake last week, and it was fabulous. I had no problems with it. I even sent Betty Crocker an email telling them how good the cake was, and how much I appreciate them putting out gluten-free products.

    So, yesterday, I thought I’d try the Golden Cake mix and I made some cupcakes. And I’m certain I’ve been glutened. I’m feeling so sick today (I’ve been diagnosed with Celiac since ’97). Ugh. I’m not surprised to hear that they don’t make these mixes in a gluten-free facility separate from their gluten products. I have to say I’ll now avoid these mixes. Hopefully I’ll feel better soon. I’ll contact Betty Crocker, too, and tell them what happened. Thanks.

    • Shirley on December 22nd, 2011 9:03 am

      Hi Diane–I’ve so very sorry to hear that you were glutened from Betty Crocker products. There are so many who have reported gluten reactions. I’m glad that you will be contacting them and I sincerely hope you’ll feel better very soon. It’s miserable to be glutened. :-( You might want to read my post and all the comments on Recovering from Being Glutened. Thanks so much for taking the time to share with others. We all need to know about products that can make us ill.

      Best,
      Shirley

      • Dianne on December 22nd, 2011 9:12 am

        Hi Shirley, Thank you for your fast reply. I really appreciate your article. I will read your post about Recovering from being glutened. Honestly, I don’t get glutened very often since I’m very careful, but I guess I ‘assumed’ the cake mix was gluten-free without investigating how it was produced. Lesson learned.

        Thanks again, Dianne

  27. Elizabeth on January 24th, 2012 11:17 pm

    So… do you know if they have remedied this? I’m new to GF cooking – I cook from scratch have for 15 years,(although I’m really really new to GF living as in less than a week). But it’s really nice to have a boxed mix every once in a while or have a cereal for a quick breakfast..etc

    • Shirley on January 25th, 2012 12:29 am

      Hi Elizabeth–Many will tell you that there are no issues, that they use General Mills products with no issues. Others, like me, will tell you that we will not eat them. There are other brands of gluten-free mixes. For example, Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix is very popular. There are also other brands of gluten-free cereals. I recommend that you do some research and use your best judgment. Best of luck with gluten-free baking! FYI–I have some tip sheets via the Getting Started with GFE tab right under my header that you may find helpful.

      Shirley

  28. Cookie2 on May 18th, 2012 11:01 am

    THANK YOU! I recently used the Betty Crocker GF white cake mix as the base for a carrot cake I wanted to make for the whole family. I’m GF, they’re not. I wanted something everyone could enjoy. The day after eating it, I spent the whole day at home because I had to be “near by”. I was in misery. But I also questioned everything I had eaten. Come on! It was GF! I couldn’t possibly have reacted to the cake mix. In hindsight, I wish I had used the more expensive Pamela’s white cake mix and saved myself the agony. I’ve learned. Betty Crocker is out. I can’t trust their processing. It’s sad.

    • Shirley on April 30th, 2013 12:02 am

      Hey Cookie–In responding to Catherine’s comment, I see yours sitting here unanswered. I am so very sorry! :-( Thank you so much for sharing your report on eating GM products. I hope you have stayed clear of these products and have had no more issues. It is sad as you say, because so, so many people are eating these products thinking they are gf.

      Shirley

  29. Catherine Wall on April 29th, 2013 8:37 pm

    Thanks for this informative site with info on General Mills cereals. About 6 weeks ago, I let GM know their GF Honeynut Chex isn’t gluten free. I have dermatitis herpetiformis which breaks out in a very specific spot (base of spine) when I get even a tiny bit of gluten. Twice, about 3 months apart, 2 different boxes of this cereal caused the break-out. I communicated with them by email and by phone, got the standard reply that you did and a promise of lots of coupons. That standard jive about Codex standards just isn’t good enough. That they continue to claim ‘gluten free’ on these chex cereals when they know from customers that their claim is false just says ‘greedy, unethical corporate behavior’ loud and clear to me….and they didn’t even bother to send the coupons, which I could have given to a gluten tolerant person. Right: no trust left for GM.

