The Food Babe is receiving mounting criticism from the academic community. The New York Times best-selling author and food activist, Vani Hari is being labeled as scientifically ignorant, a fearmonger, and food terrorist by a number of scientists and doctors.
Vani Hari, a 35-year-old food crusader called “Food Babe,” has more than 3 million people following her blog posts each month. Ms. Hari is on a crusade to ban all chemicals in food.
However, Vani Hari’s tactics to promote good health and nutrition are predominantly unscientific and filled with inaccuracies, according to the scientific community.
The Food Babe cites her basic objective in an ABC News article.
“When you look at the ingredients, if you can’t spell it or pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.”
Vani Hari received credit for getting close to 57,000 people to sign a petition to get Subway to ban the plastic-based food additive, azodiacarbonamide from the company’s bread ingredients. The Food Babe is also responsible for helping to get food giant Kraft to remove artificial yellow dyes in Kraft’s Mac & Cheese children products.
However, according to a growing number of doctors and scientists, most of the Food Babe’s statements about food ingredients and nutrition are inaccurate, scientifically incorrect, and based on faulty reasoning.
For example, scientists argue that Hari is blatantly incorrect when she shouts out that all chemicals in food are toxic.
In a Herald Tribune article, Dr. Fergus M. Clydesdale, Director of the Food Science Policy Alliance and professor food science at the University of Massachusetts had this to say about natural toxins in foods.
“Peach pits, for example, are very natural, but they contain cyanide. Oranges have methanol, which is very toxic. And we’ve been eating those for thousands of years.”
Dr. Kevin M. Folta, chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida adds the Food Babe’s lecture last October, a talk in which she received $6,000, was a “corrupt message of bogus science and abject food terrorism.”
Dr. Folta elaborated more.
“She found that a popular social media site was more powerful than science itself, more powerful than reason, more powerful than actually knowing what you’re talking about. If anything, she’s created more confusion about food, more confusion about the role of chemicals and additives.”
In a Science Blogs article, the Food Babe’s stance on food is criticized even further, while being compared to Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccine reputation.
“In any case, her strategy is very transparent, but unfortunately it’s also very effective. Name a bunch of chemicals and count on the chemical illiteracy of your audience to result in fear at hearing their very names. However, if you have any background in chemistry, much of what Hari is doing is almost painfully transparent, a veritable insult to one’s intelligence and training.”
A WSOC interview with the Food Babe shares how she started her food advocacy, “I said, ‘OK, yeah I will start a blog.’ So I started it last year in April, and I write about things I do on a daily basis.”
Yale University’s, Dr. Steven Novella wrote his thoughts on why he thinks the Food Babe is getting so much attention.
“Unfortunately the web is cluttered with people who really have no idea what they are talking about giving advice as if it were authoritative, and often that advice is colored by either an ideological agenda or a commercial interest. The Food Babe is now the poster child for this phenomenon.”
Cancer surgeon, Dr. David Gorski writes that Vani Hari, the self-proclaimed Food Babe, has no relevant qualifications, adding that “she is not a dietician, doctor, or scientist.” Ms. Hari received a B.S. in Computer Science and worked as a banking consultant. Nonetheless, though her tactics and statements may be viewed as questionable by some, the Food Babe continues to build up her following.
[Photo via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]