Food Babe 101

In the past I’ve pointed out the lies of several more well known celebrities — Dr. Oz, Roseanne Bare, and Carrie Underwood are good examples. But today, the “celebrity” I’m going to tell you about is D-list at best and full of more lies than the charlatan known as Dr. Mercola. This spokesperson though has a ridiculous amount of influence considering her marked lack of any qualifications to even warm up a can of soup (which she would probably tell you is poison anyway).

Of course, I’m talking about Food Babe.

Vani Hari, her real name, holds a degree in computer science from University of North Carolina. Prior to starting her blog, she evidently worked as a independent management consultant for Bank of America. In other words, she has no experience or understanding of food, science, or chemistry.

But these days, she spends her time bullying what she refers to as “Big Food” into bending to her will, even (and especially) when more reputable people state that she’s wrong. Since she started, she’s made some well-known companies change ingredients and cave to her interests, including Chipotle, Chick-fil-a, and Subway. Once she starts a campaign against the company, they routinely sit down with her and discuss her problems. She’s also regularly a guest on morning news shows, which feature her as an “expert” on food issues.

One of Food Babe’s rules is that she won’t eat something if she cannot pronounce all of the ingredients. (What does it mean that I have no idea how to pronounce her name?) Hence, in one of her more well known campaigns, Vani Hari managed to blackmail Subway into removing the chemical known as Azodicarbonamide out of their breads, simply because she could not pronounce the word.

If you aren’t familiar with the chemical, Azodicarbonamide has been used in making bread since 1927. According to Josh Bloom at Science 2.0:

It is used for many things because of exactly one property—when heated it decomposes to a number of gasses, which turn into bubbles and get trapped in the matrix of whatever is being manufactured, giving it a foamy consistency. This is why it is used in bread, yoga mats and hundreds of other things. It is considered to be absolutely safe at low doses.

(Source: Science 2.0) And, as he mentioned, it decomposes when heated, so there was not any of it left in the bread. But Food Babe wasn’t buying into the science (which is pretty much the standard for her). Rather, she launched a campaign that claimed Subway was using the same ingredients in their breads as is used to make yoga mats — and who wants to eat a yoga mat?! Just as she’s done to countless other “big food” companies, she rallied her blog and Facebook followers – her “army” – to overwhelm Subway with phone calls, letters, and complaints.

No doubt you already know that Food Babe won that battle. Subway removed the chemical from their bread, and now they’re running a television commercial letting everyone know that.

Uh oh! Don’t tell Food Babe I’m
consuming beer without knowing
the ingredients!

Most recently, Food Babe has taken on beer producers for the “shocking” ingredients beer contains (you can read more about this fight on Forbes). And she’s asking Starbucks to use only organic milk (labeling anything else as “Monsanto Milk” — what?!) .She’s also a champion for organic food and, obviously, hates GMOs. Oh, and she was also recently voted Dr. Oz’s “healthiest Facebook page.” Now you know she’s a fraud.

The icing on the cake for Vani Hari is that she gets paid for her scare tactics — of course, she denies she does any of this for money. (Yeah, riiight.) When her articles and posts reference a certain organic or non-GMO brand, Food Babe sees dollar signs:

Under the program, known as affiliate marketing, she often posts editorial content praising these small brands, including links to their sites where readers can purchase the goods. She gets a cut of some of the transactions, according to the rules explained on some of her partners’ websites. Ms. Hari also sells “eating guides” for $17.99 a month and charges for speaking appearances.

(Source: Advertising Age)  Food Babe also has a few other ways to make a few bucks, as discussed in the article. In fact, she’s so successful at shaming companies, she was able to quit her full time job a few years ago, and now makes her income from being the queen of fear.

Oh, and she’s also ridiculously talented at snapping photos of herself eating something green and laughing it up.

Her Facebook page has nearly half a million followers and she shows no sign of slowing down, cleaning up her act, or learning anything about science. The sad fact is, there are a lot of people that trust this woman. Her “army” is comprised of people that believe “big food” is poisoning us and using ingredients that will kill us, all so they can make a buck. Try to point out the truth and her army, much like Food Babe, doesn’t care.

Food Babe is accountable to absolutely no one. Whatever harebrained idea she comes up with is the next big issue, whether she understands the ingredient or not. She’ll fire up the shocking blog articles, sick her army on them, and put another notch on her organic carrot stick.

As Joe Schwarcz asked:

When you have a plumbing problem you call a plumber. When you have an electrical problem, you call an electrician. When you have an automobile problem, you consult a mechanic. Why then, when it comes to a food-related issue, which is inherently more complex, would one turn to the Food Babe?

Indeed.

(I doubt it will amount to much, but if you’re interested, you can sign a White House petition here. The petition encourages the federal government to investigate Vani Hari for racketeering.)

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25 Responses to "Food Babe 101"

  1. Randie

    Thank you Amanda I love your blogs… will share everywhere.

  2. I had attempted to post a link from the Charlotte Observer about the Food Babe, but it didn't go through. I had not been aware of her until that came out a few weeks ago, but what an embarrassment to my town.

    • Sorry Charles, I accidentally hit "delete" instead of "publish" on my phone (fat fingers, I guess). Thanks for sharing!

  3. Anonymous

    I think you are completely wrong for this.

    • Can you at all specify where she is wrong? Anonymous vague statements seem to be the tactic of many on the "Food Babe's" side.

    • Anonymous

      I think you are completely wrong for thinking she is completely wrong.Wow, that was pretty easy, wasn't it! 😀

    • What part do you believe is totally wrong? Are you saying she has the credentials for food nutrition?

