For my last few blogs, I wrote about my encounter with the Food Babe at the BlogHer Food convention in Miami, Florida in late May. Since I discussed Food Babe’s theories on GMOs, food production and animal agriculture, it seems she’s been the subject of increased scrutiny and media coverage (finally!), so I thought I’d provide an update.
In early June, 2014, Vani Hari (AKA the Food Babe) launched a comprehensive attack on “big beer,” writing in her blog:
“I have to confess, my husband loves beer. So I had to figure out the truth. There is a long list of ingredients allowed in beer – like high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, stabilizers that are linked to intestinal inflammation, artificial colors, ingredients found in airplane de-icing liquid, genetically modified ingredients, even fish swim bladders.
But, why are the ingredients not listed on the label? What’s really in beer? Which brands can we trust to avoid these additives?”
Just days later, Anheuser Busch InBev, and close running rival SabMiller, were clamoring to appease this Food Bully, by posting their ingredients on several websites and tweeting out summaries of their actions.
Perhaps what was more interesting to watch—since my up-close-and-personal interaction with the Food Babe herself, was how some in the mainstream media finally called her bluff on the whole thing (and thankfully so).
In an opinion piece, titled: “Quackmail, Why You Shouldn’t Fall for the Internet’s Newest Fool, Food Babe,” Forbes Magazine contributor Trevor Butterworth questions not only Ms. Hari’s legitimacy, but the reluctance of the mainstream media to fact check her most basic claims.
Wrote Butterworth: “That the media should give The Food Babe a free pass as an expert or as a credible consumer watchdog is especially troubling when you look at some of her other claims, as recorded by the doctors at Science-Based Medicine. As infectious disease specialist Mark Crislip MD noted, Hari out goops Gwyneth Paltrow on the feelings of water by claiming that if you expose water to the words “Hitler” and “Satan” it will change its physical structure in exactly the same way as if you microwaved it. She believes getting the flu shot will give you cancer from all the “chemicals.” She is, naturally, against GMOs.”
And Butterworth wasn’t the only one—in the span of several days, dozens of blogs and opinion pieces showed up on the interwebs, heralding Food Babe as everything from a
“food nazi” to “the Jenny McCarthy of the Food Industry,” to, a big, fat, bully (I was admittedly jealous my previous blogs hadn’t taken off in the same way).
Cancer expert David Gorski wrote in a blog that Vani’s strategy is to “name a bunch of chemicals and count on the chemical illiteracy of your audience to result in fear at hearing their very names.”
Don’t we know that.
But despite the epic—and I mean epic—smackdown that Vani was taking on the internet by bloggers, columnists and health experts alike—she didn’t go down without a fight. Instead, she dug her heels in and made even greater demands of the makers of Bud Light and Miller.
In a follow-up post just days after the beer giants capitulated to her demands, Vani maintained that they hadn’t satisfactorily revealed all of the ingredients in some of America’s most favorite libations.
Wow. Girl’s got some cahones—that’s for darn sure.
I just wish that the food industry had some.
As Gorski noted, “companies live and die by public perception. It’s far easier to give a blackmailer like Hari what she wants than to try to resist or to counter her propaganda by educating the public. And, make no mistake, blackmail is exactly what Vani Hari is about.”
You see, Vani Hari is no different than HSUS, PETA or the Pew Commission—they’re all bullies with agendas. And those agendas include tearing companies, people and anyone/anything that stands in their way down, in order to build themselves, and their organizations up.
So what if Subway and Anheiser Busch lose market share and have to layoff employees? So what if farmer Joes’ family gets death threats as a result of an undercover video campaign?
It’s time that we in the ag industry go back to basics and remember our schoolhouse rock. The best way to fight a bully? Don’t engage. Walk away. Ignore them.
I hope that the food brands that purchase meat, milk and eggs learn a valuable lesson from beer’s blunder—if you give a bully an inch, they’ll take a mile.
That’s just what Vani tried to do, but I think she got more than she bargained for.
Karma’s a you-know-what, Vani. You don’t mess with beer.