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Vani Hari, a.k.a. “The Food Babe,” doubles down on the misinformation in her response to the New York Times

To put it mildly, I’m not a big fan of Vani Hari, who has achieved Internet notoriety as a highly misguided “food activist” better known as The Food Babe. As The Food Babe, Hari has improbably become a minor celebrity by attacking food companies over various ingredients their products and, unfortunately, seems poised for more. Indeed, given how media- and social media-savvy she has become, it’s not inconceivable that she could become the Dr. Oz of food. The problem with that, of course, is that what she pushes is not good information but rather misinformation. Indeed, she appears to live by the adage that if you can’t pronounce a chemical’s name, it shouldn’t be in food, a particularly brain dead adage if ever there was one. Even for ingredients that she’d demonized that are inarguably natural, such as isinglass, which is derived from the swim bladders of fish, she seems to apply a standard that can best be characterized as an “appeal to yuckiness.” In practice, this means that if it grosses Hari out, for whatever reason, similarly it shouldn’t be used in food, even if there’s a long history of its safe use. Basically, it it’s a chemical with a difficult-to-pronounce name or an ingredient derived from a less than savory-sounding animal part, to Hari it is evil.

Examples abound. The first time I encountered Hari was when she attacked Subway for using azodicarbonamide, which is a chemical commonly (and safely) used as a foaming agent in bread, because it’s also used in making foam rubber. That led her to the admittedly clever tactic of referring to azodicarbonamide as the “yoga mat chemical.” Of course, this tactic was intellectually dishonest as well, because it implied (intentionally) that Subway was putting yoga mat foam rubber in bread. Of course, chemicals are used for different purposes all the time, some of which might be in food, and food scientists and skeptics were very vocal about the lack of science behind The Food Babe’s attacks. It’s not for nothing that I pointed out that The Food Babe is to food as Jenny McCarthy is to vaccines. Her ignorance of basic chemistry is epic, too, the most famous example occurring when she became concerned about what’s in beer, leading her to confuse propylene glycol (used in antifreeze) with propylene glycol alginate, an ester of alginic acid, which is derived from kelp. That was the same incident in which she attacked isinglass, a gelatin-like substance derived from fish swim bladders used to clear the beer of yeast and solid particles.

So it was with much amusement and a bit of schadenfreude that I saw on Friday an article in the New York Times by Courtney Rubin entitled Taking On the Food Industry, One Blog Post at a Time. It’s a fairly balanced article that ends up making Vani Hari look not particularly good, which is not difficult because she is so clueless. Of course, I am a bit biased because Rubin quoted a fair number of Hari’s critics, including yours truly at my other blogging gig on my not-so-super-secret other blog, including the bit where I referred to her as the “Jenny McCarthy of food,” which was a modified version of the same post crossposted there. In fairness, I can’t take credit for that comparison because Steve Novella made it first, but such is life. In any case Rubin’s article also quoted other Food Babe critics more notable than I, such as Joe Schwarcz, a chemist at McGill University and Director of McGill’s Office for Science & Society and Kevin Folta, chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida, who almost out-Oracs Orac by referring to Hari’s lecture at his university last October as a “corrupt message of bogus science and abject food terrorism” (which is why I like him). To her credit, Rubin also prominently mentioned what is arguably the most ridiculous Food Babe post of all, “Food Babe Travel Essentials”:

In another much-mocked post, “Food Babe Travel Essentials — No Reason to Panic on the Plane!” Ms. Hari criticized the air on an airplane. Because of cost concerns, the air “pumped in isn’t pure oxygen, either, it’s mixed with nitrogen, sometimes at almost 50 percent,” she wrote. Except ambient air isn’t pure oxygen, either. It’s roughly 78 percent nitrogen. The widely discredited post, where Ms. Hari also complained about the flight attendants’ stinginess with water in first class, was removed swiftly.

In an interview, Ms. Hari said she didn’t remember the post, which Mr. Cook brought up by name. She then said it would have disappeared from the blog because it was old. Weeks later, in an email, she admitted that it had been removed because of mistakes, and said that she planned to start noting when she clarified or corrected posts.

