Saturday Kitchen cooking show trivializes coeliac disease. We deserve an apology.

matt tebutt celiac

Saturday Kitchen is (yet another) cooking show based in the UK where viewers get to vote on which recipe will be prepared for the guest at the end of the episode. It ‘stars” chef Matt Tebbutt (I so wanted to call him Matt Tebbutthead, but my maturity got the best of me) and it’s been on BBC TV for 17 years. The show gets millions of eyeballs each episode.

On September 18, 2021, Sharleen Spiteri, a Scottish recording artist and songwriter, was one of the guests. Sharleen has coeliac disease. She was diagnosed in 2014 when she reported noticing a drastic dip in her energy levels, shortly followed by hair loss. She said “gluten had slowly been killing her“. I think you know where this story is going.

One of the dishes Matt was going to serve her was bread with cheese. Sharleen lets Matt know though she loves carbs, she can’t have bread cause she has coeliac disease. Here is the first clip:

Ok…let’s talk about this. When she tells Matt she has coeliac disease, Matt’s response is either 1) Well let’s not bring that UP; or 2) Well let’s not bring that ON, two very different responses. I’ve listened to it a dozen times and I can swear he says UP, but I can’t be sure. If he says UP, f**k him. If he says ON, well still f**k him (keep reading.) Sharleen then proceeds to trivialize her disease by saying “it’s not like I pass out or something” and “sometimes I just go for it.”

Dude Note: IGNORE HER. ‘Going for it” is not courageous or a badge of honor. It’s stupid and damaging. Ok…let’s carry on.

So what does Matt do? He serves her cheese WITH BREAD.

And what does Sharleen do? Eats the cheese even though the bread is literally touching the cheese. Here’s the clip:

Folks on Twitter were not having it. Here are some comments:

Shame on you BBC for allowing this autoimmune disease to be treated so flippantly. I wonder if you would tell someone with a walnut allergy to “pick the nut” out of the cake???
This is very disappointing that such a popular show can just dismiss such a serious disease. If everyone really understood the difficulties that sufferers experience they wouldn’t be so dismissive!!
This is horrendous! Do they realize how serious it is. @SaturdayKitchen please educate yourselves.
So disappointing and disheartening to see, what a rude brush off remark and still serving Sharleen gluten and expecting her to eat this is shocking. An ideal time to chat about coeliac disease, not dismiss it as if its an inconvenience to the chef!
I think an apology & explanation is the least that should be expected from a responsible channel, program and chef. An opportunity to actually improve knowledge and understanding in the general public from what was a ‘public information’ disaster.

Yes, YES, YES to all of the above. What a wasted opportunity to educate their audience about the seriousness of coliac disease. Imagine if Matt said on the show “I was going to serve bread with Sharleen’s cheese plate, but since she has coeliac, a very serious autoimmune disease where one crumb of gluten can set off the autoimmune response, leading to damaged intestines and a host of other effects, I served her just the cheese making sure not to cross-contaminate it during preparation.”?

What would be so difficult about this and why wasn’t this done? What is it about our disease that makes some people so flippant about it?

So here is what I say:

To Sharleen…if you want to “go for it” and eat gluten, it’s your body, your choice. But to me, each person with coeliac has a responsibility to the community to not share dangerous information. Next time you are in this situation, I hope you reconsider how you respond.

To Matt…seriously dude, what the hell? Either 1) you do not know what coeliac disease is; or 2) you just don’t care. If it’s one, educate yourself before you cook another dish for a person with coeliac. If it’s two, stop cooking. You’re a danger to millions of people with coeliac disease around the world.

To BBC One TV…you have a responsibility what you put on air. You failed.

Now here’s the thing, people have been complaining to Matt, Saturday Kitchen and BBC for 11 days now and none of them STILL have acknowledged the incident or apologized for it.

So I’d like to put a little pressure on them. Here’s how you can help:

– Hit them all on Twitter (@SaturdayKitchen, @matt_tebbutt, @BBCOne), send them the link to this page if you’d like, and demand an apology and/or an explanation.

– Write BBC One on Facebook, where they have almost 10 million followers. For the record, that is 8,960,000 more followers than I have.

– And of course a phone call could never hurt. You can hit BBC at 020 8743 8000.

Now before you say it won’t do any good, years ago The Today Show did a piece where Hoda Kotb totally mocked the gluten-free community. We raised our voices and the next day, she offered an on-air apology.

This community rocks. Let’s make our voices heard.

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5 thoughts on “Saturday Kitchen cooking show trivializes coeliac disease. We deserve an apology.”

  1. For the first time I am going to disagree – a little. Those shows are usually scripted and taped in advance- way in advance! While she could have said, “oh dear, I would love to try that cheese- but I have celiac disease and it would make me sick- ” That was her chance to do the right thing. She didn’t. He would have learned something and watchers would too. None of that happened, both missed a chance to do a little education. She could have also held up her hand and said, “we need to stop taping and do a review here- I cannot even try that cheese as it’s on a bread I can’t eat.” And he could have said, “ok we will give you a piece of cheese to try” (let’s hope the knife is clean)- both could have uttered a sentence about celiac – and that would have been the end of it. Just a typically bad experience for those with celiac. Someone could now contact that show and send this to that person.??

  2. UK gluten/coeliac standards are woeful, so the attitude of this chef leaves little surprise. We have a lot of ‘GF’ on menus, but I haven’t eaten out in three years as constantly being made ill. ‘Free From’ section in supermarkets – I wizz past this. Every now and again I ‘chance’ a gluten free product labelled with our erstwhile coeliac society’s groovy little symbol – I’m made ill each and every time with coeliac symptoms. Their symbol graces the side of every gluten filled gluten-free beer and they rudely shut down anyone querying why the products are making them ill, and gaslight querants into believing it’s something else they have eaten or some other disease. In response to this TV programme they’ve written a letter to the BBC, and publically posted that and the response from the BBC. It will go no further than that as they are loath to take action lest they loose profit from manufacturers and restaurants who line their coffers with gluten money. The ‘Saturday Kitchen’ has been hauled up in the past by coeliacs for similar poor performance/knowledge/message in relation to gluten and coeliac – the fact they have repeated this again with no clear sense of contrition in any responses speaks volumes. We are cast adrift in the UK as coeliacs so this is simply another insult to a long history of injuries. I detest all of these people. Their arrogance simply augments the isolation of the coeliac experience.

  3. Let’s have some videos of people refusing to get vaccinated when offered by their doctor on TV shows, maybe in a sitcom? It would be understood that it’s a personal choice not a model behavior right? Right???

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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.

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