Vanessa Feltz’s ‘irresponsible’ remarks about coeliac disease on This Morning becomes one of Ofcom’s most complained about moments of 2023
Vanessa Feltz’s ‘irresponsible’ remarks about coeliac disease on This Morning has already become one of Ofcom’s most complained about moments of 2023.
Earlier this week, the show’s agony aunt, 61, found herself ‘at the centre of a social media storm’ when viewers claimed she ‘downplayed’ the condition.
A leading charity then called on ITV to issue a formal apology after she was accused spreading misinformation about the disease, which causes the immune system to attack tissues when gluten is consumed.
Just days later, the broadcast is already one of the most controversial TV moments of the year, according to figures released by the regulator on Wednesday.
Vanessa’s comments on December 18 triggered 1,092 complaints from viewers.
Vanessa Feltz’s ‘irresponsible’ remarks about coeliac disease on This Morning (pictured) has already become one of Ofcom’s most complained about moments of 2023
The regulator said: ‘We are assessing the complaints, before we decide whether or not to investigate.’
On Tuesday, Vanessa issued an apology on her drivetime show, Talk TV, where she was joined by Dr Saleyha Ahsan and a viewer named Jason, who suffers from coeliac disease.
The presenter, began: ‘I found myself at the centre of a social media storm this week, I’ll be addressing that next,’ before playing a clip of Monday’s This Morning phone in.
She continued: ‘I said what I said there, but then I added that you should go in the spirit of Christmas and enjoy a gluten free meal anyway.
‘I did not suggest that they put the coeliac in harm’s way nor did I intend to show in any shape of form any disrespect to any one with coeliac disease.
‘I am astounded by the reaction and horrified that anyone is upset. I don’t think that I said anything wrong but if anyone is upset that I am very sorry.’
Vanessa and her guests continued to discuss how the condition affects the body and what can be done to manage coeliac disease.
She concluded: ‘All I ever want is clarity and compassion and I am certainly not trying to play down coeliac disease.
Earlier this week, the show’s agony aunt, 61, found herself ‘at the centre of a social media storm’ when viewers claimed she ‘downplayed’ the condition
Vanessa’s comments on December 18 triggered 1,092 complaints from viewers
‘The last thing I wanted to do was upset anyone and I hope that I have made amends.
Elsewhere, This Morning hosted a segment on coeliac disease with Dr Zoe Williams on Tuesday morning following Vanessa‘s remarks.
Dr Zoe, who practices as an NHS GP in London, gave medical advice on coeliac disease following Monday’s backlash.
However fans noted on X – formerly known as Twitter – the broadcaster didn’t issue a formal apology.
Host Craig Goyle said to Dr Zoe: ‘A lot of people are asking if we can clarify a bit of information about what coeliac disease is?’
‘Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition. It’s not an allergy. It means your own body’s immune system is causing the problem, it’s a reaction to gluten.
‘Some people it coeliac disease can have a very sensitive reaction. Even the smallest, littlest trace of gluten can actually damage in the long term their small intestines and cause really severe sickness and illness.’
While viewers were pleased a medical professional was providing information, they urged ITV to make a formal apology for Vanessa’s misinformed advice.
One wrote: ‘finally someone with an education clarifying the comments and coeliac…no apology, though, typical.’
Other viewers said: ‘Hope you make an apology about the coeliac section. It’s not a lifestyle choice, it’s a health condition. There is nothing wrong with making arrangements for those that have it. It’s not hard at all and as someone whose parent is coeliac, we actually have had the same food!’
‘They need to do a proper, researched segment on the show. The advice given yesterday was horrific and potentially life threatening. At least they’ve addressed it. Josie knew she was correct yesterday when she mentioned ‘cross contamination.’
On Tuesday, Vanessa issued an apology on her drivetime show, Talk TV , where she was joined by Dr Saleyha Ahsan and a viewer named Jason, who suffers from coeliac disease
Elsewhere, This Morning hosted a segment on coeliac disease with Dr Zoe Williams on Tuesday, following Vanessa ‘s remarks
‘Have they got this doctor on talking about coeliac disease Vanessa Feltz spoke absolute b******s about it’.