Steve Novella and I have both discussed this particular post, which, although she removed it from her website, is still available because the Internet never forgets. It reveals a misunderstanding of science so unbelievable that when in the same article Hari brags about how her undergraduate major was actually in the College of Engineering at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and she took “hard science,” I laughed out loud. Either she’s forgotten everything she’s learned or she knows she’s peddling chemical misinformation. Take your pick. Actually, what she neglects to note is that her major was computer science, which requires almost no knowledge of chemistry or biology. (Indeed, in the NYT article she boasts about taking Physics and Calculus, but those disciplines are not really relevant to her activism; chemistry, physiology, and biology are.) One also notes that she’s been promising to note clarified or corrected posts for a while now, and has yet to do it, although it’s been noted that she did admit her mistake in publishing this article, albeit buried on her Facebook page; in other words, nowhere easy to find.

Hilariously, her response to that is:

Ms. Hari said the these particular posts (which she wouldn’t acknowledge as having been discredited) were a feeble exercise in nit-picking that detracted from her mission.

“If you’re going to pick apart every little sentence I’ve written ,” she said, her voice trailing off. She added of her critics, “They have to dig so far and deep to find something to make me look crazy because what I’m saying now is so sane and is so real.”

Of course, this is about as disingenuous as it gets. Her critics are just “digging far and deep” to “nitpick” when we point out massive errors in science in her posts that are obvious to many people with a high school education. Of course, we didn’t have to “dig so far and deep” to find examples of Food Babe idiocy when she was in the middle of her “yoga mat chemical” and beer campaigns. Those were front and center on her blog and activism, and her errors of science and fact were almost as egregious as the post about airplane air. Oh, wait, they have been just as bad, such as her claim that microwave ovens somehow destroy the nutrient content of food irretrievably and her most risible claim of all, namely that “there is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever..” Given that food is made of chemicals, I wished her good luck surviving living by that particularly dumb adage.

The pressure must be finally getting to her again, because she actually responded to the NYT article. Unfortunately, she responded to it on Sunday after I had already written my posts for both this blog and my not-so-super-secret other blog; so I was unable to respond until now. Predictably, Hari entitled it Response: NY Times Lets Biased Freelancer Attack Food Babe and makes it clear that she’s learned absolutely nothing from the legitimate criticism of her science and dishonest tactics and calling Rubin’s article a “hatchet job.” (To be honest, from my perspective, it was, if anything, too mild. But, then, it was in the NYT.) Predictably, Hari also goes straight for the “shill” gambit:

The reporter featured only the views of certain academics who attack us – every single one of whom has a conflict of interest due to their associations with the food or chemical industries (and this is not disclosed). Although I gave Ms. Rubin the names of scientific, medical and consumer experts who support our work, these did not appear in the story, with one exception (Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group) and even his quote was chosen to support her obvious bias.

Yes, it’s a variation of the pharma shill gambit, something I first wrote about nearly a decade ago, except in this case it’s the the food industry shill or the chemical company shill gambit. It’s also particularly amusing to hear her accuse anyone of being a shill given how skilled she has become at using affiliate-marketing arrangements to monetize her activism. Truly, Hari is not particularly creative, certainly no more so than an antivaccinationists. Not surprisingly, she’s been known to spout off some antivaccine views from time to time, particularly about the flu vaccine.

First up, Hari attacks Joe Schwarcz:

Dr. Joseph Schwarcz is the Director of McGill University’s “Office for Science & Society”, which has in the past received funding from the biotech (GMO) industry Dow, Monsanto, and Dupont through the Council for Biotechnology Information (1). Dr. Schwarcz is also on the Editorial Board for the magazine of the Chemical Institute of Canada, ACCN. Based on his advocacy, one could say Dr. Schwarcz hasn’t met a chemical he doesn’t like.

That bit about “never having met a chemical he doesn’t like” is particularly silly, as though chemicals are things to be “liked” or not. (On second thought, I do rather like ethyl alcohol from time to time.) One could far more accurately retort that The Food Babe has never met a chemical she did like. As Schwarcz wrote in his reply, the ACCN is not an industry group and his office’s funding from the Council of Biotechnology Information was over a decade ago for student interns, none of whose work had anything to do with biotechnology.

