I’m going to tell you a story. I take no pleasure in writing this story, but it’s an important story. It’s a sad story. It’s a story of deceit and betrayal. It has villains. It has heroes. And it has a lesson of morality. So grab a coffee. If it’s after 10am, pour a tequila. If it’s bedtime, feel free to read this to your children.
Once upon a time, in a land not very far, far from here, there was a website called celiac.com. It was launched many moons ago, in 1995. Now…because the internet was in its infancy, they were one of the first on the block to create a website dedicated to celiac disease. Its purpose was to “provide people who have celiac disease (aka gluten intolerance) and are not aware of it with a means of figuring out what their problem is, and to help those who know they have it to lead more comfortable and healthy lives.”
And life was good.
Celiac.com was a resource that people with celiac disease could turn to for guidance and support. They had a forum where people could connect with one another and get answers to questions they had. When I, Gluten Dude, the author of this here story, first got diagnosed, I turned to the celiac.com forum, introduced myself, and felt connected.
And life was good.
More and more people signed up for the forum and it seemed to become THE place to go if you had celiac disease. (As of today, the website has over 90,000 members.)
And this is where the story begins to turn. As traffic continued to grow, greed began to rear its ugly head. And with greed comes sacrifice. Sacrifice of morals. Sacrifice of the common good. Sacrifice of the community they were supposed to serve.
Celiac.com began to put profit over people. And life was no longer good.
They promoted questionable products. They wrote misleading articles. They did paid reviews. But the worst sin of them all was allowing “sponsored posts”. They took money from companies and allowed them to write articles about their own product/company on the celiac.com website. But it looked like the articles were being written by the folks at celiac.com themselves. So people with celiac disease, especially those recently diagnosed, scared and looking for answers, listened to what was written on the website.
Now I’d like to fast-forward this story to the year 2020; the month January; the day the 15th. Celiac.com posted an article titled “Yes, You Can Eat Gluten-free at Buffalo Wild Wings.” The article said that Buffalo Wild Wings was safe to eat at and listed a slew of items that were labeled “gluten-free” on the Buffalo Wild Wings allergen menu.
And this is where the story gets ugly.
Buffalo Wild Wings is NOT SAFE for those will celiac disease. How do I know? It says right on their damn website. On the allergen menu itself, it has the following disclaimer:
- We do not use separate fryers; due to this use of shared fryers there is the potential for allergen cross-contact between fried foods.
- Our Traditional Wings and Boneless Wings are fried then sauced or seasoned in the same bowls.
- We grill many items that contain allergens, therefore cross contact may occur during the grilling process.
So now you are wondering how this dangerous information was posted on the celiac.com website. Well, in very small letters next to the article, it had the following words: Sponsored Post. They took money to post an article with “facts” that would get those with celiac disease very sick.
When some awesome advocates in the celiac community got wind of this, they were mad. How could celiac.com post such dangerous garbage? Word got around social media pretty quickly, with many saying celiac.com is no longer a trusted website and has not been for some time. There was such a whirlwind that celiac.com actually apologized and removed the Buffalo Wild Wings article the following day.
And life was good again. Except it wasn’t. The damage had been done.
And today, the 17th of January, we enter the final chapter of this tragic tale. Celiac.com PUT THE ARTICLE BACK UP. Except they changed the title from “Yes, You Can Eat Gluten-free at Buffalo Wild Wings” to “Can You Really Eat Gluten-Free at Buffalo Wild Wings? Probably Not.”
PROBABLY NOT. PROBABLY #$@&%*! NOT. It is not safe. Period. But wait…it gets worse. Celiac.com actually took credit for finding out it wasn’t safe. At the top of the revised article, they added this gem:
“Gluten-free eater beware! Don’t get fooled by fake gluten-free menus (and fake news!). Just because a company posts clear allergen and gluten-free listings on their menu doesn’t mean that the food is reliably allergen or gluten-free and safe to eat. That point was driven home recently when an article from a seemingly reliable source, and a glance at the gluten-free listings on the menu at Buffalo Wild Wings, made it seem that their food was safely gluten-free. However, after reading fine print buried in their website, we discovered a different tale.”
– THEY discovered a different tale? No they didn’t. The celiac advocates did.
– It wasn’t fine print. It was right there on their menu for all to see.
– Fake gluten-free menus?
– Fake news?
And then…and then…they had the gall to post the original article after their little correction, which still listed all of the Buffalo Wild Wings “gluten-free” items.
And life sucked.
