I'm A Celebrity: Ferne's spider trial prompts hundreds of complaints
I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! could face an investigation after hundreds of viewers hit out at Ferne McCann's latest Bushtucker Trial in which she had to eat a live spider.
More than 550 complaints have been received by regulator Ofcom, after The Only Way Is Essex star, 25, had to tuck into a live water spider for her final challenge, the Bushtucker Bonanza, on Sunday night's final of the ITV reality show.
A spokesman for the TV watchdog said: "We've received 553 complaints about I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! on ITV. We will assess these complaints before deciding whether to investigate or not."
Animal lovers hit out at the programme's decision to use the arachnid.
One Twitter user posted: "A live spider?!? Cmon guys to far!!! That's outright cruel is it not?? (For both Ferne & spider)."
Another wrote: "The live insects were always wrong but the spider was a new low."
A third said: "Eating a live creature in name of 'entertainment'? 'I'm a Celebrity' is appalling & reprehensible on so many levels."
Host Ant McPartlin called McCann a "hero" for eating the spider, which she said "smelled of cockroach, tasted dirty - the body was mushy and gunky and the legs were spiky and crunchy".
An ITV spokesman said: "I'm A Celebrity complies with all regional and national laws concerning the use of insects in the eating trials, which have become a well-established part of the show over the past 15 years."
Despite winning a newfound respect from audiences after gamely eating a live witchetty grub, which she said tasted of "parsley, leaves and milk", lambs' brains and a bull's penis, McCann finished third in this year's series, which was won by Geordie Shore's Vicky Pattison. Union J singer George Shelley took second spot.
ITV also had to defend the show from fix claims, after fans claimed they were unable to vote for McCann on the programme's mobile app.
One viewer posted: "Fix!! I've tried all night to vote for Ferne & got a dead number!! #ImACeleb gutted Ferne should of won!!!!"
Another wrote: "George - one of the most boring contestants ever - beats Ferne - who ate a live spider. Yeah, just a bit of a fix."
The broadcaster said voting was frozen until all three of the final contenders completed their trials.
About 9.7 million viewers tuned into the show's final, compared with 10.4 million last year when Superbike champion Carl "Foggy" Fogarty was crowned king of the jungle.