One thing I love about having a relatively large subscriber base is that I don’t have to go out of my way to find pseudoscience proponents to shoot down with cold hard logic and indisputable facts. I am constantly sent emails from people telling me about the latest quack online selling a holistic cancer cure, or the latest conspiracy based on Flight MH17, the Boston bombings, Pig-Gate, etc. But there is one name that kept popping up time and time again – Vani Deva Hari, or as she is otherwise known, the Food Babe. The Food Babe is an American blogger and activist who has become very popular over the past few years after campaigning against certain chemical ingredients used by large fast food corporations in their products. At first I was reluctant to research some of her claims because I believed it to be well outside my area of expertise – as I know relatively nothing about nutrition, but after receiving the millionth email asking for my opinion on her, I bowed to the peer-pressure and had a look as some of her videos – and I can see why so many people wanted me to get her in my sights.
The food babe has basically made a very comfortable living for herself from searching for a chemical used in food manufacture that also has another use in industry, and telling people to not eat it because……reasons.
For example, in 2013 she led a campaign to stop Subway using a compound known as azodicarbonamide in the production of bread. The compound is used in North America as a flour bleaching agent and a dough conditioner, but also has another use in plastic manufacture as a blowing agent. The compound decomposes when heated up, resulting in the formation of ammonia, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide. When used in plastics manufacture, these gasses are trapped in the polymer, resulting in foamed plastics like in the Food Babe’s example of yoga mats. In the video “Are You Eating This Ingredient Banned All Over the World?” the Food Babe basically says that you would not eat your yoga mat, so don’t eat Subway sandwiches.
The first thing that really stood out about this video was the Food Babes terrible line delivery. I know this is a complete ad-hominem, but it took me by surprise as she is very popular on platforms like YouTube – but in all honesty she has the charisma and talent of a primary school child shouting their lines in a school play. Once I got over her terrible screen presence and looked at her science-based claims, they could all be dismissed by the simple fact that it’s the dose that makes the poison. Don’t get me wrong I am not defending the use of this chemical in food manufacture, but I don’t think it’s something you should waste your time worrying about. Regarding the fact that it’s the dose that makes the poison, I believe the food babe knows this, as in the video she talks about the fact that it is linked to lung issues in workers who are exposed to large amounts of the raw material. What she fails to mention is that the World Health Organisation (where she got her information from) says that azodicarbonamide is only potentially dangerous when inhaled, that it’s not allowed in food over 45 parts per million, and azodicarbonamide breaks down during bread manufacture to form biurea, semicarbazide, and ethyl carbamate. Unfortunately, Subway bowed to her demands after her petition to ban the chemical gained over 250,000 signatures. By doing this I believe that Subway gave the message that there was something wrong with this chemical and it did pose a real danger, giving the Food Babe credibility at the same time.
Another example of the Food Babe arbitrarily connecting a chemical used in food manufacture and in a common synthetic household object she goes after dimethylsiloxane in her video “YouWon’t Believe Where Silly Putty Is Hiding In Your Food”. As you have guessed from the title of this video, the polymer makes up one of the components of Silly Putty, but it is also used as an antifoaming agent in cooking oils to prevent oil splatter during cooking. I honestly don’t know why anyone could have a problem with this non-toxic ingredient other than the initial “I don’t wanna eat anything icky or non-natural” knee-jerk response.
At the end of the day, I would actually like to help the Food Babe out by suggesting not just one but four compounds that I believe she should be worried about and start a petition against. These compounds are found in ALL GMOs and form part of an ACID. What’s worse is that three of these compounds are found in HIV and all four of them are found in syphilis. One of the compounds is literally named after shit, where it was first isolated. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anything from HIV, syphilis, or excrement to be in my food, yet nearly all of the things I eat contain these four compounds. What’s most worrying is that the Food Babe herself promotes food that includes these chemicals named cytosine, guanine, adenine, and thymine. I for one will be sending the Food Babe a strongly worded email asking her to stop promoting HIV, syphilis, and crap to her followers.
Ps: Cytosine, guanine, adenine, and thymine are the four nucleobases which make up DNA. HIV is an RNA based virus which is made from three of the bases in DNA with thymine being replaced with uracil as the fourth. Guanine derives from the Spanish word “guano” meaning bird/bat droppings.
Yes, I am a jerk I know :P