I will reluctantly admit that Hari did have one point, and I hope Joe, being a friend, will take this observation to heart, and that’s Hari’s assertion that his comments about her appearance do sometimes come across as being a bit sexist. At least they do to me, particularly in light of the misogynistic comments directed at her. Think of it this way. Some people, myself included, have harped on Jenny McCarthy’s past as a Playboy Playmate of the Year while criticizing her antivaccine views. I don’t do it any more because I came to realize that they were irrelevant and, yes, sexist. Making condescending comments about Hari’s appearance in the context of criticizing her pseudoscience is cut from the same cloth and only serves to undermine that criticism. On the other hand, Hari’s whining that Schwarcz says derogatory things about her knowledge and intelligence made me chuckle, because if anything Joe’s said about her is spot on it’s his criticisms of her ignorance. In fact, Hari’s writing, indeed her very reply to criticism, validates pretty much everything Schwarcz has said about her knowledge base and then some, as his retort to her demonstrates well:

It is also true that I have questioned her mental abilities. How could I not when she wrote a piece about believing that the properties of water were affected by a label on the bottle that had either loving or hateful words written on it. Let me also mention that on numerous occasions I invited her to be a guest on my radio show to air her views and she refused. I stand by my opinion of her. She is a possibly well-meaning, scientifically illiterate publicity hound who bullies companies to conform to her mostly ignorant demands. As far as being addicted goes, the only thing I’m addicted to is proper evidence-based science. And the Food Babe most assuredly does not fall into that category.

Absolutely.

There was indeed a time that the Food Babe Dr. Masaru Emoto’s amazing water woo with complete credulity. That was part of her post on microwave ovens. Emoto, if you remember, liked to claim that he could “imprint” emotions and messages on water just by thinking about it and writing various words on the label of the bottles holding the water. He did some hilariously pseudoscientific “studies” in which he claimed to show that “intent” changed the shape of water crystals. The Food Babe invoked his work as though it had any merit and was later forced to take it down. Couple that with her airplane oxygen post and her blunt statement that”there is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever” and, if anything, Schwarcz was being too kind about Hari’s scientific knowledge base. She goes way, way beyond scientifically illiterate, her bragging bout having taken a major at an engineering college notwithstanding.

As for people posting stuff on her Facebook page, I would suggest that Hari just deal with it. I’ve been critical of misogyny posted on her Facebook page, which is unacceptable and which she has every right—even duty—to delete. Ditto abusive comments. However, to encounter links to articles posted on her page deconstructing her nonsense is just par for the course. Readers post links criticizing me all the time; I either respond or not. Either way, I generally leave them up. It says a lot more about her that she immediately removes them than it does about anyone posting them.

Not surprisingly, she fires up the shill gambit into overdrive for Kevin Folta, chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, mainly because he studies genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and Professor Dr. Fergus Clydesdale of the University of Massachusetts is on the Board of Sensient Technologies, a “global manufacturer of colors, flavors and fragrances” – which means they make synthetic food additives. She might have have had a reasonable point that perhaps Dr. Clydesdale’s affiliation should have been mentioned, but unfortunately she just goes all-in for the shill gambit and these are her only complaints about these two; she can’t refute a single criticism they make of her (or, in Folta’s case, that he’s ever made of her). She’s never been able to refute valid scientific criticism.

Perhaps Hari’s most hilarious inept attempt at a shill gambit comes here:

The piece mentions Dr. David Gorski, who also has received pharmaceutical industry funding (6). He likes to vilify “quackery”, and has even attacked the venerable Cleveland Clinic for using some alternative medicine (7). He is simply wrong that there is no propylene glycol, the antifreeze kind, in some beers and alcohol. We know Fireball Whiskey contains it (8) and it’s listed as an approved ingredient in alcohol on the government website ttb.gov (9). This is easy to prove if you aren’t looking to discredit someone. I answered this previously in a response to my critics back in December 2014 (10), but this was ignored and has been re-hashed time and time again.