    Thanks again for your information. Catherine Wall

    • Shirley on April 29th, 2013 11:55 pm

      Hi Catherine–Welcome to gfe. :-) I just wish that something more fun had brought you here. I am not surprised, but I am very sorry to hear about your reaction. I do believe that those of us who are more sensitive and/or have very specific reactions (like your DH) are actually “lucky” to know right away. I believe that the thousands and thousands who are eating these “gluten-free” GM products are having issues and continuing damage and they have absolutely no idea. I especially cringe when I think of all the kids eating these products. I’ve talked to many adults about my and others’ beliefs that these products are not safe, but most don’t want to hear it. :-( I agree with all you are saying. I hope the situation will change in the near future … again, on all … but I’m not holding out much hope.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Please keep spreading the word, and I hope to see you here again!
      Shirley

      • Catherine Wall on April 30th, 2013 2:37 am

        Wow! Kids’ parents don’t want to hear it? Maybe they think the reactions that they can see are the only reactions taking place? Maybe don’t know about the enteropathic ongoing damage that increases chances for future malignancies? Anyway…thanks for your encouragement. Keep up your excellent work! cw

      • Catherine Wall on June 16th, 2013 9:59 am

        Hi Shirley. Just want to update all on our previous conversation about GM and their gluten-free labeling. I’d reported at the end of April that, after 6+ weeks of having conversed with GM by email and phone about two incidents involving reactions to their Honey-nut Chex product, I have finally (yesterday, 6/14/13) received a letter from them (dated April 10?) which included 4 $6.00 coupons for GM products. I had complained that they’d not sent coupons that they’d promised by way of apology. So…just to set the record straight and be fair, I wanted to get back with you and your readers.

        Interestingly, the lady sending the letter seems to have lost the plot as to my complaint being related to my diagnosed CD as well as my having been an RD for 30+ years because she gave me the address for the Food and Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and suggested I contact them for info on food allergies.

        She suggests that I may have an allergy to one of the listed ingredients and that one should check the list every purchase as the formulas change, etc, etc.

        I’ll not waste time in a reply. Who has time for a company or a representative of same who, in essence, invalidated and dismissed my experience with their product?….as well as my knowledge of my own condition, my own body…and the bit of knowledge I may have picked up along the way in 30 years of clinical practice of dietetics…

        Just the usual corporate shuffle done to shift the focus from their own unethical grasping (for the niche market in CD patients while being too cheap to set up a proper gluten-free production and packaging area to ensure a truly gluten-free product) to my implied ignorance of the subject at hand.

        Obviously (from their comments to you regarding their following the standards allowing gluten-free to be defined with ppm too high for safety for CD patients) they test their Chex products labeled ‘gluten-free’ for ppm gluten; know the stricter, safer ppm standards are and that their products exceed that; yet continue to use the unsafe production and packaging equipment and procedures; knowingly causing harm to CD patients consuming them….then condescendingly refer me to an organization where I can obtain info to correct my glaring deficiency in knowledge.

        What a bunch of chicken livers.

        Anyway, they sent the coupons. That I do appreciate. I shall no doubt use them for products that friends and family can consume and this, at least, is a good thing…miniscule in comparison to their unconscionable and ongoing practices; but, one must always acknowledge any good.

        Thanks for ‘listening’ to my story. Good to see so many people responding to your good work.

        • Shirley on June 18th, 2013 5:33 pm

          Hi Catherine–Thanks for coming back to tell us how GM followed up with you. Yeah, I think that’s pretty much corporate speak/typical deflection; i.e., “it’s not us, it’s you.” :-( I continue to hear about folks having reactions to GM products, but to my knowledge, to date none of their products have tested “gluten-full” per individual and other independent testing. It is very frustrating and a huge concern as they are rolling out new “gluten-free” products. Thanks so much for letting us know that they did finally make good on their promise of products and for sharing your story overall. I, and all of us, really appreciate it! Oh, and thanks to for your kind words–much appreciated!

          Shirley

  30. Keith on November 21st, 2013 7:16 pm

    Thanks so much for this — this is really helpful.

    I have a basic question about who produces the actual gluten free flour? Is it made in separate factories? Does General Mills have separate facilities, etc.?

    Could flour from a non-gluten free factory be mixed with regular flour?

    Thanks so much!

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