On Monday’s show, Vanessa was addressing viewers’ dilemmas when a caller named Alison rang in to complain that she was ‘being forced to have a gluten-free Christmas’ by her mother-in-law who wants to cater to one guest.
Vanessa read out the problem to co-hosts Josie Gibson and Craig and also added that Alison has a daughter, 15, who is a ‘bit of a fussy eater’.
Vanessa said: ‘When Alison said, “Can we bring our own food then? Can we bring food in a snack box?” She said, “No.” So she’s treating coeliac disease as if it’s a kind of fatal, potentially fatal peanut allergy and that they can’t have anything with gluten in the house, which is completely unreasonable.’
Vanessa then advised: ‘That is not reasonable Alison at all. The thing is though, if you say to her, “Look, he can have gluten-free, we don’t have to, it’s not catching.” What will she say? How will she respond?’
Alison replied: ‘She’ll tell me that I’m ignorant to the facts and tell me to read up on it.’
Vanessa added: ‘But you’re not and she’s wrong, I mean she’s just unequivocally wrong about that. Completely wrong.’
While Vanessa told Alison she was ‘100 per cent right’ about the situation she advised that she is ‘pretty much going to have to go with it’ to keep the peace.
‘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 fall out with your mother-in-law over a bit of gluten, that’s what I think. Or the lack of gluten,’ she added.
Josie then jumped in to point out that people with coeliac disease need to be wary of cross-contamination of gluten.
Vanessa then answered: ‘But they don’t have to have any cross-contamination, especially if they bring their own food from home and her 15-year-old has what he actually likes which he brings in the snackbox, would be perfectly fine.
‘But I just think is it worth falling out with her, digging your heels in, making a big mountain out of it when it’s only one day, pretty much one meal?’
Coeliac UK, a charity for people who need to live without gluten, was quick to call out Vanessa for her comments and also issued an open letter calling on ITV to apologise
Coeliac UK’s open letter to ITV
Dear ITV Team,
Re: Concerns regarding advice on coeliac disease, on This Morning, aired 18/12/23
We are the national charity for people with coeliac disease and are writing to express our deep concern regarding the advice given to the caller who is attending a Christmas family event where all food is going to be gluten free to ensure the safety of a person with coeliac disease. The concern raised centred around the ‘fussy’ dietary needs of the caller’s 15 year old son not being met, and although details were not given around this (and may well be valid) it was the ill-informed advice and dismissive tone towards coeliac disease and its severity that prompted this letter of complaint.
Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition where gluten consumption triggers an immune response, causing damage to the gut lining, nutrient malabsorption, and a range of potential health complications. Consumption of even a crumb of gluten can cause severe symptoms including vomiting and extreme pain, lasting for several days. And continued consumption, can result in many more severe symptoms and the development of complications, including osteoporosis, and in rare cases small bowel cancer. It’s important to stress that coeliac disease is not an allergy or a mere food preference but a medically diagnosed condition that requires strict adherence to a gluten free diet for life.
The remarks made, equating coeliac disease with triviality, and dismissing its severity by comparing it to a peanut allergy, were disheartening and detrimental to the understanding of this condition within the public domain. Coeliac disease affects approximately 1 in 100 individuals, and the impact of even minimal gluten exposure can have both immediate symptoms and long-term health implications.
Furthermore, suggesting that the visitor should ‘put up with’ adhering to a gluten free diet for the occasion, rather than acknowledging the essential dietary needs of the individual managing coeliac disease, undermines the seriousness of the condition and disregards the significant physical and mental health concerns involved in adhering to a gluten free diet. Although the presenters attempted to highlight the importance of cross contamination, this was swiftly dismissed by Ms Feltz which further trivialised this serious condition. Cross contamination is a critical concern for individuals managing coeliac disease due to the adverse effects of even trace amounts of gluten.
It is our hope that discussions on mainstream platforms like This Morning would promote accurate and empathetic understanding of coeliac disease, emphasising the importance of respect and accommodation for dietary needs, rather than downplaying its significance.
Coeliac UK is committed to raising awareness, providing support, and advocating for the needs of those affected by coeliac disease, including the nearly half a million undiagnosed individuals in the UK.
