Disney pulls children's show Jessie for mocking kids with food allergies
An episode of the popular Disney Channel children's show 'Jessie' has been pulled after parents complained its storyline mocked young people with food allergies.
During the episode called '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.
In response, one angry viewer launched a Change.org petition calling for Disney to 'stop bullying gluten-intolerant characters'.
In just a few days it attracted more than 2,000 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 coeliac 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.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, weight-loss, fatigue and diarrhoea. 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.
Mrs Raslevich said that her children were distraught after watching the Jessie episode which 'made fun of, humiliated and isolated' the gluten-free child.
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.
"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."
The Disney network has now pulled the episode from air.
A statement on its official Facebook page posted last Friday read: "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."
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