Wow! Guilty as charged, at least with respect to vilifying quackery and having criticized the Cleveland Clinic more than once. (She says that as though it were a bad thing!) As for the pharmaceutical company funding, it was modest, for one year, and what on earth does that have to do with the food industry or anything said about the Food Babe anyway? It’s not as though I’ve ever worked on GMOs. At least, I’ve never worked on GMOs for food. Certainly over the years as part of my experiments on cancer and cell biology, I’ve genetically modified plenty of organisms (specifically, bacteria and mammalian cells) with various plasmids and viral vectors, but no one ever ate them. There are strict OSHA rules against that, you know.

Her second bit is, not surprisingly, a rather massive straw man about propylene glycol. For one thing, it was never claimed that whiskey didn’t contain it. The discussion was about beer, and this is what Hari wrote in response to criticism that she was exhibiting chemical ignorance when she claimed that there was propylene glycol in beer:

There are a few blog posts circulating that indicate propylene glycol is used in the external chilling system at breweries and that it’s never is added to beer. They go as far to say that the only way it could be in beer is if there is a tank leak. Well, I’m not talking about leaking tanks here. The chemical Propylene Glycol Alginate (PGA) is added to some beers as a stabilizer for foam control and it is sold as an additive under various commercial names such as Stabilfoam. Another potential source of PGA is as a carrier for some “natural flavors” in fruit-flavored and cider beers. Propylene Glycol is added to many foods and drinks, it’s a very common food additive and I see it on ingredient lists everywhere at the grocery store. I know this because ingredient lists are on those items – but rarely on beer. In Germany, Propylene Glycol Alginate is listed as an ingredient on this bottle of Corona as “E405 Alginat” (the European food additive number for Propylene Glycol is E405), and you will also find it on this ingredient list on Sinebrychoff’s website in Finland. So, I’m really curious to know if and what other beers Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors may add this ingredient to.

Propylene glycol alginate is not the same thing as antifreeze. It’s alginic acid (which is derived from kelp) to which propylene glycol is attached as an ester to some of the carboxyl groups. If you’re not a chemist or haven’t taken organic chemistry, don’t worry about it. Just realize that, as I said at the time, it is not the same chemical as propylene glycol, not even close. It is not antifreeze.

Back to Fireball Whisky. It’s odd that she should mention that particular whisky, because my wife and I were in the supermarket the other day and saw it on the shelf. I remember this because I distinctly remember saying that the thought of cinnamon in whiskey did not sound at all appealing to me. Be that as it may, whisky wasn’t under consideration. More importantly, I find it very telling that the best Hari could come up with was a reference to whisky and a link to a government website, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and a list of Flavoring Substances and Adjuvants Subject to Limitation or Restriction, which lists propylene glycol.

Interesting, no, that this is the best she can come up with? I mean, seriously, if Hari had been able to find a single example of honest-to-goodness propylene glycol (and not propylene glycol alginate) in beer—or anything other than in Fireball Whisky—you know she would have mentioned it. I can just picture her furiously Googling to look for such an example, and the best she could come up with were an article in a men’s magazine about propylene glycol in Fireball Whisky and this government web page. Even if there were beers with actual, honest-to-goodness propylene glycol in it, that doesn’t mean they’re unsafe. Indeed, propylene glycol is considered “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA up to 5%. In the end, Hari’s harping on “antifreeze” in beer is no different than the way antivaccinationists try to claim there’s “antifreeze” in vaccines. It’s intellectually dishonest fear mongering.

Finally, what about that bit where it’s claimed that she responded to criticisms of her “antifreeze in beer” gambit but was ignored. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Of course, the funny thing is that this response of hers is basically a rehash what was already responded to back in December.

