|Someone is wrong on|
“”"... water that was microwaved did not form beautiful crystals – but instead formed crystals similar to those formed when exposed to negative thoughts or beliefs."
FoodBabe.com is the blog of activist/woo pusher Vani Hari, who is best known for her campaign to get the chemical azodicarbonamide removed from sandwich chain Subway's bread recipe. Hari might be best considered the Mike Adams of food activism. Unlike Adams, she doesn't rely on pure hysteria; she also trades on recipes and, as the title of her blog suggests, her looks, as well as the occasional stopped clock moment.
Hari is maybe not quite as dangerous as Joseph Mercola (who endorses her) or Mike Adams, but that's not exactly comforting. Her standards of evidence are terrible and based on total nonsense, and rather than promoting moderation, she mostly just wraps up obsessiveness and scolding in an apparently well-meaning package. Is she incompetent or a liar? Well, it doesn't really matter. Most of her "investigative" process can be summed up as either "Joseph Mercola said so, therefore spinning water in a blender really does make it healthier" or "if I can't pronounce it, it must cause cancer."
 What's her deal?
The usual ration of nature woo crap. She's strongly anti-GMO, anti-vaccine, pro-organic, chemophobic, the whole works. She's a raw milk advocate and a nitrite basher. She bashes fast food so relentlessly that she clearly will eventually be caught in a compromising position with a Big Mac someday. She refuses to use a microwave oven because she's a fan of Masaru Emoto's water woo. Essentially, she fancies herself a consumer advocate whose job it is to protect you from toxic food ingredients, with said toxicity determined by how scary or unfamiliar the name of the ingredient is. In reality she uses fear as sell strategy. Her products mainly consist of items from companies she has a referral system in place with.
On the other hand, it's possible that she's a good cook. Who knows.
 Case study: Exposing the beer industry Pat Pulling-style
Learning how to make beer is not particularly hard. Any decent-sized bookstore will usually have a couple of books on brewing for sale, and although most beginner's books won't go too deeply into the science, you still learn enough to know the basics of what goes into a batch of beer and what happens to those ingredients as the process continues. Although the procedures differ from style to style and brewery to brewery, the basic process is always the same: take sprouted grain (usually barley), convert its starch into sugar, add flavorings (usually hops, sometimes other things like fruit or coffee), boil the resulting liquid (wort), then add yeast and ferment it. What you need to know is stupendously easy to find, including, for the better part of the last thirty years, on the Internet.  You would think that someone determined to discuss what goes into beer would bother to pick up a copy of Papazian  or even Homebrewing for Dummies just to have some idea of how beer is made. Mmmyeah... no. In the time-honored tradition of Paul Brodeur, godfather of microwave hysteria, Hari decided to go straight for the jugular and assume the worst about the beer industry. What she "found" shocked her, because she didn't bother to actually read up on any of this beforehand.
Yes, the business practices of large alcohol producers aren't much better than any other big company. But they still have to follow some pretty strict standards in most countries -- in the US, their ingredients and even labels are scrutinized by the government, and operational cleanliness may actually be more important in brewing than it is anywhere else in the food industry, since no one wants a tank with thousands of gallons of vinegar sitting around in a brewery. She started with a pile of GMO fearmongering, mostly revolving around corn and rice, which are common ingredients in American-style beers due to the wonkiness of American barley. She then ran down a list of ingredients, including MSG, corn syrup, propylene glycol, dyes, fish bladder gelatin, and carageenan, putting the worst possible spin on each one. Food historian Maureen Ogle took the article to a number of brewers and came away with a fairly thorough refutation: the MSG and dyes simply aren't in there (although the yeast does provide a tiny amount of glutamate). The corn syrup (if it's used -- many brewers start with cornmeal) is fermented down to alcohol, so both fructose content and GMO origins are irrelevant. Propylene glycol is relatively nontoxic, and although it's used in certain flavoring compounds in soda, generally shouldn't be in beer (and if it is, it means the refrigeration coils in the brewery were leaking). Carageenan and isinglass (the fish gelatin)? They're used as part of the clarification process to remove stray protein and haze, and little or none of either remains in the finished beer. On top of all that, Hari, who is a wine drinker, claimed that brewers add sulfites to beer. They don't... but winemakers often do.
It is generally not a wise idea, when framing yourself as a consumer advocate, to put out information that is so easily discredited. Hari evidently doesn't care, and neither do her followers.
