Sceptic Schism | Issue 17

Sceptic Schism | Issue 17

Chemicals and The Food Babe

Vani Hari, known to her millions of followers as The Food Babe, is an American author and activist who criticises the American food industry. Huge companies, including Kraft, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and Subway, have changed or reconsidered ingredients in their products as a result of her campaigns. 

 Taking on the food industry sounds like noble work, but what Hari  really hates is “chemicals”, of which she flaunts her ignorance on blogs and to her screeds of Facebook followers. The Food Babe has gone on record to say, “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.” If this were true, unfortunately, we could never eat or drink again. Everything in the world is made of chemicals.

 While there is nothing wrong with wanting fresh food, there is no reason to think “natural” products are less toxic than synthetic ones. Arsenic is toxic. Hemlock is toxic. Alcohol is toxic. A lot of things in nature will kill you.

 I have heard from various people that we shouldn’t eat margarine because it is “one molecule different to plastic”. I don’t know much about margarine, but a “molecule different” is a big change — it means it is a different chemical. Hydrogen dioxide and hydrogen monoxide also have one molecule different. One is water, the other is bleach. 

 A 2015 article in Skeptical Inquirer raised questions about some products that Hari declares as having toxic ingredients while the “clean” products she promotes (and earns revenue from) on her website contain the same components that she claims as dangerous.

 The same chemical can be present in different substances. For example, diamonds and pencil lead are both made of carbon, and carbon is the primary chemical found in the cells of all life on Earth. Does this mean you are a pencil? Does this mean that vegetables are made of diamonds? No. Hari demonstrated how one chemical can be in two different things by doing yoga stretches, then rolling on her stomach and biting her yoga mat while saying that if you eat the bread at Subway, you are eating a spongy lump of yoga mat chemicals. One of the ingredients in the bread is also present in the mat, therefore Subway bread = yoga mat.

There is only one person I have ever seen actually chewing on a yoga mat, and that is The Food Babe. If they are so bad, why was she chewing one?

This article first appeared in Issue 17, 2015.
Posted 3:00pm Sunday 26th July 2015 by Wee Doubt.