Coeliac chef Anthony Demetre admits to gluten gorging on Saturday Kitchen

He’s not the UK’s Damian Cardone by any stretch of the imagination, but coeliac chef Anthony Demetre has hardly endeared himself to British and Irish coeliacs this weekend by revealing on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen on the 9th April 2011 that he maintains a strict gluten-free diet for three months and then “for two weeks I just eat as much pasta and pizza as I can get hold of” – insert inappropriate smiling from Demetre and inappropriate laughter from presenter James Martin – “because I can’t cut it out… completely fully because the body just rejects it when you do have it”.

You can see it on YouTube here.

As with the Cardone affair, the bloggers have started to come out in force. The GFGuerrillas have posted this morning, as has the Gluten Free Traveller, and both have complained to the BBC, as have many members of the gluten free message board.

For the sake of discussion, I will try to defend him. The gluten-free diet is difficult. For a chef, it must be particularly so – being exposed to tempting glutenous treats constantly. He is allowed to stick to the diet or stray from it as he chooses. As coeliac David Johnstone said amusingly on Twitter – “It’s his villi!” It could be argued he is entitled to air his views as much as anyone else, and that he was not encouraging coeliacs to abandon their GFDs.

That’s probably as much as I can offer him. I won’t repeat any of the comments and criticism that I’ve seen online (I agree with most of it, but not all), but I will add the following to the discussion pot:

1. Did what he say actually make sense? It was a non sequitur to me. He can’t cut gluten out because the body rejects it when he has it? So if his body didn’t reject it he could cut it out? What? Er, seems to me that he’s unable to cut out gluten because the temptation for pizza and pasta is, for him, too great. The Sated Coeliac is of the view that he mistakenly believes he needs to eat it occasionally, but I'm not so sure.

2. He – or someone – should have made it transparently clear that coeliac disease is very serious, and not some lifestyle choice or fad diet. We know that it isn’t, but others watching may not know that it isn’t, and may now assume that it is. Not good for general awareness. And what if newly diagnosed kids were watching? “If he eats pizza, mummy, why can’t I?”

3. That laughter was inappropriate. Perhaps from James Martin it was surprised nervous laughter, but this subject is no joke and it is this, ultimately, which I think the BBC are going to have to apologise for next week. I hope they do.

I expect this one will run for a bit. As I’m about to post, gluten-free champion Phil Vickery has given a strongly worded comment to Coeliac London. Possibly more later.

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