  4. No problem, I had assumed your site rejected links on comments. The Observer piece is below, I hadn't read the comments until yesterday but was pleasantly surprised that they were almost entirely negative about her. Apparently she is notorious for deleting comments critical of her. Another mentioned the "Food Hunk" on Facebook, which is intentionally very funny.http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/07/13/5040109/charlottes-food-babe-has-lots.html#.U85em2K9KSM

  5. Thanks for another great post Amanda! I'm so tired of the Food Babe spreading her lies so she can make money & get attention. She claims to only want to help people yet she doesn't even bother to learn anything about what she's telling people. To me that is irresponsible.

  6. Lindsay

    What an awesome post! I've read a few of your blog entries and I'm loving it. Thanks for being a voice of reason.

  7. «Vani Hari, her real name, holds a degree in computer science from University of North Carolina. Prior to starting her blog, she evidently worked as a independent management consultant for Bank of America. In other words, she has no experience or understanding of food, science, or chemistry.»Doesn't Mike Adams also have a 4 year degree in computer science? Get a 4 year degree in computer science and think yourself to be an all around authority on anything science. That seems to be the pattern. See Slashdot.org (specially with climate science comments).

    • No it's more like, get a 4 year degree in computer science and figure out how to build an empire by extortion online. Our food industry is a very emotional issue in this country – which makes it an easy area to target uninformed people to follow you and support you and make you a online presence.

  8. She very often gets hired as a consultant by the companies she is attacking. Somehow, a woman with no real food experience is being hired by "Big Food" to fix the problems she's making up. Every time she says she's not in it for the money, I laugh. And what was she doing while her "army" was (stupidly) marching against Monsanto? She was on vacation.

    • Anonymous

      Someone should probably call her out on her "not in it for the money" BS by asking her if she's not in it for the money there, then where DOES her income come from?

  9. Anonymous

    Thanks for this blog! The word needs to get out! Sign the petition!

  10. I do not know how I missed this blog when it was originally posted! Great job, maybe if we keep calling out The Food Babe and pages like hers we can slow down or stop the misinformed armies that are fighting for all the wrong reasons. It makes me sick how someone can make a living out of posting what are essentially lies that have the potential to destroy a business or company, and yet she has no one to answer to. Hopefully posts like this will make even one of her followers question her silly claims and look into the science to discover what a fraud she really is.

  11. Anonymous

    love this post! I all for eating natural and organic as much as possible but her recent rant about Starbucks really irked me. She could not quote her sources and just did a "tap dance" about where she got her information.

  12. Anonymous

    How do you explain the chronic illness and cancer on the rise? I'd like to know! Chemicals in our food is not dangerous? Our bodies are being deprived or natural nutrients found in food that grows in the ground. If our bodies aren't receiving this of course it won't function properly, this is common sense sweetheart. Bashing Food Babe for trying to make a positive change in our curropt food industry is plain ignorance!

    • Oh wow.1. Correlation does not mean causation. Chronic illnesses being on the rise could be from all sorts of things, including the fact that we live longer and that first time parents are getting older and older. 2. You cannot remove all chemicals from your food because everything is made up of chemicals, including yourself. Remember that thing called the periodic table? Everything on Earth originates from that. So, I'm not sure what your point is. 3. I'm not sure what exactly you're eating, but I am getting all the "natural nutrients" I need. I didn't need to follow a chick that is making up stuff to get a reaction, and my common sense is just fine.4. I'm not bashing Food Babe. I'm pointing out that she's unqualified to make these statements, she's wrong, and she's spreading her message using fear.

    • Agreed.

  13. Anonymous

    Not trying to be rude, but if your issue is that food babe is not qualified to make these statements what would qualify someone? Are you qualified? We live in a day and age where we have access to whatever information we need, which is often more valuable than a degree nowadays. I may not agree with everything she says, but I appreciate the fact she is approaching the subject with the desire to help others.

    • First of all, Food Babe is doing what she's doing to be famous and make money from it. She's not doing it to "help" anyone. I have fully acknowledged that there are some things I'm qualified to talk about based on my experience and education, but there are other things I'm not sure so about. That's why I rely on lots of really reliable sources.Food Babe, on the other hand, relies on her poor interpretation of bad science to come to ridiculous conclusions. She's holds a degree in computer science. She can certainly tell us all about how to make fancy and pretty websites. That does not qualify her to make judgments about how food is produced or what is safe or not safe. Finally, getting information from the internet does NOT qualify you to make such statements. Would you go to a surgeon that "researched" a few things online and decides himself he's competent to do the surgery? Of course not.

  14. Is there a way to restart the petition?

  15. I really respected Food Babe and found a lot of her info on nutrition helpful…until, after signing up to receive her “informative” emails (ranting about buying and preparing Non-GMO, organic food)…I learned that she charges a monthly fee for “meal plans” and recipes. To me, that is shady. If you really care about the health and well-being of others, why withhold something as simple as a recipe unless someone pays a fee for that information? I am a single mom who works full time and pays regular bills. No government help or food stamps here, it’s all me. It takes everything I have just to buy organic products. To me, it seems she has adopted some of the shady tactics she attacks mainline food companies for using. I guess buying a $500 juicer or a delivered-to-your-door $75 box of organic produce every week isn’t expensive to her. No, I’m not a hater. I just think she fails to state the obvious: consistently buying organic and eating every meal at home gets expensive, especially when your family consists of more than just you. Period.

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