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General Mills Rice Chex, Now Gluten Free

July 9, 2008
What it is: A cereal that is now gluten free
How it comes: A 12.8-ounce box
Where it is: In the cereal aisle
Who it's for: Anyone who likes Chex, but especially for those who can't eat products containing gluten
Suggested retail price: $2.99
Nutrition notes: A serving has 100 calories, 2 grams sugar, 0.5 grams total fat and is a good source of whole grain, with at least 8 grams per serving; and it's gluten free
Category: Fabulous Food: A healthy twist

Bonnie: We’ve chosen Rice Chex as our FeaturedBite in a tribute to General Mills — the world’s sixth-largest food company — which has decided to change the formula of this cereal to make it gluten free. Gluten is a protein found mainly in wheat, but also in some other grains.

General Mills reformulated the cereal using molasses in place of barley malt syrup and has taken steps to prevent cross contamination with grains used in making their other cereals during the production of Rice Chex. That means that folks with celiac disease — an autoimmune condition that results in gluten intolerance — can sit down to a regular-priced bowl of cereal found in the regular cereal section of the supermarket.

One concern with many gluten-free products is that they’re made from refined grains, which generally are lower in iron, B vitamins and fiber. This gluten-free Rice Chex provides an excellent source of iron and the B vitamins; it’s only lacking in fiber.

You may not have noticed if you don’t need to purchase gluten-free products, but most of them often cost two to three times the price of gluten-containing products. Next time you’re in the supermarket and have an extra couple of minutes, check out how much these folks — and others with special nutrition needs — are paying for their food.

Celiac disease affects about 1 percent of the population, or more than 3 million Americans, according to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. The lifelong treatment is to avoid gluten, naturally found in wheat, barley and rye.

Just imagine never being able to enjoy a fresh bagel topped with cream cheese and salmon, a slice of brick-oven pizza, a bowl of pasta e fagioli or even a tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat. I am fortunate, but often do think about this as a number of my friends have celiac disease. When they come to dinner or we dine out, I plan my choices so they can enjoy everything.

So kudos to General Mills for making gluten-free Rice Chex, a cereal that, after reformulation, tastes the same as the original. Perhaps now the five larger food companies will follow suit.

Bryan: Rice Chex is likely not a product you’ll purchase — unless you’re one of the millions of people in the United States who have a gluten allergy. Those sensitive to gluten have essentially had their dietary options cut to a tiny fraction of what “ordinary” people can comfortably consume…. Just imagine having to avoid all wheat, barley and rye!

Though the path is still a complicated one to walk, the life of a gluten-allergy sufferer has eased a great deal in the past decade. Specialty producers have been churning out everything from gluten-free bread and pancakes to muffins and cookies. There has even been a gluten-free restaurant that sprang up in New York City, providing the hordes of afflicted food lovers with actual options beyond avoiding wheat and other grains!

General Mills is certainly not the first company to offer a gluten-free product, but they are by far the largest and most influential to do so. What strikes me most about their offering is how indistinguishable it is from the “normal” product. I challenged my girlfriend, one of the most fickle eaters I know and an enormous fan of Rice Chex, to a blind taste test. She was more than certain that she could pick out the “allergy product;” three bowls later and we had both forgotten which was which. Actually, it didn’t matter; they taste the same!

The one problem I’ve always had with “allergy products” is that they don’t taste the same as the products they imitate. Rice Dream is not ice cream, not even close… But GM’s new gluten-free Rice Chex is Rice Chex. Allergy sufferers rejoice!

Eric: “Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” – Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)

Unfortunately, as both my brother and mother have pointed out in their writings, what the above quote preaches is not possible for the 1 percent of Americans who suffer from celiac disease. Most people might not understand how difficult it is to avoid eating products (i.e. manufactured goods) that include wheat, barley and rye; in my opinion nearly every product produced contains at least a trace of these grains.

I urge you to try and stand by as an Italian-American with celiac disease sits at a table full of pasta, bread, pizza and breaded cutlets and hold back your tears. I’ve witnessed this event first-hand on more than one occasion, and it’s as if a close family member has been taken away from them. (Honestly, what Italian can live without pasta? Or, for that matter, what person of any ethnicity?)

