ITV’s This Morning has received 1,092 complaints to Ofcom following Vanessa Feltz’s comments about celiac disease.
The host joined the show as a guest on December 18, when he took calls from viewers who asked if they were being unreasonable in certain situations.
One caller, Alison, asked how she should deal with the fact that her mother-in-law “forced” her and her 15-year-old son to eat at a gluten-free Christmas dinner because another guest had an illness.
Feltz began shaking her head at the suggestion that all guests should follow the dietary requirements of a celiac diner before saying, “Alison, I’m 100 percent with you on this, this is absolutely ridiculous.”
Feltz explained to hosts Josie Gibson and Craig Doyle: “So Alison’s mother-in-law has them come over for Christmas and because one person has to be gluten-free, she insists they all have to be gluten-free, including Alison. She’s 15, who’s a bit of a picky eater.
“When Alison said, ‘Can we bring our own food? Can we bring food in a snack box?” (Mother-in-law) said, “No.” She treats celiac disease like it’s some kind of fatal, potentially fatal peanut allergy and that they can’t have any gluten in the house, which is completely unreasonable.
Vanessa Feltz spoke to Craig and Josie on Monday’s episode
“It doesn’t make sense at all, Alison,” Feltz continued before she pondered, “The thing is, though, if you tell her, ‘Look, she can eat gluten-free, we don’t have to, it’s not contagious,’ what’s she going to say? How will he respond?”
The caller replied, “He’s telling me I’m ignorant of the facts and telling me to read about them.”
Feltz replied, “But you’re not and he’s wrong! I mean he’s just unequivocally wrong about that. Absolutely wrong.
“So I’ve really thought about this because I think you’re 100 percent right…but it’s just one day, it’s all about family…so I’m trying to weigh in my mind if you guys just put up with it just for peace and harmony?
“I think you pretty much have to go with it, have a snack on the way there, bring something to eat in the car on the way home, don’t stay too long, but don’t end up arguing with your mother-in-law about a little gluten, I guess. Or lack of gluten.”
When Gibson pointed out that cross-contamination could be a problem, Feltz stood firm: “But they don’t have to have cross-contamination, especially if they bring their own food from home and her 15-year-old actually likes what she brings in the snack box, that would be just fine .
“But I’m just thinking, is it worth breaking up with him, digging your heels in, making a big mountain out of it when it’s only one day, literally one meal?”
Feltz qualified his words by suggesting that the caller’s teenage son’s refusal to eat anything gluten-free was “also a bit extreme.”
Shortly after the conversation began, viewers flocked to X, formerly Twitter, to praise Feltz for his “condescending” attitude toward the disease.
One viewer raged: “Vanessa Feltz makes me so angry when I joke about celiac disease. I have celiac disease, it’s not a joke, it’s a serious illness. I hope she’s on #ThisMorning next time I’m waiting af*** Apology not just for me , but for everyone who NEEDS a gluten-free diet!”
Today on ITV @this morning , celiac disease was discussed on the phone in an episode of the program. We are deeply concerned about the content and advice given to a caller attending a Christmas family event where all food is gluten free to protect human health pic.twitter.com/KJnVZ7wTKN
Coeliac_UK (@Coeliac_UK) December 18, 2023
Another described the show in full: “I don’t blame Vanessa Feltz who gave questionable advice about gluten free food on the phone in a #ThisMorning segment – I blame the producers and the lack of research on medical issues in this segment. Not providing correct/scientific information, typical ITV.”
Meanwhile, a third hit: “#ThisMorning I couldn’t believe yesterday’s show! The misinformation about the gluten-free buffet during the call with Vanessa Feltz was terrible.”
And a fourth shouted: “#ThisMorning Shame on you for belittling an autoimmune disease that debilitates people everyday. Apologies needed ASAP. What a vile woman.” (sic)
The charity Celiac UK even sent an open letter to ITV expressing its “deep concern” at Feltz’s “dismissive” advice and demanding an apology.
Feltz has since shared an apology for the ordeal, saying, “I found myself at the center of a social media firestorm this week, I said what I said there, but then added that you should get in the Christmas spirit and have a gluten-free meal anyway.
“I did not suggest that they were a hindrance to celiac disease, nor did I intend to show any form of disrespect to anyone with celiac disease.
“I’m amazed at the reaction and horrified that anyone is upset. I don’t think I said anything wrong, but if anyone is upset, I’m very sorry.
“I just want clarity and compassion and I’m certainly not trying to downplay celiac disease. The last thing I wanted to do was upset anyone and I hope I’ve made amends.”
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