It’s good to see that the heat is finally getting to Hari. I tend to agree with Joe Schwarcz’s characterization of her. She’s probably well-meaning, definitely self-righteous as hell (and not in a good way), and, of course, completely illiterate about chemistry. None of this would be a problem if she hadn’t, through a combination of social media and marketing savvy coupled with an accident of fate that led her to her particular new calling, figured out how to effectively bully companies into making public relations moves that have no discernable real effect on food safety, all in the name of saving us from scary-sounding chemicals and gross-sounding natural ingredients. There are many things the food industry does that could benefit from reform, and a true, science-based activist would be a useful contributor to the entire debate about nutrition, food additives, and the food industry. Such people exist, but unfortunately they appear to be nowhere near as famous as Vani Hari. Equally unfortunately, The Food Babe is about as far from science-based as an activist can be, not to mention that she doesn’t even practice what she preaches when it comes to selling products.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

315 replies on “Vani Hari, a.k.a. “The Food Babe,” doubles down on the misinformation in her response to the New York Times”

Wow. — that cabin air remark takes the cake, and a big and tasty cake it is too (though probably pumped up with the yoga mat chemical). Somehow I think that living with a high partial pressure of pure oxygen would be a Bad Idea. I”m sure Mssrs. Grissom, White, and Chaffee would agree if they were still with us.

If I ever have an attack of “imposter syndrome”, the best therapy will surely be to think of Hari’s bone-ignorance about of chemistry. It’ll make it much easier to forgive myself for never quite mastering some details of quantum physics, or whatever.

“The Jenny McCarthy of food?” Not a bad analogy – but I’d also like to think of her as the Sarah Palin of food – each just as clueless in her own bailiwick as the other.

Brace yourself for a shock. Vani wants us to eat grub tainted with a toilet bowl cleaner active ingredient ! How could you, Vani ?
Yes, it’s true, she recommends spinach for human comsuption, although it’s schock-full of that nasty chemical, oxalic acid. See for youself –here

I bet if you look into this Gorski’s past as an ER doc, you’ll find out that numerous times he administered or made someone else administer ethyl 3-[(1R)- 1-phenylethyl]imidazole-5-carboxylate (and note that particular name hides the fact there’s carcinogenic benzene in it), possibly made by the HOspital conSPIRAcy company, dissolved in propylene glycol, straight into the veins of hapless patients, and then took satisfaction when they slumped into unconsciousness.
He has expressed a liking for a flammable chemical that is cytotoxic, a broad spectrum biocide, an industrial solvent, an antifreeze, a motor fuel, a teratogen – and on and on.
Clearly he’s in the pocket of Big Chemical.

Heh — and now conflating beer with whiskey? On St Patrick’s Day in particular this seems very amusing to me, as many today will be consuming both things in large quantities. Probably best not to get them confused. Although, if she does confuse whiskey and beer, that might explain a few things about her “fact” checking.

😀

I love how her rebuttal to “no, there is not propylene glycol in beer; it’s a different chemical with a similar name” boils down to “IT IS SO THE SAME CHEMICAL BECAUSE REASONS!”

😛

Doug @ 6: I cannot decide if this is a post mocking Hari’s way of thinking or if you are serious. I suppose Poe’s law is proven accurate once again.

If you conflate beer with whiskey do you get a boilermaker?

GregH, I’m mocking Hari.
The compound I refer to is etomidate, which is a fast acting very short duration IV anesthetic often used for ER procedures like insertion of an endotracheal tube. Hospira is a major supplier. The IV preparation is typically 35% propylene glycol.
She has babbled about additives in beer, but totally missed the fact that ethanol is an important and widely used chemical that isn’t entirely benign.

Yep. And most beer is around 5-6% ethyl alcohol. Wine, which Hari likes drinking, is usually around 12% ethyl alcohol. Whisky tends to be around 40% ethyl alcohol.

Perhaps in response to people calling her out, Food Babe has been leaving up some threads that have been critical of her and also responding to some.

Someone was very angry at her for allegedly making the Subway bread worse: “Thanks for making the bread at Subway suck. I mean it’s really bad now. It crumbles and has a horrible feel/ texture to it. I have never seen so many crumbs. Next to that, I have never thrown away a sandwich from them til now. Thanks for ruining my favorite lunchtime food. ”

And her response was “Maybe try eating real food for a change? It’s still highly processed ;-)”

So she admits it: She would never have eaten Subway, with or without her yoga mat chemical.

Then she tries to say that it was more about “creating awareness” and protecting workers!

