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Voluntary Withdrawal: Canadian Gluten Free Sweet White Sorghum Flour

by Cassidy Stockton in Featured Articles, Gluten Free, Health

Canadian Sorghum Flour

Dear Friends,

Last week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency notified us that a random test of our Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Sorghum Flour (from lot 150772) was found to contain 32 parts per million of gluten.  We take all such reports quite seriously. We have thoroughly investigated the situation and want to share with you what we have found. This lot of Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Sorghum Flour was sold only in Canada and there were no sales of the lot in the US or elsewhere.

While this issue has raised some concerns, I want to let you know how dedicated we are to producing gluten free products.  All Bob’s Red Mill products that are labeled Gluten Free have been tested for gluten before, during and after production. We continue to strive for a standard of zero parts per million of gluten.  This is well below the maximum of 20 parts per million accepted by both the Canadian and U.S. governments for any gluten free products, and is the level at which products are permitted to be labeled “gluten free.”  Our products typically test at much lower, even undetectable levels.  The product in question was tested for gluten according to internationally accepted protocols.  At each point in the process it was found to be well below both our maximum tolerance and that of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

When the Canadian Food Inspection Agency initially reported its findings, Bob’s Red Mill was very surprised and immediately had samples from the same lot tested both internally and by an independent, accredited third party laboratory.  Both our tests and the independent laboratory’s tests showed the product to contain very low levels of gluten, well below 20 parts per million.  The independent lab tested the product at non-detectable levels.  Even with those confirmations, out of an abundance of caution, Bob’s Red Mill decided to voluntarily withdraw retail packages of the specific product lot from Canadian sources to preserve the peace of mind of our loyal, gluten free Canadian customers.

We wanted you to know how seriously we have taken this matter, and that we appreciate your ongoing support.  Maintaining the health and safety of our customers is our top priority. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding our gluten free products.

Bob Moore

Founder, Bob’s Red Mill

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at 800-349-2173. 

 

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Cassidy Stockton Google: Cassidy Stockton
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31 Responses to “Voluntary Withdrawal: Canadian Gluten Free Sweet White Sorghum Flour”

  1. HI Cassidy,
    Thank you for your response…But I would need Canadian Food Inspection Agency
    to confirm your findings before I would believe your company….I already have reactions when I eat some of your products…So I have stopped buying… and now I wonder if your not actually meeting your standards at all !!! Why don’t you shoot for 3 ppm and make your company that much healthier.. Because now we just won’t be able to trust you….

    • I don’t know the intricacies of testing for very low levels of something like gluten, but it could be that testing to 3 ppm may not even be statistically possible.

      My family has two members with celiacs and we have had very good experiences with a broad range of Bob’s Red Mill products. I am not sure how one would know exactly how he got contaminated without some careful analysis of everything he consumed and how does one rule out cross contamination? We seem to be doing very well and have been very successful adapting to our new diet. We don’t eat out as much, but even that situation is improving.

      I would hope that it is safe to assume that the company is shooting for 0 ppm and releasing only what falls within current guidelines. If you are too quick to condemn companies, soon you won’t be able to trust anybody and will be on your own. I’d save the condemnation for gross violations of a negligent nature, which clearly has not happened here, if anything.

  2. I eat bread that I make from your products every single day and I’ve NEVER had a reaction. Keep it up and thank you for providing safe and delicious options for those of us who cannot tolerate gluten.

  3. Are you kidding me? There was gluten in this flour that i ALREADY consumed and was so sick that I missed 10 days of my work? I had no idea why the heck i was sick and NOW you send a recall? I kept saying that i felt like I was glutened, well, gee–I guess I was and now it will take a year and a half for my small intestines to heal. Thanks a lot. What am I supposed to do now? I still have ongoing diarrhea, stomach cramps, body pain, brain fog and other issues. Thanks a lot, you may just have contributed to me getting something really serious

    • One more thing, unless you were eating spoonfuls of pure white sorghum flour you were not getting the concentration of gluten that the CFIA reports to have found.

      Assuming the 32 PPM is correct and the flour is just one component in your recipe the concentration will be diluted by all the other ingredients that went into your recipe. In the case of the breads I make, white sorghum flour only plays a small part and by the time you consider the dilution factor it may be only 5-10 ppm of gluten due to the sorghum flour.

