It has been a big week with some big-name headlines regarding celiac disease — I think there are lessons to be learned in both respects.
Disney Uses Gluten Free for Comedic Gain
(5.18.13 Editorial note: Disney took action on this matter. See update here.)
First, a mom of a child with celiac disease has started a petition to get an episode of Jessie from The Disney Channel pulled from circulation for how it portrayed a character who is gluten-free. The boy asks is if the pancakes are gluten free and the chef and kids eventually pick on him for it. The petition on Change.org started by Amy Raslevich explains,
“Their [kids who need to eat gluten free] condition is real, and their feelings are real. They are ostracized for a condition for which they did not ask, and because of which they will spend their entire lives having to make exceptions and special requests, all to keep them healthy and safe. They will often feel excluded or different, because they have to be to avoid serious illness. Yet Disney gave children permission, and an example, to further isolate my children and others like them because of their medical conditions.”
I had my celiac daughter watch it and she agreed, the tone seemed cruel. My feeling was that it was in poor taste, but it was made even worse by making sure the gluten-free character was dressed like a stereotypical nerd conveying that you aren’t cool if you are gluten-free. You can search “Jessie Quitting Cold Koala” on You Tube and see it, or you can go to GlutenDude.com where he cuts to the chase pretty quickly.
This is a far cry from Iron Man saying he ate gluten-free waffles (in IM3), which (and I haven’t seen the movie yet– but it will happen) shows the cool guy eating gluten-free as opposed to only the geeky kids have intolerances to food.
Today, a lot of the comments I have seen on the subject surround how places like Disney World make gluten-free folks feel so included at their theme parks, yet Disney Channel picks on gluten-free kids. Disney’s brand is about family fun. Right? Maybe I am too jaded but I am sure the writers, producers, and actors of Jessie have no idea about how supportive the Disney Parks & Resorts side of the conglomerate is toward gluten-free diets. I am sure one hand does not know what the other hand is doing. I am not saying it is okay, I am just saying that’s probably just the way it is.
I took some time to sign the petition. You can go to the petition here if you are interested in signing it.
What lessons can be learned? Disney needs to tread lightly on their comedic waters. Offending the very audience who are the ones who watch Disney Channel, go to Disney movies and fly to Disney World is not a good idea. They should pull the show, issue an apology and move on.
Celebrity Chef’s Restaurant Pays Up for Gluten-Free Gaffe
Jamie Oliver may be best known in the United States for his turn as a celebrity chef with Jamie’s Food Revolution on ABC and the Naked Chef. But Oliver’s restaurant in England called Jamie’s Italian is paying $12,000 to a patron for mistakenly feeding her gluten-filled noodles.
The Telegraph in the UK reports customer Kristy Richardson told the restaurant three times she couldn’t eat gluten. But the waitress thought she only needed a vegetarian meal, and didn’t understand it was gluten-free and vegetarian. Richardson was subsequently served a plate full of regular noodles. As The Telegraph reports, Malcom Gibney of Portsmouth City Council Trading Standards, told the court, “But within a couple of hours Mrs Richardson started to feel nauseous and continued to vomit over the next four or five hours…As a result she suffered a very nasty reaction and an auto-immune response to other medication she had.”
I know we all take a chance when we go to a restaurant. My problem lies in restaurants who tout their gluten-free options and then don’t deliver. It makes me wonder if restaurants (in the UK or not) are reading this and wondering when a lawsuit could be headed their way. It is just a matter of time for this to happen here. If someone can sue McDonald’s for serving hot coffee…someone can sue about misrepresentation of a gluten-free menu. Anyone want to start predicting some dates. I’ll go first, I bet it happens in the next 2 years.
Lesson learned for the restaurant industry (and for Disney for that matter)? Take gluten free seriously. When you advertise a gluten free menu or accommodations you shouldn’t take that lightly. Don’t treat it like a fad thinking the folks won’t notice anyway. It may have truly been an accident at Oliver’s restaurant, but I am guessing Ms. Richardson wishes she didn’t have to be the one throwing up like crazy just to teach them a lesson.