Orac:

Yep. And most beer is around 5-6% ethyl alcohol. Wine, which Hari likes drinking, is usually around 12% ethyl alcohol. Whisky tends to be around 40% ethyl alcohol.

And it’s . . .*gasp* . . . a CARCINOGEN!

A major cause of liver cancer is alcoholism, right?

She’s not just stupid, she’s also a grandstanding diva. Her only dog in this whole fight is just whether or not she can preen and look smart and clever and anti-establishment for her adoring fans. It’s about boosting her ego. Nothing else.

A major cause of liver cancer is alcoholism, right?
</blockquote?

Actually, alcohol's implicated in quite a number of cancers – mouth, esophageal, even breast cancer.

I still like the stuff, though. I'm debating whether I'm going to go out drinking today – a holiday is a good excuse to get drunk, I suppose, but it's also amateur's day, and things can get obnoxious quick in a college town.

If Ms Hari ever saw this page, she’d probably never eat chocolate again.
http://www.sacredchocolate.com/scientific-cacao-chocolate-health-research/nutritional-characteristics/chemical-constituents-in-raw-cacao/
Aspariginase – a cancer chemotherapy drug! Chromium and copper – toxic metals! Formic acid – that’s the stuff that makes ant bites so painful! Histamine – it makes allergic reactions so unpleasant! Oxalic acid – mentioned above, in toilet bowl cleansers! Coumarin – used to make anticoagulant drugs! Palmitic acid – used to make napalm!!!! Spermine – found in semen – yuck!
Oh well, more chocolate for the rest of us.

Beware of those sexism allegations. I’m sure not every use of the word “boob” in writings about Ms. Hari is a reference to her secondary sexual characteristics.

Yes, propylene glycol is an antifreeze, but it is not ethylene glycol, the primary ingredient in the antifreeze in your car’s radiator, which is toxic. It actually takes a lot of propylene glycol to make you sick. That is precisely why it is used as a circulating refrigerant in cooling tanks in the food industry like in the wine tanks here in California. If there is a leak, it doesn’t constitute a hazardous waste emergency; you just rinse it down the drain with no harm done, even if it goes to a septic tank and out to a leach field.

Calli Arcale, it’s not just “about boosting her ego”. Yoga Mat-a Hari’s nonsense is more about boosting her bank account.

Yes, propylene glycol is an antifreeze, but it is not ethylene glycol, the primary ingredient in the antifreeze in your car’s radiator, which is toxic. It actually takes a lot of propylene glycol to make you sick.

Yep. That’s why the antivaccine claim that there’s antifreeze in vaccines is almost more plausible than The Food Babe’s claim that there is antifreeze in beer because polyethylene glycol, ethylene glycol, it’s all the same thing, right? (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

http://respectfulinsolence.com/2014/04/14/jenny-mccarthy-thinks-in-shades-of-gray-or-so-she-thinks/

http://respectfulinsolence.com/2008/06/03/the-jenny-mccarthy-rally-tomorrow-antivaccine/

Amusingly, propylene glycol is commonly used as a vaporizing agent in e-cigarettes, but Jenny McCarthy has no problem with that:

http://respectfulinsolence.com/2013/08/19/jenny-mccarthy-and-the-selling-of-e-cigarettes/

🙂

IIRC propylene glycol has been associated with a blood disorder IN CATS which led to it being removed from cat food whilst it is considered safe for dogs and people.
But I doubt that many of Hari’s readers are cats.

Yeah, don’t criticize her looks. Don’t attack her for being a woman. Those are good rules to live by if you want your counterarguments to stick. However…

Has the Food Babe justified her use of the word “babe”? A babe to me has to have brains on top of looks. I once thought Dominique Swain was a babe, and then she asked what “P.E.T.A.” stood for just as she was about to pose for their “I’d rather be naked than wear fur” campaign. Very disappointing.

So I wouldn’t classify Vani as a babe. But that’s just me, I don’t find dumb people attractive.

I think the Food Babe is overlooking a far more dangerous chemical than ethyl 3-[(1R)- 1-phenylethyl]imidazole-5-carboxylate, or propylene glycol, or anything else.