      Just sayin.

  4. “Are you kidding me?” I don’t know who you were directing that statement to, but it deserves a response. I am not kidding that we have had good experiences with Bob’s Red Mill and I don’t believe that even if the CFIA were right, the contamination level was anywhere close to what you might get through cross contamination at a friend’s house or a restaurant. How do you know that 32ppm would cause the extreme reaction you describe?

    What worries me is the notion that when people are very quick to publicly lay blame and make inflammatory remarks, some companies will figure it’s not worth the trouble to serve a certain sector of the market. For example; it is very difficult for people with peanut allergies to find “peanut free” products, partly because there are all sorts of companies that just automatically label their products with the statement, “May contain nuts” even when it is extremely unlikely. They just don’t want the trouble that comes with trying to guarantee that their products are completely free of nuts.

    • You have to return them to Amazon. They were not recalled, though. Only one lot that was shipped to Canada was recalled. If you are concerned, however, you’ll need to return them to Amazon.

  5. This bothers me. It bothers me because the result should be reproducible. Why did the canadian government test not confirm the test that Bob’s did? What kind of test did each do? What are the results from each test (I want to see it in medical test format, not someone telling me oh, it tested below 20ppm…)? Did the government re-test to check that it was indeed positive?

    To Mark Adams,
    For a person with celiac disease even if there isn’t a symptom associated (cramps, bloating, the big D, malaise… etc) there can still be damage done to the intestines if ANY gluten is ingested. This can be verified by blood tests checking for antibody level or by rebiopsy. It’s an autoimmune disorder, not an allergy. That’s why I bring my own food to friend’s houses and it’s like playing russian rulette when I go out to eat. At least for people with peanut allergies if it says “peanut free” and doesn’t have the CYA statement about shared facilities it is actually peanut FREE. This absolutely cannot be said for labeled gluten free products. Mostly because of trend dieters who don’t strictly adhere and companies adhering to policy just enough for labeling laws not to get sued… I don’t think there was a blatant offense here. It’s just frustrating, especially when it’s kind of vague what actually happened.

    • Sarah,

      We use an R5 ELISA Gluten Assay to test our products. This test is sensitive down to 3 ppm and each test we performed (20 before shipping, 4 after receiving word from CFIA and one at an independent, accredited lab) all tested under 5 ppm. We have not been able to reproduce the results that the CFIA have found.

  6. Thanks Cassidy!
    I do love your products. I hope they all stay safe for me and other celiacs.
    Maybe the CFIA’s test was contaminated?
    I suppose we’ll never know

  7. I have Celiac disease and our children are gluten intolerant.. We have been gluten free for 2 years. I really wish we could use your products – they are easily found and affordable.. but unfortunately we have gotten sick every time we have you used your products.. We live in the US.. When I saw this report of the tainted batch of sorghum flour I was not surprised.

  8. To Sarah,
    I understand the nature of the disorder and I too also do not want to play Russian roulette, but there are certain realities we can’t avoid. Where I live, at harvest time there is wheat dust floating in the air. It can cause direct contamination of surfaces, it can be inhaled and it certainly would land on other crops. Small amounts of wheat can also sprout amidst crops like oats.

    We have to be very careful. When we travel, a big part of our preparation is the food we bring. On holiday we prepare most of our own food.

    My statements were not meant to minimize potential problems, but to bring some realistic perspective to the discussion. I don’t think is is realistic to expect 0 ppm in most natural products, unless they are grown and processed on an island. I simply pointed out that if one ingredient was just over a safety threshold and then was diluted in a recipe the resulting food would likely fall within accepted limits.

    Testing for the antibodies is a great way to monitor your success, but it is expensive. We also watch other blood indicators (vitamins, calcium etc) to see if our villi are healthy and functioning. I am happy to say that after two years of doing our best to live gluten-free, My wife and daughter are in much better shape. We do what we can do and one of the things we find helps is to work harder on making interesting healthy food. We eat healthier now than we did before and I am happy to say neither my wife or daughter are malnourished any longer.

  9. In regards to Amazon shipments, are you saying that your Gluten Free Sweet White Sorghum Flour shipped by Amazon is not a part of the recall and is okay to consume by celiacs? Thank you for your help and information.

