Did I Overreact to this ‘Gluten-Free Insurance’ Press Release?

gluten free jokes

So I was on Twitter last week when I came across a post by my friends at Celiac.com. (Note: They’re not my friends. And yes…I know Twitter is a cesspool, but it allows me to stay in touch with the celiac community.)

The post said “Canadian Insurance Firm Gets Cheeky with Gluten-Free Insurance Ads”. I’m a curious fella so I clicked on the link. Cheeky was not exactly my initial response.

The insurance exchange company, located in Canada, is called Apollo XE. They thought it would be a laugh riot to offer gluten-free insurance policies. Why? I have no fucking idea. And they actually did a press release for it. No…really. Here’s the press release in its entirety:

Apollo is pleased to announce that it now offers the world’s first insurance policy that is completely free of gluten.This was achieved by a complete digitization of the entire insurance purchasing process.

“There’s no gluten on the internet,” says Apollo CEO Jeff McCann. “By taking the insurance policy from its physical form, which is full of gluten, and translating it into a cloud-based digital form, Apollo is able to guarantee that there is no way gluten could possibly contaminate the policy.”

The insurance policy was tested in a third party lab, which confirmed that there was no gluten whatsoever contained in the final product.

Apollo is interested in partnering with Beyond Meat to offer a vegan insurance policy later on this year.

Now…if you’ve been following me for some time (virtual hugs to all of you), you know I used to rail against these types of things on a pretty regular basis. (Exhibit A: Party City.) My feeling was (and still is) that anything that undermines gluten-free and turns it into a joke is harmful to our community and encourages bullying of children who need to eat gluten-free.

But in the past year or so, I pretty much stopped reacting to these types of things. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps fatigue. Perhaps because I know it rarely makes a dent beyond the day I write about it. Perhaps I wanted to keep a more positive outlook. Or perhaps I didn’t want to give any attention to these companies anymore (and yes…sadly there have been plenty of opportunities.)

But for whatever reason, I didn’t feel like leaving this one alone. Not only was it completely pointless, it basically says gluten-free is a fad diet by lumping it in with Beyond Meat and a vegan diet. The reaction by Celiac.com also left a bad taste in my mouth. Here’s what Celiac.com wrote about the press release:

Ever thought about gluten-free insurance? Ads for a Canadian company called Apollo offer the first ever 100% gluten-free insurance policy. If you’re thinking, “Great, it’s about time someone created gluten-free insurance,” then you might have missed the joke. Apollo’s gluten-free insurance is not a policy for people who are gluten-free, it’s a policy that contains no gluten. Get it?

Ummm…no I don’t.

So…since Jeff McCann, the CEO of Apollo, left his email address, I thought I’d ping him. Here’s how the conversation went.


Me: Are you fucking kidding me Jeff? (with a link to the press release.)

Jeff: Haha I’m guessing you’re entertained.

Me: Guess again. I, and millions of others, have celiac disease. These types of idiotic jokes make our lives more difficult. You still think I’m entertained?

Jeff: Statistically speaking there is more positives about awareness through our campaign than there is about you sending irrationally angry emails to CEOs of insurance companies. What outcome would you like from this narrative? PS. Make sure you send some hate towards your counterparts at Celiac.com (with a link to the article on the Celiac.com website.)

Jeff again 23 minutes later:
I’m just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear’s a powerful thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust

(Dude note: I’ll give the guy credit here. He must have researched me enough to know I’m a big Bruce fan. And I do love those lyrices from the under-appreciated Devils and Dust, though I’m not quite sure how they apply here.)

Me: Hey there Jeff. A few thoughts:

– One of my favorite Bruce lyrics.

– I am not fond of celiac.com; never have been.

– Perhaps my anger seemed irrational, and perhaps I could have toned it down, but the celiac community has been fighting this battle for years. The jokes at the expense of our ONLY treatment makes it more difficult to be taken seriously, which leads to more of us getting sick and kids getting bullied. Please read something I post years ago: http://glutendude.com/celiac-awareness/why-the-jimmy-kimmel-video-matters/

Happy to carry the conversation further.



And that was the end of the conversation. I guess he had no interest in carrying the conversation further.

So here’s my question to you, my fellow celiacs: Do you think I overreacted? And I really do want to get your feedback here. I want to make sure I am serving the celiac community in the most effective way possible.

Should I have:

1) Let it go.
2) Respond in a polite fashion.
3) Do exactly what I did.

I’m all ears. (Literally…I was born with just ears. Kind of a shitty life, but I can hear EVERYTHING.)

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20 thoughts on “Did I Overreact to this ‘Gluten-Free Insurance’ Press Release?”