For the food lover in all of us, do show respect and accommodate those who are unable to enjoy the simplicity of grain. And kudos to the companies that are helping to support gluten-free products. I am proud finally to see a business conglomerate stand up for the “little man” without charging a premium for their support. As my brother stated – allergy sufferers and celiacs rejoice.

18 Comments on “General Mills Rice Chex, Now Gluten Free”

  1. Diane Says:

    Wow-thanks to all of you for the empathetic review of Rice Chex. It IS the same in taste as the original, but I haven’t eaten gluten containing cereals in so long, I was uncertain if it was just “wishful thinking” on my part. Good to hear verification.

  2. Psychic Advice Says:

    Thanks for the great info. I hope you’ll follow this with some more great content.

  3. Theresa G Says:

    Can I buy products from you – Redmill gluten free oats. – Theresa G

  4. Bonnie Tandy Leblang Says:

    Theresa, We don’t sell products on this site — we just review and recommend them. For Redmill’s Gluten Free Oats, I suggest you go directly to Bob’s Redmill website to purchase them or to find a store near you.

  5. Valerie Cranston Says:

    Being diagnosed gluten intolerant (celiac disease) is so overwhelming and depressing. It is such a major lifestyle change overnight and often makes one feel like a leper. Having the gluten-free Rice Chex cereal to grind and use as a coating on my fried chicken strips and tilapia fish is like winning the lottery. I had used Kellogg’s Cornflake Crumbs and got sick because they contain malt flavoring which is a soluble powder of milk, barley and wheat flour — enemies of a celiac. General Mills — thank you for thinking about us, who often don’t feel normal in a social setting since being diagnosed.

  6. Diane Says:

    Valerie- I know this is not the forum for this, but I understand how you are feeling. It will definitely get better, and the gluten free options that are available now are much more plentiful than just ten years ago when I was first diagnosed. I recommend you join a local support group. If you send your email address, we can correspond privately. I have alot of info for you.

    Diane

  7. Karen Says:

    I think that General Mills is doing a great thing for those consumers who have dietary restrictions. Keep it up!

  8. Jill Says:

    Since I’ve been diagnosed with Celiacs, I also have had many frustrations finding something that I didn’t have to acquire a taste for. I also have gotten my husband hooked on GM Rice Chex. He said he can’t taste any difference between the non-gluten free cereal and GM Rice Chex either. Thank you so much for making this big change that has greatly impacted my snack/breakfast. Hopefully other company’s will catch on to this great change!

  9. Food and Product Reviews -General Meals Introduced More Gluten-Free Cereals – Food Blog | Bite of the Best Says:

    [...] words “Gluten-Free” on the packaging. Last year General Mills introduced gluten-free Rice Chex. Take note: Both Wheat Chex and Multi-Bran Chex are not gluten-free. Add a comment Posted in [...]

  10. Doug Boltson Says:

    This product is NOT 100% Gluten free. I bought 20 or so boxes of Rice Chex (on sale at Walgreens for $1.99 each a few weeks ago; limit 4) and began having DH symptoms over the following week, as the gluten built up in me — from gas, to bloating, to those itchy papules on the back of my hand, knees, and elbows. Be sure to contact General Mills to let them know of their false advertising, misleading labeling, and the harm and suffering they are inflicting on the celiac community — not to mention their infringement of FDA guidelines. I just spoke with a receptive customer service rep, who took down the UPC code and expiration date on one of the boxes — to report to her “product team” — and also took down my contact info, in order to send me a 5-box refund [$10] by post [the Chex is in the mail!]. Call them (7:30 am – 5:30 pm CST) at the number on the box: 1-800-328-1144

  11. Jeff Hagen Says:

    We want to assure readers of Bite of the Best that Rice Chex is, in fact, gluten free – despite the post above.

    Director, Consumer Services
    General Mills

  12. Doug Boltson Says:

    If you have Celiac disease, please eat Rice Chex AYOR! [at your own risk] . . . Sad to say, despite General Mills good intentions, and reassurances from their consumer marketing folk, this product is likely cross-contaminated (at their factory/mills). Please see comments other than mine, from consumers speaking of their gluten-reaction symptoms after eating Rice Chex, at blog locations such as http://celiacdisease.about.com/b/2008/03/26/gluten-free-rice-chex-coming-soon-to-a-store-near-you.htm and http://gluten-free-blog.blogspot.com/2009/03/gluten-free-chex-cereals-coming-june.html I’m sad to report this disappointing news, but I would rather be healthy than sick, and assume the same for you. I hope General Mills can rectify this situation in the near future; all of their other “gluten-free” product line [Betty Crocker mixes, and additional cereals] may now be similarly called into question by the Celiac community.

