I need to talk for a moment about how much I despise The Food Babe.
At first I was barely aware of her. I heard people making a stink about the “yoga mat chemical” in Subway and largely ignored it because what do you expect in fast food?
Then the Pumpkin Spice Latte thing happened.
Suddenly, my Facebook was alternately full of people going “OMG PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE SEASON” and this:
Several things struck me as weird about this.
Let’s go through them.
1. Caramel Colour Level IV. I googled it. The first three hits are a variety of studies on its safety in which IT IS FOUND TO BE TOTALLY HARMLESS.
2. Did anyone actually think there is really bits of pureed squash in their latte? Wouldn’t that taste weird?
3. So… the cows ate feed which contains GMOs… so… I should avoid Starbuck’s milk? Is… that different from all the milk sold in all the stores? Because I don’t think so.
4. I’m sorry, 50 g of sugar is TOXIC? I mean, sure, no one’s saying that 50g of sugar is healthy, but isn’t there more sugar in a candy bar? (why yes, there is). In fact, a Banana Berry Smoothie at Jamba Juice contains more sugar. Besides, to me, “toxic” defines as reaching the LD50, or dose that is lethal enough to kill half the people who eat it. The LD50, or “toxic” level for sugar is 300 g/kg. Based on my body weight, that means that I would have to drink 504.5 Pumpkin Spice Lattes for even a 50% chance of getting killed by it (I hope no one does the math and figures out how much I weigh…).
And finally, I went on the Starbucks website and actually it’s only 50g if you get a GIANT one with 2% milk AND whipped cream. An actual normal sized drink without a bunch of EXTRA DAIRY is really more like 34g, which matches up with a veggie puree at Jamba Juice.
5. I’m not even sure why this is supposed to be scary. These natural flavours could be from ANYWHERE! Oh noes. What if it’s MEXICAN natural flavours? I don’t want my xenophobia tainting my drink, even if it IS natural.
6. If you haven’t had an allergic reaction when drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte, you’re probably okay. If you have, you probably don’t need The Food Babe to tell you to steer clear.
7. POSSIBLE pesticide residue? Like, she’s just throwing in “maybes” now. MAYBE, okay, not positive, but WHAT IF the coffee beans were picked by someone WHO HAD EBOLA. ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DRINK THAT.
8. Okay, this is the only valid complaint. Secret dairy. I accept that as a concern.
Anyway, so I went on a bit of a rampage posting snopes articles at this thing left right and centre until it stopped showing up on my news feed.
But the Food Babe didn’t.
The next time I saw her it was a complaint about MacDonald’s fries.
The claim was that America and Canada have silly putty in their french fries, while those lucky brits do not.
So of course I googled it. And I learned that this supposedly scary chemical is NOT silly putty but an ingredient thereof. Furthermore, it is used to help prevent workers from being burned, because it reduces spitting and such from the fry oil. The chemical is largely harmless and present in fairly small quantities.
Also, wait. Why is Silly Putty scary? It’s non toxic and we hand it to small children for them to mess around with.
So, basically, the logic goes as follow:
1. Something we eat shares an ingredient with something else.
2. Therefore, that something else is IN the thing we eat. (I love this logic. Eggs are used to make pancakes AND to make chicken fried rice. Therefore there are pancakes in my chicken fried rice.)
3. The something else which shares this ingredient is a harmless substance that is considered safe for small children to play with and probably eat.
Amusing as the bizarre logic is, here’s what gets me riled:
It’s not that I am a big defender of MacDonald’s. Clearly, being a rational human being, I don’t think their food is good for me.
But that’s actually my point.
DID YOU ACTUALLY THINK THIS WAS GOOD FOR YOU?
You ate at a fast food restaurant knowing that the food would be bad for you. Then you find out one of the ingredients is something which has been cleared by the FDA and is added to keep workers safe. Cue OUTRAGE.
I mean, are we supposed to be upset that the British are getting much healthier, safer fries? Because they aren’t. THEY’RE STILL SALTY, FATTY, CARCINOGENIC FRENCH FRIES.
And they’re delicious.
So either eat them and accept it or avoid them and suck it up. But ONE TINY INGREDIENT ALSO FOUND IN A HARMLESS CHILD’S PLAYTHING should not be the deciding factor here.
So after this, I started looking up this Vani Hari woman.
I discovered that she launched giant campaigns against places like Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle because their food contains GMOs. Even though pretty much all the food at your local grocery store and in every chain restaurant everywhere are ALSO GMO and even though there is no scientific reason to be scared of eating GMOs.
I learned that she has caused numerous false food-scares by mixing up chemicals, such as pointing to the ingredient propylene glycol and calling it “antifreeze”, when actually it is used as a non-toxic antifreeze ALTERNATIVE.
And I have watched her style of fear mongering spread all over my facebook feed.
Now, I see other pages who have copied her scare tactics.
Here’s how it works:
1. All-Natural Generic Facebook Page/Blogger picks a multisyllabic ingredient from some already-recognized-as-unhealthy food.
2. All-Natural Generic Facebook Page/Blogger finds some non-food product with that same ingredient.
3. All-Natural Generic Facebook Page/Blogger shares a photo of the two products together with a question like “what is paint thinner doing in Lucky Charms?”
No, that wasn’t a random example. For serious:
Never mind that the product on the left is NOT PAINT THINNER, but something we use to clean our walls before we apply the paint.
If the All-Natural Generic Facebook Page/Blogger was ACTUALLY interested in educating the public, they would answer their own question. But they aren’t, because the actual answer (I learned with about 30 seconds spent on Google), is boring:
Trisodium Phosphate is a non-toxic food additive which is sold in some health food stores as a nutrition supplement because it has been linked to improved performance in cyclists. It is also very good at cleaning things.
But instead of actually learning something, people go up in arms about it and freak out, when the REAL question is,”DID YOU REALLY FEEL GOOD ABOUT FEEDING YOUR KIDS LUCKY CHARMS TO BEGIN WITH? HAS THIS REALLY SHATTERED YOUR FAITH IN ALL THAT YOU THOUGHT WAS SAFE AND HEALTHY?”
If I see one more version of “this ingredient has more than two syllables so let’s be scared!” I’m going to start making my own:
I’ll point out that Gripe Water, promoted for helpless colicky infants, contains baking soda – sorry, SODIUM BICARBONATE – which is ALSO FOUND IN INDUSTRIAL GRADE FIRE EXTINGUISHERS. WHY ARE WE FEEDING FLAME RETARDANTS TO BABIES.
I’ll make sure everyone knows that their favourite brand of pickles contains vinegar – sorry, ACETIC ACID – which has been proven to be effective against 99.9% of bacteria. WHAT IS DISINFECTANT DOING IN YOUR GERKINS?
I’ll advertise the fact that X Brand of Jam contains PECTINS, which are used to GLUE CIGARS. WHAT IS CIGAR GLUE DOING ON OUR TOAST???
It may not stop people from panicking over nothing, and it may not teach people to use Google before they get frightened by big words, but dangit, it’ll be amusing.
Maybe THAT’S why she does it.