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Disney Channel forced to pull episode of hit TV show Jessie that ‘mocks’ and ‘humiliates’ child on gluten-free diet

  • A  Change.org petition calling on Disney to ‘stop bullying gluten-intolerant  characters’ attracted 2,137 signatures

By  Sadie Whitelocks

PUBLISHED: 10:51 EST, 21 May  2013 |  UPDATED: 12:33  EST, 21 May 2013

The Disney Channel has pulled an episode of  its popular children’s show Jessie, after thousands of parents complained the  storyline ridiculed young people with food allergies.

During the May  17 installment titled Quitting Cold  Koala, a nine-year-old character named Stuart Wooten stated that he could not  eat plain flour pancakes because he was  gluten-free.

Instead of supporting his needs the rest of  the cast made snide remarks and one child even threw pancakes in his  face.

Controversial: The Disney Channel has pulled an episode of its popular children's show Jessie, which ridiculed a nine-year-old gluten-free child
Controversial: The Disney Channel has pulled an episode  of its popular children’s show Jessie, which ridiculed a nine-year-old  gluten-free child

In response, one dismayed viewer launched a  Change.org petition calling for Disney to ‘stop bullying gluten-intolerant characters’. In  just a few days it attracted 2,137  signatures.

The online appeal was started by  mother-of-two Amy Raslevich from Sewickley, Pennsylvania. Both her son Sam,  eight, and daughter Laura, 11, were diagnosed with celiac  disease 18 months ago.

The digestive disorder triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is  primarily found in foods such as bread and pasta, causes damage to the small  intestine and stops the body from absorbing nutrients from food.

Unpleasant symptoms include abdominal pain,  weight-loss, fatigue and diarrhea. There is no cure and the only  known  effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet – meaning any  foods or  products containing wheat, rye and barley  should be avoided.

‘We  need to stress that being gluten-free is to keep our kids safe, it is not a  “trend” or “fad”‘

Mrs Raslevich said that her children were distraught after watching the Jessie episode  which  ‘made fun of, humiliated and isolated’ the gluten-free child.

Expressing her outrage on her Change.org page  she wrote: ‘In the Jessie episode, a young boy was said to require a gluten-free  diet.

‘The other characters snickered at this  requirement, and in fact  threw a pancake at the child, which could have  actually triggered a  severe skin rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis.

‘The boy was made to  be annoying, sniveling,  and demanding, repeatedly teased and excluded by the other children.

Outrage: Amy Raslevich, pictured with her husband Jeff Kelly, said that their two children, Sam, eight, and Laura Kelly, 11, were distraught after watching the Jessie episode - they both have celiac disease and are gluten-free
Outrage: Amy Raslevich, pictured with husband Jeff  Kelly, said that their children, Sam, eight, and Laura Kelly, 11, were  distraught after watching the Jessie episode – both have celiac disease and eat  a gluten-free diet

‘For my kids, this is real. They have  had  friends make fun of their food, been disinvited to parties because  of their  diet.

‘They have been made to sit alone, have had  waitstaff roll their eyes and snidely comment about their requests to make their  food  safe for them to eat.’

Another mother, Viviana Cardona from  Ossining, New York, was equally offended. She added:  ‘My son is gluten-free due to being  ALLERGIC to gluten / wheat / oats / barley.

‘I  guarantee  if it was a peanut allergy, they wouldn’t have had them throwing  peanuts at him’

‘He is severely allergic and an exposure is  potentially fatal. This is my husband and my daily worry, that he  will be  “poisoned” by a bully.

‘We need to stress that being  gluten-free is  to keep our kids safe, it is not a “trend”, “fad” [but] a means to keep our  children safe.’

A thread started on the website Reddit  also  touched on the issue. One commentator simply stated: ‘I guarantee  if it was a  peanut allergy, they wouldn’t have had them throwing peanuts at him. This is  ridiculous.’

In response to the backlash, the Disney  network has now pulled the episode from air.

A statement on its official Facebook page  posted last Friday read: ‘To our viewers, we received your  feedback about  tonight’s ‘Jessie’ episode which some of you accessed  early on  Video-on-Demand.

Insensitive: At one point a cast member throws pancakes at the gluten-free child
Insensitive: At one point a cast member throws pancakes  at the gluten-free child

‘We are removing this particular episode from  our regular programming schedule and will re-evaluate its references to gluten  restrictions in the character’s diet.

‘Please accept our apologies for  the upset  this episode caused you and your family. We value your  feedback and thank you  for watching Disney Channel.’

A 2012 study estimated that around 1.8  million people in the U.S. have celiac disease, and 1.4 million may not even  know about it.

While gluten-free diets are necessary for  people with celiac disease, they have also become a fad diet for some with about  1.6million excluding gluten from their diets for no medical reason.

People who do not need to be on the strict  diet may develop vitamin deficiencies and other side effects.

A LIFETIME OF BEING  GLUTEN-FREE: THE CURE FOR CELIAC DISEASE

Celiac disease is a digestive condition  triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is primarily found in  bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley  or rye.

People with celiac disease who eat foods  containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines,  causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to  absorb certain nutrients.

Celiac disease can cause abdominal pain and  diarrhea. Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients that occurs with  celiac disease can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain,  peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital  nourishment.

No treatment can cure celiac disease.  However, sufferers can effectively manage the condition by changing their diet.

SOURCE: www.mayoclinic.com

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