She should bring public awareness to the dangerous chemical dihydrogen monoxide. It is a colorless, odorless chemical found in all kinds of foods and liquids used in human consumption. Inhaling it can kill you. It is used as an athletic performance enhancer. It is allowed to be introduced freely into our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

She is totally overlooking the dangers of this chemical.

On the matter of “ick”, I’m not even convinced that Hari realizes the alcohol in her wine is fungus pee.

If you root around on the web, you can find an article comparing propylene glycol to its more ol’y cousin glycerine as a solvent in pharmaceuticals. I have to run off to get poked in the eyes right now. May post link later.

Panacea, she should also warn of the dangers from oxidane and hydrogen hydroxide.

Although her looks have nothing to do with her views or intelligence (or lack thereof), her looks would have had some bearing on her success, i.e. the halo effect. Both male and female woo peddlers leverage this, though female peddlers probably attract more censure for it.

Here’s the problem. Like many woman who post publicly on the Internet, Hari has faced a lot of misogyny, which is to be condemned in no uncertain terms. She does, however, use that misogyny, purposely cherry picking the most vile attacks directed at her in order to tar her critics as knuckle draggers making rape threats:

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/vani-hari-a-k-a-the-food-babe-finally-responds-to-critics/

Besides its being just wrong to be sexist, it’s also better to avoid giving her more ammunition which making this about her looks as a woman rather than the pseudoscience she peddles can do. At least, having learned my lesson dealing with Jenny McCarthy, I won’t do it with Vani Hari and recommend that others avoid it as well.

I still like the stuff, though. I’m debating whether I’m going to go out drinking today – a holiday is a good excuse to get drunk, I suppose, but it’s also amateur’s day, and things can get obnoxious quick in a college town.

Being the old fart that I am, I plan on being nowhere near any bars today (not that I go to bars very often on a weeknight—almost never). The most I’ll imbibe tonight might be a single beer, and probably not even that. As I said, it’s a work night and I have to get up early tomorrow, not to mention that I have a late meeting that will keep me at work later than usual tonight.

@JP, I’ll second the comment about Marlene Dietrich with a bonus point for Hedy Lamarr, but my current favorite is Danica McKellar.

@23 (JP):
Hedy Lamarr also comes to mind.

@28 (ryanodine):
Around here, FUD is the brand name of a line of processed meats (hot dogs, sausages, bacon, cold cuts) sold in Hispanic stores. I haven’t tried them, but I’m sure the Food Babe would disapprove of them.

I also find her promotion of apples (contain arsenic) and pears (contain high levels of formaldehyde) quite hypocritical.

Wait… isn’t that PEG stuff I drank 4l of before my colonoscopy Polyethylene Glycol ? You Mean I DRANK 4 liters of Antifreeze! Help! Call a Doctor! Call a Surgeon! Somebody Call me a Cab! Oh wait. . . you mean it’s not the same as ethylene glycol? I’m not poisoned and waiting to die ? okay, a half liter of it did come back out the way it went in. but damn. you try drinking 4L of that stuff ! but seriously folks… 4 liters of PEG was the worst ever procedure prep. worse even than the 2 fleet “Green” enemas. next colonoscopy, can’t I just like, go on a clear liquid diet for 2 weeks or something ?

@DLC: Ugh. I need to have my first colonoscopy (which I’ve been procrastinating on), and your description reminds me why I’ve been procrastinating. Still, I need to do it sometime in the next couple of months. Ugh.

Oh God, you just reminded me of my PEG experience – had to do it twice in three days because of a mis-diagnosed rupture appendix…..I never want to go through that again.

Orac: “Still, I need to do it sometime in the next couple of months. Ugh.”

Definitely put in the Crystal Light flavoring that is okay, and make sure you use enough. Dear hubby put only one packet for the entire four liters and pretty much gagged (fortunately he only needs to do this every ten years, I have to do every five years).

Then park yourself near a toilet, and get some videos to watch to just pass the time. The first time I did it I had a laptop on the bed, and was on the side nearest the toilet. The second time I stayed in the basement between the TV and toilet. Fun times.