 Yoga mats and bread
Azodicarbonamide[wp] is used for a couple of purposes. It's used as part of making plastic foams (thus its reputation as the "yoga mat" chemical), and it's also used as an oxidizer and improver in wheat flour. It's illegal in some countries, but not in the US and Canada, where it's allowed at a level up to 45ppm. It isn't terribly toxic; if you inhale it, there's a very good chance it will give you asthma, but in the concentrations it's found in commercial flour, this isn't really a concern. In addition, it breaks down during baking into the even less dangerous biurea, which is present in such small amounts that it's borderline homeopathic. It probably isn't something we need in our bread flour — if it concerns you, just buy unbleached flour — but as toxins go, it's only of concern to the people who manufacture it and the people who use it in plastics factories and grain mills, presumably people who already use respirators or masks as standard safety equipment. Hari decided that it had to go.
Her campaign led to Subway, the sandwich chain, pledging in March 2014 not to use it in their bread dough, providing Hari with a stopped clock moment of sorts, but even then for all the wrong reasons; her campaign was based not on science but chemophobic scare tactics, and targeted the wrong part of the supply chain. While not a complete waste of time, there was a lot of effort expended for what, in scientific terms, was a very, very small victory.
 Other campaigns
- In March of 2013, Food Babe delivered petitions to Kraft Foods and made a speech decrying their use of artificial food dyes in their macaroni & cheese. She cited the European survey study that claimed to find a correlation between artificial food dyes in general (no one specific dye was tested alone) and hyperactivity in children.
- In 2013, she helped Sarah Kavanaugh brow-beat Coca-Cola and Pepsico into removing brominated vegetable oil from their drinks.
- In August of 2014, Food Babe attacked the Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Latte, on the basis of (among other things) class IV caramel color being a carcinogen, and that it contained "no real pumpkin." Never mind that "pumpkin spice" means the flavorings that are added to pumpkin pie and not the pumpkin itself. By the same standard, Paul Newman's "Old Fashioned Roadside Virgin Lemonade" should be removed from the market because it doesn't contain any trace of old-fashioned roadside virgins.
 See also
- Joe Schwarcz: The Food Babe is anything but an expert on food matters, Montreal Gazette, 26-April-2014
- Scam Stud, on the Science-Based Medicine blog, 18-October-2013
- Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe): The Jenny McCarthy of food, on the Science-Based Medicine blog, 16-June-2014
- The Food Babe is to food as Jenny McCarthy is to vaccines, on Respectful Insolence, 23-June-2014
- Quackmail: Why You Shouldn't Fall For The Internet's Newest Fool, The Food Babe., in Forbes, 16-June-2014
- 5 posts in 5 days: The Religion of Food Babe, on Insufferable Intolerance, 5-Sept-2014
- Operating like the Food Babe: Product referrals, inconsistencies in data and bad science, on Insufferable Intolerance, 9-Sept-2014
- The Chow Babe and Food Hunk, two facebook pages that make fun of her.
- An online funding campaign to buy Chemistry courses for Vani Hari the Food Babe (currently defunct)
- ↑ http://www.donotlink.com/guL
- ↑ Vani Hari. Why It’s Time To Throw Out Your Microwave. Food Babe. 2012 July 30.
- ↑ Online brewing culture predates September 1993 (known to old timers as "the September that never ended" and the unofficial beginning of modern net culture) by nearly a decade, going back to the early days of Usenet. Today, try the American Homebrewers' Association for starters. Brewery.org and http://homebrew.stackexchange.com are also very useful.
- ↑ That is, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, 3rd Edition by Charlie Papazian, ISBN 978-0060531058; considered the standard first text for American homebrewers.
- ↑ Nachel, Marty, Homebrewing for Dummies, 2nd Edition, ISBN 978-0470230626
- ↑ http://foodbabe.com/2013/07/17/the-shocking-ingredients-in-beer/
- ↑ http://maureenogle.com/maureen-ogle/2013/08/18/whats-in-your-beer-or-the-dangers-of-dumbassery
- ↑ Kraft Petition Delivery Speech Transcript
- ↑ The Food Babe actually made orange Gatorade less healthy. Here’s how., Visible Friends Network, 19-June-2014
- ↑ You’ll Never Guess What’s In A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Hint: You Won’t Be Happy)