We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this matter further and provide accurate information about coeliac disease to ensure a more informed discussion in the future. In the meantime, we ask that you provide an apology to people with coeliac disease on air, to correct the contemptuous and disparaging misinformation included in your programme.
The segment immediately riled up viewers with the condition, while Coeliac UK, a charity for people who need to live without gluten, was quick to call out Vanessa for her comments.
Posting on X, formerly Twitter, they shared: ‘Today on ITV’s @thismorning, coeliac disease was discussed during a phone in segment on the show. We are deeply concerned about the content and advice given to a caller attending a Christmas family event where all of the food will be gluten free to protect the health of a person with coeliac disease.
‘We are actively following up with @ITV. You can read our open letter in the comments below, and will share any responses we receive.
‘In the meantime we ask you to contact This Morning to ask them to give an apology to our gluten free community on air for this damaging and inaccurate information, and to engage with Coeliac UK to ensure their information is accurate in future.’
They also shared an open letter to ITV in which they expressed their ‘deep concern regarding the advice given to the caller’, noting that it was ill-informed advice and dismissive tone towards coeliac disease and its severity that prompted this letter of complaint.’
Stressing the severity of the health implications surrounding coeliac disease, they went on to claim that Vanessa’s ‘trivialisation’ of the disease was ‘disheartening and detrimental to the understanding of this condition.’
They added that such a mainstream platform shouldn’t have ‘downplayed’ the significance of the matter.
Meanwhile furious viewers, some of whom have the condition, said Vanessa was giving out ‘bad advice’ and demanded that she do her research.
Accusing her of spreading misinformation, viewers commented: ‘Oh dear @ITV @ThisMorning seem to be falling into the modern trend of being contrary to the sharing of misinformation. Since when did Vanessa Feltz become qualified to give medical advice?’;
Fans called for Vanessa to apologise for her ‘irresponsible’ remarks about the disease, which means your immune system attacks your tissues when you eat gluten
‘@ThisMorning please can Vanessa give a massive apology to the hundreds of thousands of coeliac in the UK? This false reporting is not only annoying but downright dangerous. Please can you have [gluten free chef] Becky Excell on your show, who will show you how delicious GF food can be’;
‘This is what happens when you have ill informed and ignorant presenters like Vanessa Feltz spreading misinformation. She needs to be held accountable for her dangerous words!’;
‘This Morning you need to address the misinformation that Vanessa Feltz put out on your show yesterday. Please invite Becky Excell Gluten Free onto the show to provide correct advice and dispel the dangerously incorrect information provided by Ms Feltz.’
MailOnline have reached out to Vanessa and This Morning for comment.
Coeliac disease is an extremely common condition, which affects about one in 100 people.
It happens when the body’s immune system mistakes substances found in gluten – found in wheat, barley and rye – as a threat and attacks it.
But this simultaneously sees the body attack its own tissues, which can damage the lining of the gut.
This autoimmune reaction typically causes symptoms like stomach pain, diarrhoea, excessive wind, nausea, cramping, bloating, headaches and weight loss. However, it also leads to difficulties digesting food, which can result in anaemia and tiredness.
In some cases, sufferers may develop neurological problems such as loss of balance and slurred speech.
No cure exists for coeliac disease. Scientists don’t even fully understand why people develop the illness.
Instead, sufferers are recommended to completely eradicate gluten, which can be found in bread, biscuits and even ketchup.
Some experts say coeliac disease is a spectrum disorder, in that people have varied symptoms both in type and severity.
What is coeliac disease?
- Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease.
- It is caused by a reaction of the immune system to gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When someone with coeliac disease eats gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the lining of the small intestine
- Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people
- Only 36% who have the condition have been diagnosed
- There are currently nearly half a million people who have coeliac disease but don’t yet know
- This autoimmune reaction typically causes symptoms like stomach pain, diarrhoea, excessive wind, nausea, cramping, bloating, headaches and weight loss. However, it also leads to difficulties digesting food, which can result in anaemia and tiredness
- Once diagnosed, the only treatment for coeliac disease is a gluten free diet
Source: Coeliac UK
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