Two quick notes regarding the title of this post:
1) It took me way to long to come up with it…and I still think it stinks.
2) The word “influencers” makes my skin crawl.
Can we proceed now? Great.
Today we are talking about the danger of some gluten-free influencers out there (I’ll focus on just one post for today), how they promote unsafe food, and how the celiac community can sometimes do more harm than good.
Ok…first of all, what exactly is an influencer? Here’s the best definition I found: An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience.
And here is my definition of influencer: “An influencer is an individual who can’t survive without the brands paying them, so they put money first and their audience second. Many influencers will sell their soul to make a buck.”
I hear what you some of you are saying right now (cause I’ve heard it on Twitter when I rail against some influencers. Also because I have very large ears): “But Dude, you influence people. So aren’t you an influencer?”
I am not. Not once have I promoted a brand for money. I get offers. A lot. I’ve never said yes.
And note that there are some gf influencers out there who ONLY promote celiac-safe food. While they still are all about the brands, they don’t do so at the expense of the celiac community. So if you are one of those and you are reading this, this is not about you. Good? Good.
So let’s tell this story in 3 parts. We’ll call part one “The Post”, part two “The Truth” and part three “The Reality”.
There is a woman on Instagram with 174,000 followers (some/most fake I assume). I won’t give her name here, but if you offer her bread, she will say no. Yes that’s a hint. This woman has celiac disease and decided to make a career out of it. Last month, she did a paid post for Panera Bread. Yes…this Panera Bread. Panera is not remotely safe for those with celiac disease. Panera even says so themselves….calling their products “gluten conscious”. The worst part of her post? She used the #celiacdisease hashtag.
I left a comment on her post but got no reply. But I’ve been paying some attention to her ever since, seeing if she does more potential harm to the celiac community. Well…the other day, she posted about a pizza joint in Chicago called Lou Malnati’s. And yep…hashtagged it with #celiacdisease again. So I did some digging.
Lou Malnati’s is not celiac safe. This is not a knock against the restaurant. They never say they are safe. They have some procedures in place, but about 75% of their menu items contain wheat, including of course the flour. And this is not a knock against anyone with celiac disease who eats there. We all have our own decisions to make about where and where we should not eat.
But “eating there” and “telling celiacs it’s safe to eat there” are completely different things. The former is personal. The latter is irresponsible and potentially dangerous. And too many times, these influencers are guilty of this. They’re sellouts…plain and simple. You promote Omission Beer? You’re a sellout? You promote Panera? Sellout. You get the point.
I jumped on Find Me Gluten Free to see what people had to say about Lou Malnati’s. It was the perfect microcosm of the celiac community. A lot of people saying it was not safe. And a lot of people saying “even though it may not be safe, I didn’t get sick so I give it 5 stars.” These same people list themselves as celiac and label the restaurant “celiac friendly”.
For the 37th time, not getting sick does not equate to being celiac safe. STOP DOING THIS.
So…if you are a “gluten-free influencer”, please think twice about the brands you promote. Promote with a conscious…if there is such a thing. And if you are a fellow celiac, be careful who you follow. Not everyone out there has your best interest in mind.
Greed pays. Authenticity doesn’t. And that’s the world we live in.