You won't believe the Ofcom result after Vanessa Feltz's coeliac comments!
It’s the update you’ve been waiting for! What happened to Vanessa Feltz after her regrettable comments on ITV’s This Morning about coeliac disease?
Over 1,000 complaints were filed with Ofcom. For perspective, it was the most complained about TV show that week and over 300 more than people who protested about Piers Morgan.
If you missed the programme (and my blog post), Vanessa said it was "absolutely ridiculous" and "completely unreasonable" to have a totally gluten-free Xmas just because someone had coeliac disease.
And now the drum roll…
Ofcom has dismissed the complaint. It states viewers wouldn't expect expert advice from Vanessa and her opinions were queried by the presenter.
Now, hold on a minute! While Ofcom might be washing their hands of this like a gluten-free chef after kneading dough, it doesn’t mean they got the right answer. Just because Vanessa isn't a medical pro doesn't mean she can throw around medical comments like confetti at a wedding, especially when it comes to something as serious as coeliac disease.
To my mind, an “agony aunt” like Vanessa shouldn't have been sharing medical opinions without medical training or experience of the condition they’re discussing.
True, there was a doctor was there the next day to set the coeliac record straight. But let's be honest – not everyone tunes in every day, and assuming everyone caught that follow-up is pretty unlikely.
And let’s not forget the doctor got some details wrong about cross-contact being only necessary for “sensitive coeliacs”. Now, with 24 hours’ notice, you’d hope the doctor would do their research. It's like seeing a pack of gluten-free biscuits with a ‘may contain gluten’ warning; you’ve just confused everyone further.
The implication that only some coeliacs are "sensitive” and need to avoid cross-contact is a bit like saying, "Some smokers are sensitive and end up with complications." Whether a coeliac has an immediate reaction to a crumb of gluten or not, the long-term implications won’t be known until it’s too late. Just like smoking, we coeliacs have to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet, symptoms or no symptoms.
I’ve also got another gripe. Would Ofcom be this dismissive if it had been a discussion about other diseases or autoimmune conditions? Would you tell a diabetic how they should manage their insulin? Or someone with MS that they shouldn’t be so unbalanced? Probably not. Coeliacs deserve the same consideration as anyone else facing health challenges, especially as we only make up 1% of the population. We could really benefit from raising awareness and promoting accurate information.
Let's also talk about Vanessa downplaying coeliac disease, suggesting it's not a big deal because it's not an allergy. Yes, coeliacs might say it themselves, but to be honest there are two very good reasons for this. Firstly, it’s often a defence mechanism to try and persuade ourselves we shouldn’t be so down, and secondly it’s not fashionable to be full of self-pity; society prefers people who see the positives. When someone else says being coeliac isn’t that bad (and they’re not coeliac), it feels like a dismissive shrug.
I’m grateful to those who complained. Advocating for accurate information and responsible discussions about health conditions is not only fair but necessary. Already this incident has sparked multiple online conversations and, better still, ITV’s This Morning has already done a feature on coeliac disease with a gorgeous little 6 year old called Frankie (10.55am on Weds 17 Jan if you want to watch it on Catch Up).
So let’s keep raising awareness so it’ll lead to better understanding about coeliac disease and the challenges faced by those living with it. Do whatever you can to keep the conversation going. I like wearing t-shirts with fun gluten-free slogans.
Remember, you deserve respect and consideration and this can only be achieved when people have better insight. What will you do to help make this happen?