  1. I don’t think you overreacted. One of the things I appreciate about you is your willingness to use the voice you’ve created to stand up for us. He might not have responded, but maybe he read your article and will realize that jokes about being gluten free aren’t funny when every meal can be a struggle.

  2. No react is a reaction so I feel you did what was best. Obviously, the company is that desperate for new clients that they feel this is the only way to go, which will ultimately just prove to customers how uneducated they are as a company. That coupled with the unprofessional response from Jeff would make me do everything in my power NOT to deal with this company. In short, you said your peace and they stuck their foot in their mouth without even knowing they did it.

  3. My first reaction is: There will always be idiots making jokes about things that matter to me, because it just doesn’t matter to them. This will probably always bother me. Sometimes I have the energy to address the behaviour, and other times I don’t.

    I also believe that anyone who has a disease gets to determine what their own response is to jokes about it (which is why I love this blog), and that the response doesn’t have to be the same every time. Some days I have a sense of humour about celiac, and other days I don’t. When people say, “Oh, lighten up,” I want to punch them. Other days I’m almost (or actually) crying with gratitude for finally having a diagnosis, and I can shake my head at dumb things like the Grinch billboard. People don’t get it, so they continue to make lowbrow jokes. They think they’re being clever…which is the actual joke to me.

    So if you want to ask a CEO “WTF????” on any given day, that’s legit to me!

  4. I think you need to do more and be stronger. I dont agree with you on a lot of things and I think you should keep personal or political stuff out of your post. Gluten dude should only be about those topics…however this fired me up as well! I think you should have said more. I think we the Celiacs not the companies who claim to support or represent us….should find ways to sue or open public action against bullshit jokes like these. Thanks for being a voice and not quiting like me.

    1. Political stuff I get keeping off, and I basically have the past 6 months or so. Personal stuff I’ll stick with. This blog is not only about helping the community, but also my journey…with and without celiac disease.

      The rest of your comment? Awesome.

  5. My take on this is that if he’s thinking Celiac.com is some kind of helper on the path of Celiac, then he’s delusional or misinformed. So his reaction to your justified annoyance isn’t coming from a place of actual caring.

    Plus then he talks about surviving in the lyric. Which is brazen tit for tat, because he thinks you were trying to guilt him instead of inform him, so he’s trying to guilt you. Anyone who tries to guilt you by saying he’s trying to survive while selling a product isn’t coming from the soul. Business is business, but it’s not anything positive when that commercial urge blocks out all objections with “just trying to survive.” It’s an old, worn out cliche. Finally, he’s selling insurance? The same insurance industry that discouraged Celiac diagnosis as a routine activity for decades? Not feeling the love.

    I was just glutened by cold medicine because of people like this who perpetuate misinformation and lead to making it impossible to reliably get gluten free meds. Every “safer” GF cold med is 10x more expensive because it’s usually the liquid gelcap. Absurd. And it’s people like this who won’t cover OTC drugs or encourage med manufacturers to protect us. Even though insurers pay the bill when we get sick. No love because no logic.

    The way insurers act these days I’m starting to see them as beggars. I guess that fits with “just trying to survive.” Yeah, buddy, so am I.

    1. And by that, I mean it’s not exactly offensive. It’s light hearted. I myself am a Celiac and don’t find a silly article offensive.

      1. I get it James. I do. A lot of people feel the same way. But I’ve always said it’s not about me being offended (I’m not…it’s just too stupid to be offended), it’s about the potential harm it can do to the celiac community.

  6. Why don’t they make jokes about diabetics being sugar free? Because there’s an obesity crisis in the US and it’s so prevalent that too many people would be offended? Hmm.

    Maybe a little over the top here, but seriously why can’t the gluten-free joke fad die? It’s old.

  7. Gluten Free Angie

    You did not overreact. Unfortunately, complaints are merely swatted away like flies when the offenders are self-absorbed and think other opinions are ONLY opinion – instead of the truth that this is. They haven’t lived it. They are ignorant of the battles we face each day. But when you turn up the heat, suddenly they pay attention. I really hate that this is the way it is, but it is. It is the reason that some companies continue to pollute or sell defective or health-endangering products right up until they get slapped with a lawsuit and have to pay millions. Most of the time, you have to get people’s attention in a big way. I am not sure how that can be done in this case. Maybe the celiac community needs to be more organized. We are all out here each fighting our little lone battles. I have done it exhaustively in my own community/life. But not in a big way. No banners. No billboards. No rallies. Just requests/complaints at local businesses, conversations with others, etc. And it does often feel like we are fighting a losing battle. I don’t know what the answer is yet. But we all have to keep doing our part to raise awareness.

  8. I heard this quote once, “There are no moderates in heaven.” Not that I’m religious….but only those that draw attention with passion or outrage change anything in this world. Thumbs up!

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

Who I am. And who I'm not.

I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

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