  13. Lisa Mims Says:

    Rice Chex isn’t gluten-free. It made me sick for days. There are posts all over the web (celiac.org, about.com, etc.) where people talk about getting sick from this.

    Particularly, take care not to feed it to children who may not be able to tell you that this is making them sick.

    Sorry, it’s not gluten-free. Not even close.

  14. Doug Boltson Says:

    Thanks, Lisa! I contacted the FDA a in October, and their lab is currently investigating the samples I provided them (left over from my over-indulged shopping expedition).

    I’m sorry to hear of your distress [I'm still itching from my DH reaction months later] and I hope we have some results — and some recalls — to share with the Celiac world in 2010.

    Does anyone know if the extended line of “Gluten-Free” Chex [Corn Chex, etc.] is similarly contaminated?

    Doug

    P.S. Anyone wishing to lodge a complaint with the FDA may do so here:

    <http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm

  15. katie b Says:

    Doug and Lisa are right—Chex is NOT 100% Gluten Free!!!! My family also got sick after eating especially the Honey Nut Chex—serious stomachaches, gas and bleeding problems–our typical ‘glutening’ symptoms. It was a build up though—we were gleefully eating 2-3 bowls every day! Another GF family in our town too—does not eat ANY of the ‘GF’Chex anymore because they were having their typical reactions too! I also called General Mills when we got sick—and they were less than supportive. In fact, I used an EZ Gluten test strip from Elisa-Tek—and it DID come up positive. So there IS gluten in the product—but it does take a few days for some of us for it to build up enough to make you sick.

  16. laurie f Says:

    I have also had a reaction to the cereal. Most recently it has been with the GF Corn Chex, but also with the Rice and Cinnomon.I just finished my third and last box!!!

    I am not sure the problem is completely a gluten based reaction, as I developed headaches and low blood sugar like symptoms, along with nausea, cold, and lack of energy, a saccharine like taste in my mouth, bloating and a sore stomach (not exactly cramps). Having eliminating everything else-including cow’s milk and then rice milk, I know for a fact I’m having a problem with the their cereal.

    I called GM. After explaining symptoms vs consumption and being put on hold the woman came back to advise me to go see a physician!!! I asked if there were other ingredients not listed, that might have contribute. “Legally”, she said, “We are not required to disclose ingredients if they are less than 1%, such as potassium.” And she went on to say GM would test their products if my physician determined there was a problem.

  17. Doug Boltson Says:

    The Chex product line is clearly not 100% gluten-”free” as advertised . . . but the contamination level is low enough to pass muster with the FDA [20 ppm]. (It seems smaller quantities than 20 ppm are simply not detectable by current technolopgy.) I know because I had several samples, opened and unopened, of Rice Chex sent in for analysis by them, which all came back with the level of gluten being “undetectable” — despite their triggering an unmistakable Celiac reaction in me. (Us folks with DH are your canaries in the proverbial coal mine.) If you are sensitive, but don’t eat the product in any quantity, you might be okay. For the rest of us — caveat emptor! I’ve simply given up on General Mills. As an alternative, you might enjoy trying the EnviroKidz cereals: Amazon Frosted Flakes, Gorilla Munch, Koala Crisp etc.

  18. james c baber Says:

    i have been eating rice chex and other chex cereals for 60 years,,this box of rice chex with the kid graphics on it that says gluten free is the worst box of chex ever eaten or should i say not eaten…i don’t know if the glutn free formula or truly a packaging mistake,,but first of all it is not the traditional whitish color and tastes nothing like what i have been eating….i called general mills and they are picking it up for examination today….where doews that leave me???if the reformulation is the problem i am screwed,,no big deal in the scheme of life,,just another good product messed up in the quest for money!!!!!Maybe will just skip breakfast anyway!!!

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