Meredith: The good, the bad and Food Babe

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In my last blog post, I told you about Vani Hari, known in blogger circles as “Food Babe.” I told you about the panel discussion she monopolized at the recent BlogHer Conference and how she forms her very opinionated positions.

When she described her crusade against Subway, the Food Babe indicated that it wasn’t just about the bread. “Oh no,” she said.  “I wanted to turn the phrase ‘eat fresh’ on it’s head—if people are asking questions about the bread, then maybe they’ll start asking questions about the lettuce, and cheese and meat.”

You might be thinking, what makes Food Babe the expert? How does she decide what ingredients are “good” and which are “bad?” Luckily for you (and me) a food chemist and fellow blogger happened to ask that very question, and I think I can safely say that we were both unsatisfied with the cursory—and almost dismissive—response received.  

To paraphrase—the Food Babe indicated that she picks her next targets based on their ingredient list and that she’s always adhered to the rule of thumb that if you can’t pronounce it, it shouldn’t be in our food.

Ok—but as our in-audience chemist pointed out, some ingredients, like vitamins and minerals may “sound scary” but actually serve many valuable purposes.

“Come talk to me afterwards,” came Food Babe’s reply.

What was most interesting to me, however, about Food Babe’s Subway bread/yogamat campaign was how it began. This campaign against Subway didn’t start because Vani herself was eating there, but rather because her former co-worker used to eat a Subway sandwich every day. So Vani took it upon herself to investigate Subway’s ingredients. I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing her co-worker was just fine eating his “five dollar foot-long” in peace.

I’ve long maintained that we’re able to have these existential debates about food ethics and food activism because most of us in this country don’t have to combat abject poverty and true hunger or starvation.

But I’ll also maintain that despite Food Babe’s obvious viewpoint, restaurants like Subway, Chick Fil-A and food giants like Kraft don’t have any sort of sinister plot to make Americans sick or unhealthy. Food companies produce – and have always produced – what consumers demand. Just like farmers grow, produce and raise animals that become the food products on the grocery store shelves.

It’s that simple. A consumer wants a fast, easy and relatively healthy lunch option, so they grab a sub from Subway. Their kids want macaroni and cheese and they pick up that signature blue box and whip up a bowl of yummy, yellow, cheesy deliciousness.

In my humble opinion, Vani has turned her brand into a bullhorn: Just because you scream the loudest doesn’t mean you’re having a conversation. It’s not Food Babe, it’s Food bully.

And I’ve never liked a bully.

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About the Author

Emily Meredith
| Emily Meredith serves as the Communications Director for the Alliance and manages all aspects of the communications strategy. She is responsible for the Issues Management Committee and coordinating effective responses to the issues of the industry.

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KS  |  June, 25, 2014 at 09:04 AM

kind of like some industries have turned their 501c3 PACs into bull horns.

Craig A. Moore    
Billings, MT  |  June, 25, 2014 at 01:40 PM

You mean like what ACORN did, right?

Kansas  |  June, 25, 2014 at 09:11 AM

Not to be crude but what's the Food Babe is doing is bull s**tting with a bull horn.

kansas  |  June, 30, 2014 at 04:56 PM

Another good one, Ms. Meredith! The point that you need to keep hammering on is the ridiculous and truly bizarre "belief" that food companies, farmers and others negligently, and according to some - intentionally, sell harmful products that can actually lead to the suffering & death. It's the one I see most often presented in a variety of wordings, even by some of my own family members. That is truly the height, or depth, of insanity or at least incredible ignorance of how the world, and business works - everywhere. I know people are "disconnected" from modern farming, I didn't know until now that they're disconnected from simple facts and realities all around them.

GA  |  July, 11, 2014 at 03:44 PM

I too am not a fan of the Food Babe. After a while of reading her posts I am of the opinion that she is a bit self-centered and using the food activist platform for partly to create attention to herself and draw some self-worth. That being said I have tried out her advice and found that her eat less processed foods approach successful in helping me clear up a bad skin condition that countless derms with their prescriptions could not. I'm torn at times because truthfully I think the woman is really self-centered and is not mindful of poorer people. Overall though I think we could use less chemicals in our food. I've lived in Europe and to be honest their ingredients lists look less like a science project when compared to ours in the U.S. The people there look thinner and healthier you have to wonder after a while. My bloodwork also shows how much healthier I've become since following Food Babe's food advice. As mucha as I hate to admit it the woman has a point...take the crap out of our food please Big Food.


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