This Morning addresses Vanessa Feltz backlash over coeliac disease remarks

Broadcaster’s comments about the condition have been branded ‘ignorant’ by ITV viewers

Nicole Vassell
Tuesday 19 December 2023 13:00 GMT
Vanessa Feltz makes 'irresponsible' gluten-free remarks on This Morning

This Morning has clarified its messaging around coeliac disease after Vanessa Feltz’s discussion of the condition led to heated discourse on social media.

The broadcaster, 61, featured on Monday’s edition (18 December) of the ITV daytime programme, during which she responded to various calls from viewers looking for Christmas-themed guidance.

A caller named Alison asked Feltz for her advice on dealing with a mother-in-law who did not allow any foods containing gluten to enter the house, due to one family member being coeliac.

Coeliac disease is a condition where the immune system attacks a person’s tissues when they consume gluten, which is a protein naturally found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye.

In response, Feltz called the request “completely unreasonable”.

Summarising the caller’s predicament, Feltz said of the mother-in-law: “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. That is not reasonable Alison, at all.”

Vanessa Feltz
Vanessa Feltz (ITV / screengrab)

In response to the segment, some viewers on social media labelled Feltz’s comments as “ignorant” and accused her of being uninformed of the potential harm that contamination with gluten can cause for someone with coeliac disease.

One person on X/Twitter claimed that the broadcaster should apologise for her words, adding: “In the home and kitchen of someone with coeliac [disease], the insistence they risk cross-contamination to cater to others, the sneering ignorance, was definitely punching down. It helps no one.”

Vanessa Feltz on This Morning
Vanessa Feltz on This Morning (ITV / screengrab)

Another viewer wrote: “A swift apology needed for this I think. It is Vanessa Feltz who is ignorant and needs to read up on coeliac disease which is a very serious condition, otherwise why would us coeliacs have to avoid gluten for the rest of our lives.”

“I’m actually furious Vanessa felt really needs to do her homework on coeliac disease,” reads another comment. “No, it’s not a nut allergy but we can become seriously ill and it’s not always what you see on the outside.”

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On Tuesday’s episode (19 December), Dr Zoe Williams seemingly addressed the backlash by acknowledging viewers’ requests to discuss coeliac disease in greater depth.

“Some people with coeliac disease can be very sensitive, so even a trace of gluten can actually damage, in the long term, their small intestine, and cause really severe sickness and illness,” she noted.

“So I think especially around Christmas time, for some people, it can be a time where they need to ask their relatives and loved ones who are going to be spending time with to make a few changes to accommodate them.”

Dr Zoe Williams
Dr Zoe Williams (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

During Feltz’s controversial appearance on Monday’s episode, the caller explained that her mother-in-law would not be receptive to her and her children bringing their own food to eat in separate containers, claiming that she’d “tell me that I’m ignorant to the facts and tell me to read up on it”.

Feltz replied: “But you’re not and she’s wrong, I mean she’s just unequivocally wrong about that. Completely wrong.”

Eventually, the former Celebs Go Dating cast mate advised the caller to adhere to her mother-in-law’s request of keeping a gluten-free household to keep the peace among the family.

“On balance, you’re pretty much going to have to go with it,” she said, adding: “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.”

The Independent has reached out to Vanessa Feltz’s representative for comment.

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