It’s not often I get political about gluten-free food. Usually, the politics involved in eating gluten-free is more about trying not to offend others (like when someone’s cooked with wheat flour & cries, “but I baked it specially!”), finding a restaurant you can trust (“most Coeliacs aren’t bothered about us using the same toaster”) or simply finding something you can have for lunch (“we’ve got fruit”). If you haven’t already realised, those comments in brackets are ones I’ve had said to me and no, none of them are acceptable.
But today’s different: politics is on the agenda.
Imagine being in a job you love, doing it brilliantly, knowing you’re up for promotion, and then being sacked because you’ve just found out you’ve got coeliac disease.
Sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it? Like when the army used to refuse people who were gay. But the truth is that gluten-intolerance (regardless of the cause, whether it’s dermatitis herpetiformis, coeliac disease or something else) is reason enough to be dismissed from the US military or denied entry into the UK armed forces.
Need proof? Just read the following cases for Rachael and Kevin.
And you know what? I actually agree with it (in part). Just because you can be vegetarian in the army or insist on not eating a particular food for religious reasons doesn’t mean it’s okay for coeliacs to be bundled into the same category.
The reason is simple: if a vegetarian accidentally eats food containing animal produce, they won’t suddenly be incapacitated. Give a flour-based product to a coeliac and (if they’re like me) they’ll suddenly become doubled up with pain. Imagine the scene: “They’re coeliac! Force some bread down them and they’ll admit defeat!” That’s not the army tactics I want to see.
Of course, there are jobs that don’t involve being on the front line, and they shouldn’t be denied to coeliacs. I’d want to hear a better argument than the diet being too difficult to manage.
As for Republican candidate Ted Cruz, I’d love to know how clued up he is about gluten. Does he think people go without as part of a fad diet? That the US military would suddenly be overrun with picky eaters? I wonder how his views would change if he suddenly experienced the symptoms of coeliac disease and had to dash to the loo midway through his election campaign speeches.
But let’s be honest here: the whole point of having armed forces is that they’re able to defend our country, and someone who’s busy vomiting behind their rifle isn’t our best bet.