I have been following The Food Babe for about a year now. I was really impressed with her ability to get large food companies to make changes to their products and her goal of cleaning up the food supply. Her loyal followers, the Food Babe Army go on the attack at her command. They bombard the companies with emails, social media campaigns and petitions that get the Food Babe meetings with the company’s CEO, as well as national media coverage.
The Food Babe believes the FDA has been lax in allowing over 10,000 new products in food. And she states “you cannot assume the FDA label means anything”. See this link for a glimpse into her style.
The Food Babe’s name is Vani Hari. She states that she was addicted to industrial processed food. She uses her impressive before-and-after photos to show you how cleaning up her diet has changed her physique—she is a beautiful young woman with a slim figure, long black hair and glowing skin. Her look certainly doesn’t hurt for getting lots of TV and video coverage.
She is an activist to “hold companies accountable”. According to her website, as a result of her campaigns, company after company has been forced to make changes, including Kraft, chickin’filla, Chipotle, McDonalds and Subway, among others. She has published a book called The Food Babe Way to help you read labels and spot ‘food industry tricks’.
She talks about conspiracy with the food industry and the FDA and states “the food industry does not want you to know this”. Her list of dangerous ingredients in food includes chemical additives refined bleached flour, preservatives, artificial colors, MSG, nitrate, refined sugar and GMOs.
On the other end of the spectrum is The Science Babe. You can check out here work here.
The Science Babe is Yvette Guinevere. Like Vani, she has also had an impressive personal weight loss story and is an attractive young woman. But unlike Vani, she has formal science education, namely a B.S. in chemistry, and an MSc in forensic science with a concentration in biological criminalistics. She started her blog because of “the Food Babe’s complete disconnection from reality and inability to take criticism”.
The Science Babe is pretty deft at rebutting the Food Babe’s social media posts and does so, with sarcasm and a dose of vulgarity. The Food Babe provides an easy target for Science Babe, with her pedestrian understanding of science being easily overshadowed by Science Babe’s credentials.
Here is an example – The Food Babe goes after pumpkin spices lattes because an ingredient is a class 2b carcinogen. Yet, she posts pictures of herself drinking champagne and talks about her juicing choice for combating hangovers. The Science Babe deftly points out the hypocrisy in these actions as alcohol is a class 1 carcinogen.
Read The Science Babe’s recent viral take-down of The Food Babe here called The Food Babe Blogger is Full is Sh*t.
I can spend a lot of time reading The Science Babe. She really is thorough and entertaining when on the attack. In fact, it’s a bit contagious. So, I am writing my own rebuttal for The Food Babe’s attack on my profession…
I’ve never claimed to be a scientist or nutritionist, but a high percentage of registered dietitians and nutritionists in this field have a financial relationship with the entities I investigate. They oftentimes are unwilling to disclose where their funding really comes from.
-The Food Babe
I’d like to know what the reference is for her statement. Is this from some registered dietitian employment statistics that I’m not familiar with? The majority of registered dietitians I know work in hospitals and for food service companies. In these roles they provide nutrition support for in-patients and out-patients or run large-scale kitchens. Some are entrepreneurs, and with the exception of some spokesperson roles, very few would receive money from food companies. There are some that are employees of food companies, but in this case, I think it’s pretty clear where their income comes from.
In addition, every nutrition talk or webinar I have heard in the past couple of years begins with the standard practice of a disclosure slide—this is a declaration of any funding sources that might bias your work. So, in fact, they are openly disclosing their funding sources. And, even if you might be receiving funding from a food company, there is something called professional integrity that would prevent a registered dietitian from intentionally misleading the public.
While the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Dietitians of Canada have made some bad choices in allowing corporate sponsorship of their conferences, this does not tie the hands of individual registered dietitian from speaking the truth about what foods they recommend and what foods they caution against. In fact, our profession is constantly promoting and supporting its members to practice ‘evidence-based’ dietetics.
That felt good…now back to my post.
The Bottom Line
I think The Food Babe started out with some really great intentions of cleaning up the food supply and I think she has some good accomplishments. But, don’t get all worked up about food ingredients based on her word alone. As she admits, she is no scientist, and while I think her heart is in the right place, she can easily lead you down the garden path of conspiracy theories. I think her movement has gotten so big she is now in over her head.
There are some things where I find myself in agreement with Food Babe. I choose organic foods and avoid GMO’s (although I find the new GM approved Artic apple might be the exception to this but I have to research it some more). I avoid foods with artificial food coloring and I limit refined flour and sugar.
But much of what The Food Babe says is fear mongering and she has been accused of being orthorexic and promoting this to her followers. (Orthorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an extreme preoccupation with avoiding foods deemed to be unhealthy.) I have met one orthorexic client in my career and it was a sad situation. I can certainly see how vulnerable people who follow The Food Babe might end up facing this serious condition.
On the other hand, I will continue to follow The Science Babe. I get her sense of humor and I love she uses fact and science as her weapon. While I certainly wouldn’t throw myself on my sword in defense of pumpkin spice lattes, I get that she finally reached her limit.
If you follow The Food Babe, then make sure to follow The Science Babe too. This will give you the other end of the spectrum and allow you to make decisions that are right for you and your personal health based on the science and not fear and hyperbole.
I think my approach is somewhere between these two women. I promote real food made from scratch; I limit my alcohol, sugar and refined grain consumption. I don’t eat red meat or processed meat and I try to minimize my BPA exposure. But, I do so because I have looked at the evidence. I also make my decisions knowing my health history and I personalize my choices. This is why I call myself The Cancer Survivors Nutrition Voice of Reason.
One last thing, for the record…I think registered dietitians are highly professional and are a trusted source of nutrition information [Full Disclosure: I am a card carrying member of a couple of dietitian organizations and a member in good standing with the College of Dietitians of Ontario].
Let me know what you think of The Food Babe and The Science Babe in the comments section below.