  10. For people who are getting sick from Bob’s Red Mill products, could it be the xanthan gum you’re reacting to? I thought I was having gluten reactions to some of their mixes, but then I realized that it’s the xanthan gum that gives me problems. Xanthan gum in anything gives me a reaction (depending on the amount) and the Bob’s Red Mill flours without xanthan gum have been fine for me. I’m less sensitive now than I was in the first two years after I was diagnosed, but even when I was sensitive to under 10ppm gluten, I was fine with the Bob’s Red Mill flours.

    The other option could be that you’re reacting to different epitopes than are picked up by the ELISA or that other people with celiac disease react to. I’ve read that there are sub groups of people with celiac disease who also don’t tolerate the avenin from oats or the zein from corn. So that could be the trouble.

    Overall, it seems that Bob’s Red Mill takes great care to make sure their gluten free flours are actually gluten free. I really appreciate their efforts!

  11. I live in Canada, and have a couple of bags of your sorghum flour. What is the lot # of the contaminated flour and how can I check if that is what I have in my freezer right now?

  12. FWIW, I have discovered that I react badly to sorghum, period. It is actually worse for me than wheat. (I have a mild wheat allergy). The reaction is very intestinal, it is a severe trigger for my IBS. I know I’m not the only one.

  13. I have been very sick (Hashimotos, triggered by gluten) since I baked cookies with your gluten free all purpose flour and gluten free oats. I havent had an atack in over 2 years until 3 days ago. Its a very bad attack and I am shocked that I cant use your products.

  14. I know for sure each time I eat your flours I get glutened sick so it is not for sure good enough free of gluten. I refuse to buy your product and now my son is celiac I tell him the same thing.

    It has to be 0. Not 5, 10, or 20 or above. Your products is not gluten free. I quit buying it last year.

  15. I’m so confused by all this. My little girl has very sever Celiac Disease. other then the horrible long term damage from contamination for such a small growing body, her symptoms to contamination go from mild to violent and last weeks. She is so tiny and doesn’t grow after contamination. All terrifying for a parent.

    We are so carful and recently after reading you website we started making our only bread from your flours.

    Please, can you get certified GF for our, and many other Celiacs peace of mind?
    If not, can you explain why.
    With great hope for a chance at a healthy life for our daughter.
    THANK YOU!

    • Kare,

      Thank you for sharing your concerns. I will pass along your request to become gluten free certified. While I know having a third party verify the gluten free status of a company’s products is desirable, I would like you to know that we test far more frequently than a third party would- every time we run a product- before, during and after packaging. We were not able to reproduce the results that the Canadian government found. We sent our product out to a third party lab for testing and they were not able to achieve the same results. We hear you and my heart goes out to you. If my little one was in the same boat, I would feel the same way. As I said, I will share your comments with the appropriate parties here.

  16. I have a question not really related to this recall from over a year ago but it does involve cross-contamination issues. I notice BRM carries buckwheat groats in both whole and coarsely ground varieties (“creamy buckwheat cereal”) and these are sold as gluten-free.

    However, I also see that the buckwheat flour that BRM carries is NOT gluten-free and carries a “may contain wheat” disclaimer (or words to similar effect). I find this puzzling when BRM can sell the grain itself but not its flour as GF. I am not aware of any other such instances of BRM selling a non-GF flour of a GF grain. For example, both your sorghum grains and sorghum flour (notwithstanding this old recall) are both GF.

    It seems to me BRM does not carry any GF (<20ppm) buckwheat flour. Why is this the case?

    I get the impression that BRM simply re-purposes into cross-contaminated flour whatever buckwheat groats have failed in-house GF testing. Which is fine, I suppose, if you're a consumer who doesn't need it to be GF and it carries appropriate warnings for people who do. But it does frustrate me — as someone who must eat GF — to see this lack of GF alignment in BRM buckwheat products when this isn't the case for other GF grain products that BRM carries such as quinoa, millet and sorghum. I buy most of my GF grains and flours from BRM but unfortunately have to look elsewhere for buckwheat flour.

    • Hi John,

      You raise a very valid point and I will be sure to pass it along here. At this time, we are unable to grind buckwheat in our gluten free facility and are not comfortable labeling it as gluten free. I am sorry that you are forced to buy it elsewhere and I most definitely will pass along your comments.

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