"Gluten Free Ebola" is the second episode in the eighteenth season of the American animated television series South Park. The 249th overall episode, it was written and directed by series co-creator Trey Parker. The episode premiered on Comedy Central in the United States on October 1, 2014. The episode lampoons the trend of the gluten-free diet lifestyle and the constant changes recommended to the Western pattern diet and the current food guide.
Following the events of "Go Fund Yourself", Stan, Cartman, Kyle, and Kenny return to school, only to find themselves ostracized and ridiculed after their recent events. Meanwhile, at a meeting, Mr. Mackey gloats about his newfound gluten-free diet, greatly annoying other staff.
In order to gain back their popularity, Cartman decides to throw a party for a "cause", choosing Scott Malkinson's diabetes. They announce the party over the local radio station, with Principal Victoria, who had earlier been converted into gluten-free by Mr. Mackey, asking whether it has gluten-free foods, for which the boys have no response.
Later at the community center, a scientist from the United States Department of Agriculture tries to explain that the rumors about gluten being bad are false by extracting gluten from a piece of dough made of wheat. Mr. Mackey pressures him to drink the gluten sample in order to back the scientist's claims; he complies, and abruptly starts to violently die, sending the entire town into anarchy. The USDA tries to find a way to end the crisis.
At the Marsh residence, two USDA agents enter and find a can of beer in the garbage, which Randy sees no problem with. Unknown to him, beer contains wheat, which ends up getting him quarantined at a Papa John's restaurant with Mr. Garrison and an unnamed civilian.
Cartman then has a dream of Aunt Jemima (a parody reference to Mother Abigail), who tells him the food pyramids are upside-down, and Cartman has no idea what she is talking about. As the gluten-free toppings at the Papa John's run out, the unnamed resident eats the pizza dough containing gluten, thinking it's all a set up, but he dies.
At the radio station, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny announced that they have cancelled the party to focus their efforts on addressing the public about the dangers of gluten. Cartman, claiming that he knows how to solve the crisis, calls the USDA and tells them that the food pyramid is upside down. Much to their surprise, the new dietary system works. The boys then throw their party.
The idea for the episode came from Trey Parker and Matt Stone noticing how people they work with, and society in general, were going on gluten-free diets. It became so common that they went on diets themselves and thought it would be fun to do an episode mocking themselves.
The episode received a C from The A.V. Club's Josh Mordell. Mordell found the gluten-free panic "reasonably funny", but felt the episode lacked a B-story.
Similarly, IGN's contributor Max Nicholson gave the episode a 7 out of 10, praising the panic caused by gluten products, but was also disappointed with the storyline following the boys' party, noting that "the radio show segments were among the least funny South Park moments in recent memory".
Spin magazine's Brennan Carley criticized the Lorde parody, asking: "has Lorde ever really done anything all that worthy of drawing the cartoon creators' ire?" South Park responded by a subplot in the following week's episode "The Cissy", featuring a Spin reporter named "Brandon Carlile" investigating the concert and stating: "It would be a shame if someone was…having fun at her expense."