But we can make life good again. We can help the celiac community. We can turn this tragic tale into one of hope. How can we do this? By telling everyone we know who has celiac disease to STOP GOING TO CELIAC.COM. Tell everyone we know they are putting profit over people. Tell everyone we know they are no longer a trusted source.
So please…share this story. So the celiac community can live happily ever after.
9 thoughts on “Celiac.com: A Tragic Tale of Good Intention$ Gone Awry”
The phrase about shared fryers reminded me that I recently saw a sticker at the McDonald’s drive-thru. They now fry their donut sticks in the same fryer they use for french fries. I have NCGS & would occasionally have their fries. Not anymore.
McDonald’s fries have never been safe! Even if you believe the (lies) idea they put fish/chicken patties and nuggets in a different frier….the fries themselves have a flour coating for crispness. Only “safe fries” I’ve found are 5 guys & chik-fil-a
We corrected this article within 24 hours of it’s publication, and apologized for the incorrect information.
I know your focus now is to criticize Celiac.com and others in the celiac community who are working hard to help people, which I find really sad. You used to provide decent info, but seem now to only focus on the negative. Good luck with your approach.
Also, this wasn’t sponsored content and we’ve never received any money from Buffalo Wild Wings this–all of our sponsored content is clearly posted as such.
– You have a large audience and therefore a huge responsibility to the community. This was not simply “incorrect information”. It was dangerous and since theoretically all of your articles are reviewed by “celiac experts”, it’s even more inexcusable. If it wasn’t for the advocates pointing it out, not sure if anything even would have happened on your end.
– My focus is never to criticize and it’s never to be negative. It’s to protect the celiac community, especially the newly diagnosed. I’ve been consistent since day 1 of my blog. The sad fact is that there is so much BS being spouted by people, websites, corporations and the media that is potentially harmful to the community, that my calling them out is necessary.
– My approach is just fine, thank you. It’s community first. Always has been…always will be.
Honestly Scott, if you read the responses on my social media pages, you’d see that I am not alone in my criticism of your company.
Scott from Celiac.com – Your reply is very frustrating for me to read which is why I’ve just added celiac.com onto my ‘unsafe’ tab of my spreadsheet. I view CD as one of inconvenience. I spend hours each week looking at labels, researching what is safe, and educating supportive and well meaning friends who see bad information. Posting inaccurate information, even if it is just for 24 hours, increases my burden in my effort to keep myself safe. It is not too much to ask for celiac.com to put the same effort into helping keep the community safe. Until celiac.com shows it is committed to increasing the safety for the community, I won’t be wasting my precious time sorting through and rechecking each post.
What she said 🙂
Scott from Celiac.com,
I would just like to say that I have been following Gluten Dude since I found out I have Celiac Disease. He has helped me incredibly in my 2 year journey and the journey my family is traveling with me because of this blessed disease. This is the ONLY place I can find where I can get an answer that does not require me to ask more questions. His blog posts are very clear as are the answers he gives to his many many followers. If he can’t find an answer he says. I have never felt confused or mislead in any way. I don’t know Gluten Dude from Adam or Adam’s house cat but I can say that I would trust his advice and extensive research plus his OWN experiences more than I would anyone’s on the internet. I will be following his blog for as long as he has it.
In the beginning of my journey as I was searching for help and answers I looked into Celiac.com. After I had to(‘x out’)of all the adds I had to figure out how to navigate the website. (‘x out’ again). I asked several questions, (‘x out’ again), and sent in inquiries. (‘x out’ again) Then I did find an answer I had to filter through( ‘x out’ again) comments that were years old that had outdated information. (‘x out’ again). I did not trust Celiac.com from the time I tried to use it. Frustrating. I haven’t used Celiac.com or recommended using this sideways ‘help’ site since about a day after I got my diagnosis and determined you guys are making money off of peoples disease. Humans. People. Lives. Moms. Dads. Children. How can you do that, lie about it and sleep at night? That is a rhetorical question. I wouldn’t believe you if you answered me so don’t bother.
Thank you Gluten Dude. You are a blessing.
Much appreciated Julie. I’m not going anywhere.
And to clarify, I have no problem with people making money helping other people; as long as they are not 1) doing possible harm to the community and 2) selling out.
McDonald’s french fries are not gluten free, it has wheat (*natural Beef Flavor Contains Hydrolyzed Wheat And Hydrolyzed Milk As Starting Ingredients). Plus they’ve been frying wheat battered chicken and fish long before donut sticks.