Is joking about incurable disease the new black?

Imagine a world where “Chronic obesity is the new black” was a signpost to WeightWatchers ready meals.

Or perhaps “Diabetes type I is the new black” was the slogan accompanying some sugar-free chocolate.

I wonder whether we’re a step closer to such crassness after this was posted on Twitter yesterday by a clearly unimpressed Miss Doozer.

screen-shot-2015-10-24-at-19-36-28-1The food service outlet in question is called UGOT, and the picture is from Newcastle station.

Others added to Miss Doozer’s dissent. To his credit, UGOT’s founder Joe addressed it at once. He wrote: “I am a 22 year old with gluten intolerance who created this brand to allow others who share in my frustration at the lack of a healthy & accessible variety of gluten free products [sic] and hopefully make light of a somewhat challenging situation“.

Lorna Kellett argued that it reinforces the “dangerous beliefs in the catering industry that all people are GF mainly because it’s trendy“.

I fear she’s right. I fear it plays into the hands of sceptics who from time-to-time go on the attack at those on restricted diets.

It’s important to point out that UGOT received possibly as much support as criticism: some have argued that the sign raises the profile of coeliac disease – and even I have to acknowledge that this certainly does help bring the word ‘coeliac’ into the mainstream, which might not be such a bad thing. “I don’t think this is the easy road for companies and (they) should be supported,” said Danny Hughes.

I think ‘Gluten free is the new black’ might have been acceptable to many. The line implies gluten free is fashionable or faddy. And it is. Many without any gluten-related disorder use gluten free as a method for weight loss, one which is not recommended by dietitians and has no evidence in support of it – and that’s the definition of a fad, right there.

But coeliac is an autoimmune disease, with no cure. I wonder whether this may backfire for what seems to be a young company, who look to be offering some terrific free from options at a location where many ‘on the go’ coeliacs and other food sensitives may really need them.

We are trying to give a platform to encourage those with intolerance to embrace it and allow them to live a tastier lifestyle,” UGOT told another objector.

I’m not sure over-intellectualising something as relatively straightforward as providing food to people who want to buy food really helps their cause. I’ll stick my neck out and suggest that coeliacs – who have more than a mere ‘intolerance’ – don’t particularly want a platform on which they can embrace their food sensitivity. They just want to have tasty, healthy and safe options when going about their business like everybody else.

Meet that need well, UGOT, and it’ll be you who is the new black.


  1. Adriana

    An odd idea. I think he should have added the word disease as in Coeliac Disease is the new black- but having tested the idea on non coeliacs in my household I was told don't be silly, that doesn't rhyme. Personally I'm not offended by this but feel it's a bit silly to limit your market this way.

  2. Alex G

    But the word 'disease' is off-putting: who wants to be reminded of illness when they're choosing what they want to eat?

  3. Issi

    The slogan is unfortunate (as you say – it is the gluten free diet rather than the autoimmune condition coeliac disease which is a 'trend') but as a coeliac, I choose not to be offended…I imagine they probably meant well. I think they should reconsider the slogan, but I am just happy to see a new young business creating products safe for coeliacs to enjoy and would rather support them in moving forward than start a witchhunt.

    P.S. Also worth noting that Beyond Bread (a gluten free bakery in London) already use 'gluten free is the new black' as their slogan!

  4. Alex G

    Agree with you re: witchhunt, in the cold light of day, but I still find it hard to believe that they didn't imagine some people might be offended. Perhaps they didn't realise exactly what they were doing – but if that's true, that's a worry in itself, in not understanding the severity of CD and yet pitching their stall at folk with CD. But I admire your attitude – and perhaps this grumpy old sod will eventually come around to mellowing too … 😉


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