Zara Is the Latest Perpetrator of T-Shirt Outrage Thanks to a Gluten-Themed Crop Top

The retailer pulled a shirt that reads: 'Are You Gluten Free?' after it drew mixed reactions.

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By Laura Entis


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

"Are You Gluten Free?"

Statistically, you probably don't have to be. While celiac disease, in which the body's immune system painfully attacks the small intestine when gluten is ingested, has been on the rise in the U.S., it's still relatively rare. It's estimated that less than half a percent of Americans suffer from the genetic disorder.

But that wasn't the question, was it? Despite being a key ingredient in a large percentage of delicious things, gluten's reputation has been on the decline of late, blamed for everything from weight gain, bloating to mood issues such as depression.

Today, around 1.5 million Americans follow a gluten-free diet despite not having celiac disease. Millions more report trying to reduce their gluten intake. All of which to say is that going gluten-free is a veritable diet trend that, while not supported by many researchers -- unless you actually have celiac disease! -- is nonetheless endorsed by a host of nutritionists, bloggers and celebrities.

Related: This Forever 21 T-Shirt Sparked a Backlash. We Want to Know What You Think.

Perhaps an indication that gluten-free has reached peak cultural saturation, late last year Zara tried to capitalize on the trend. Via black capital letters on a white-crop top, the retailer inquired: "Are You Gluten Free?"

The T-shirt, as many a T-shirt has done before, drew polarizing reactions. While some shoppers, a few of whom said they had celiac disease, embraced the shirt, others felt Zara was making light of a serious disorder.

One consumer was upset enough to start a petition, which received 53,000 signatures. "The truth is that I just wanted Zara to reflect on the message, I was trying to explain that perhaps it wasn't the best way to make people aware of the illness," she told The Local. She got her wish. Zara's parent company said the crop top would no longer be sold online or in stores. (This follows Forever 21 pulling a T-shirt just last week.) "We sincerely regret that this case might be interpreted as a trivialization of celiac disease, the absolute opposite of our intentions," the company said in a statement. Judging from the petition, many people will be happy with this decision.

Related: Doing Good One T-Shirt at a Time

But not everyone.

Tell us: Do you think the crop top is mostly harmless, a la the weird proliferation of "Kale" T-shirts, or offensive, in that it belittles a serious disorder? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.

The shirt was pulled after receiving mixed reactions. What's your thought on this?

Posted by Entrepreneur on Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Laura Entis
Laura Entis is a reporter for's Venture section.

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