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An open letter to The Daily Mail: please stop inciting hatred for coeliacs

Today's online article in The Daily Mail has made me wonder if someone has had amnesia. Which article am I referring to? This one here that tells us GPs are prescribing custard creams and battenburg cakes to coeliacs.

When will The Daily Mail get their facts right?

And why is this reminding me of something? It's because it's only 3 years since The Daily Mail printed this article where they inaccurately reported the NHS were spending £116million on gluten-free prescriptions for junk food including pizza and donuts.

The thing that makes this new article really strange is twofold.

Firstly, there were huge repercussions for The Daily Mail when the 2015 article was published. An apology was forced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation because the article was riddled with inaccuracies and The Daily Mail had to print their mistake.

Secondly, the writer of both articles is the same person! Surely they would have learned their lesson the first time round? Is no-one at The Daily Mail bothered about the consequences of mediated outcomes?

This begs the question: do sensational headlines take precedence over factual reporting?

Do you have any idea what the repercussions of such bad reporting make on people like me with coeliac disease? You only have to read the comments below the article to see there are people who truly believe what The Daily Mail prints is valid.

Free prescriptions should be means-tested

With this comment, there's actually a good point about means-testing. But it still comes from someone who thinks the article is based on fact.


It's so sad to think the NHS is viewed as "a monster". If accurate reporting were made about it, people would be so much more thankful for free healthcare.

Money wasted on NHS

Again, someone here thinks that custard creams are not only be prescribed but also can be bought cheaply. Normal custard creams are 40p at Sainsbury's. Coeliacs will pay £1.50 for the gluten-free version. That's not exactly cheap.

So here are the true facts for coeliacs:

  • We have never been prescribed custard creams or battenburg cakes;

  • Many counties have stopped giving gluten-free prescriptions altogether (and you can click here for Coeliac UK's map showing you which places these are);

  • Gluten-free prescriptions are only for staple foods like bread; and

  • While gluten-free food is now widely available, those on very low incomes struggle to pay for basic items which are often 3 times the price of normal food.

The article is not only badly written but also rather odd. At one point Sarah Sleet from Coeliac UK is quoted as saying, ‘Highlighting the curtailment of prescribing gluten-free cakes and biscuits is a total red herring and sensationalism.’ Yet nothing else is written. There's nothing to follow it up - it's as though your writer doesn't understand their headline is absurd at best and incredibly damaging at worst.

This was the response from Coeliac UK on the original article. I am sure they will have plenty to say on this new article and it won't be long before others (like me) join in.

In conclusion, I would be grateful if you would take down the inflammatory and ill-advised article you've printed today and issue an immediate apology making it clear you won't make this mistake again. If you'd like the true facts about coeliac disease, try talking to someone with a real experience of it.

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