November 7, 2010


Gluten-Free Summit at General Mills

Last week I mentioned that I was travelling to Minneapolis, and now I can tell you why.  General Mills held a gluten-free summit!  The summit included ten gluten-free bloggers, Shelly Gannon, wife of former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon, Danna Korn, author and founder of and Raising Our Celiac Kids (ROCK), and Carol McCarthy Shilson, Executive Director of The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.  There were also numerous General Mills and contractor employees.

GF Summit bloggers1Shirley, Lynn, Vanessa, Maureen, and Jill

The summit was about all things gluten free, not just General Mills products, and I believe that all of us bloggers came away from the summit with the feeling that we had been heard.  Our experiences, our frustrations, our concerns, our needs, and our wants were all voiced and General Mills listened.  In fact, I think they found it very enlightening.  I’m not free to give you any specifics on General Mills’ plans, but I can say they are interested in helping and becoming involved in the gluten-free community by doing more than creating gluten-free products.  I think one small fact that really helped us believe that to be true is that the CEO of General Mills has a gluten free family member.  General Mills is a major corporation, and their honest desire to understand and get involved in the gluten-free community is a big deal, and something I am grateful for.

You might be wondering, as we were before attending, how they fed us.  Tuesday evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano.  That’s right, an Italian restaurant!  With all the excitement I forgot to take pictures until dessert, but we were served gluten-free bread and had a full menu of gluten-free choices, including gluten-free pasta dishes and pizza.  Because of being dairy-free I went with filet mignon and vegetables which were delicious.   Here are a couple of the desserts (I had the sorbet on the left):

GF Summit Sorbet GF Summit Chocolate Cake

For breakfast on Wednesday, we had delicious baked goods from French Meadow Bakery, many of which were dairy free.  For lunch we had a terrific selection of Pad Thai dishes from Big Bowl.

GF Summit Breakfast
Wednesday we met as a combined group and in smaller groups for lots of discussion.  One really big concern that both Shirley of Gluten Free Easily and I raised was the issue of cross contamination with General Mills’ gluten-free products.  It was interesting to learn that although some of their products say “Made in a gluten free processing facility,” it is actually not a separate building but what was described as a dedicated environment (we did not see any of the processing facilities).  While they do test to 20 ppm, the proposed FDA standard, many people, including Shirley and my son, do react to their products.  Our suggestion, which was echoed by Carol McCarthy Shilson, was to enroll in the Gluten-Free Certification Organization program.  We tried to impress on them the fact that it is a matter of trust.  We need to feel safe about eating their products, and if we can’t do that, then their involvement in the gluten-free community will be hindered.  While nothing could be promised by the people there, we were at least encouraged by their willingness to listen and their openness to criticism.

We ended the day by doing a little baking in the Betty Crocker kitchens.  We broke into groups of two or three and prepared desserts from recipes they gave us using their gluten-free dessert mixes or the gf Bisquick and other ingredients.  I got to work with Cinde of Gluten-Free Taste of Home.  It was a fun experience, though those of us who are gluten free (some of the bloggers are not gluten free themselves but have a gf child or spouse) did not feel safe eating the products because of the wooden spoons, rolling pins, and spatula handles that could easily harbor gluten.  It was a learning experience for General Mills!

GF Summit Cinde & MeMe & Cinde

All in all, it was a wonderful, though very full and tiring, trip.  I’m still catching up from being gone two days.  I loved meeting everyone involved, but I was especially happy to connect with the other bloggers there.  They included:
I will have more to share with you in the months to come.  In the mean time, you can stop by the General Mills gluten free website, Live Gluten Freely for recipes and more.  Also, be on the lookout for another General Mills giveaway.

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I appreciate your candidness about the trip. Contamination is a huge issue and I've grateful you shared concerns
How I wish I could be there with you all!
Wow, what a great experience. It's wonderful to know General Mills really wants your opinion and to be a serious part of the gf community. So glad you were able to share your experiences and concerns with them.

p.s. Your hair looks super cute in that photo of the two of you baking :)
Linda! I missed you saying you were coming to minneapolis! I have to say, they probably showed you the best, even though I have not been to biagi's yet. (I hear from others though it's fabulous) I love the gf rolls French Meadow makes for the local pizza restaurant Pizza Luce. They're like fresh pull apart rolls. Mmmm.... Glad you enjoyed the trip, and hope that GM takes everything discussed into strong consideration. Let me know the next time you're in town! Take care! :-)
What a great thing to be a part of! What an important thing for them to actually talk with the ones that know first hand how gluten effects them and how important it is to not use facilities that can cross contaminate products. Thank you for sharing your trip. I am definitely looking forward to hearing how they move forward with this!
WOW!! Too cool! What a priviledge to be part of that summit. They know they are losing huge amounts of revenue by not being part of the gluten free market. It behooves them to be get involved, and thank goodness they are working on doing it the right way. Thanks for helping get us more and safer products!
wow, that's really interesting. I'll be curious to see if they actually listen and then do something with what you all shared.

What I love about this gf community is we are open, share and look out for each other.

Love the photos too!
Wow Linda, what a wonderful trip! It is so fabulous to hear about big corporations actually listening to "the little guys." You ladies definitely a pulse on the gluten-free community!
Great post Linda! It was wonderful meeting you in person and spending time with you at the summit :) I love that our gluten-free voices were heard!
What a pleasure it was to meet you in person in Minneapolis. You and Shirley did an excellent job in communicating the issues about GF certification and the definition of "gluten free" and I'm hopeful that our collective input will bring about some positive changes. I just did my blog post about the whole experience and would love it if you would stop by and take a look

I'm going to try and join in the fun with Gluten-Free Wednesdays. While pie crust is not my forte, perhaps I can contribute a blog post about one of those "impossible" pies that make their own crust while they are baking.
What a lovely post Linda! I love the photo of the two of us baking. :) It was such a pleasure getting to know you in person; I look forward to meeting with you again at future General Mills summits.
Thank you so much for sharing about your trip there, and even more for speaking up about how they could satisfy your concerns better. It's good to know that a company of their size is actually seeking your input!

Also, I love the pictures!
Thanks for your wonderful recap Linda and btw...I LOVE your new profile pic, absolutely stunning!
Sounds like a great trip! I'm so happy to hear how genuinely concerned they are about providing the best in gf products.
I was so excited to read your review and experience. I've always been a very sensitive gluten-free consumer. I reacted to every Betty Crocker mix and had a HORRIBLE reaction to the new GF Bisquick mix.

I couldn't understand how if it was a "dedicated environment" that my system always I understand. In addition to the products testing at 20's way too much for my system..thus the reactions.

I do hope they will consider becoming GF certified and changing their production process. I would like nothing better than to use their products..but with no reactions :)

I think it's so great that General Mills is looking to bloggers to get feedback! What a great idea.
I wanted to find out if anyone brought up the fact that some of their current gluten free products have other allergens in them? I can't use most of othem because they contain potato starch and I'm allergic to nightshades. I think that would be huge if their product line contained no known allergens!!

This sounds like GM wining and dining bloggers to counter the negative opinions of GF chex cereals that are all over the internet.

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