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.