At the appointment they do cover with a warmed blanket.

Re: Colonoscopy prep.

I added artificial cherry flavor to mine and thought of Ms. Hari as I eliminated it. Made the process almost enjoyable.

Old Rockin’ Dave:

Calli Arcale, it’s not just “about boosting her ego”. Yoga Mat-a Hari’s nonsense is more about boosting her bank account.

She’s so strident (and so defensive) that I honestly think that for her, the boost to her bank account is a happy side effect. The ego really is the main thing. She’s a self-absorbed narcissist who enjoys having power and influence. Money comes with power and influence, of course, but I think the power and influence is what she really wants.

That’s just an opinion, mind you, but she strikes me as extremely full of herself, and not just a basic money-grubbing con artist.

It’s frustrating how much influence the Food Babe has and her food babe army are, alas, effective. I do hope the mainstream press start realising how off base she is and do a ‘Gillian McKeith’ on her.

Being the old fart that I am, I plan on being nowhere near any bars today (not that I go to bars very often on a weeknight—almost never). The most I’ll imbibe tonight might be a single beer, and probably not even that. As I said, it’s a work night and I have to get up early tomorrow, not to mention that I have a late meeting that will keep me at work later than usual tonight.

The only thing I have in the “mornings” is an 11 am Ukrainian class, which does at least get me out of bed and out of my apartment 4 days a week.

I probably won’t go out, either. I’m sure the bars are going to be packed, loud, and obnoxious, which is not my favored drinking milieu. Plus it occurred to me that I’m actually meeting with my advisor tomorrow afternoon, provided that his plane gets in on time, and I should probably be firing on all cylinders.

Definitely put in the Crystal Light flavoring that is okay, and make sure you use enough.

Having had two last year, I’m down with just well-chilled, unflavored, and gulped. I wasn’t minding it in the slightest that way the second time around. (The talents of the GI fellow doing the scope that time is another matter.)

Let’s get this straight:

She complains that her critics “have to dig so far and deep to find something to make me look crazy” but then criticized Orac for receiving some small pharmaceutical industry funding.

She complains that her critics have associations with the food or chemical industries, and then sells products on her website.

Self awareness is not one of her most notable characteristics.

Ms. Hari also complained about the flight attendants’ stinginess with water in first class

Given the amounts I’ve been served in cattle class, I find myself wondering just how much she was asking for, and how much of the flight she spent on the toilet.

herr doktor bimler

E 405 Propane-1,2-diol alginate

E 1520 Propane-1, 2-diol (propylene glycol)

Well, duh, the word alginate must be an adjective or something, not part of the chemical name.
From the NYT article

Ms. Hari said that chemistry shouldn’t be necessary to decipher what to eat.

Maybe not, but it would help you from making mistakes such as this one.

Ms. Hari also complained about the flight attendants’ stinginess with water in first class

Given the amounts I’ve been served in cattle class, I find myself wondering just how much she was asking for, and how much of the flight she spent on the toilet.

Maybe she should learn not to waste her money on domestic F.

I just had a colonoscopy Fri 13th. Prep was not that bad. Mag citrate and of course PEG. I just mixed with Powerade. First time I was completely under though. Done for 10 years assuming I’m still around. I’ll be 80 then. BTW I love the blogs.

Apparently I’m being way too serious for this comment thread.

Nomenclature, especially organic chemistry nomenclature?

“I mean, who likes those?”

Given the amounts I’ve been served in cattle class, I find myself wondering just how much she was asking for, and how much of the flight she spent on the toilet.

I’m reminded of a fight to Russia a few years ago – I took some crappy airline, United or something. We ended up sitting on the tarmac for at least 2 hours because there’d been a screw-up with one of the back-up generators, and they had to draw up a different route “to fly closer to land just in case something happens,” which is not a nice thing to hear if you’re a nervous flier.

So at some point, everybody’s a bit disgruntled of course, and a stewardess starts walking up and down the aisle offering everybody “free water.” “Oh, great, guys, there’s free water!”

I missed my connection in Zurich, of course, and had to be rerouted through Paris. The Charles de Gaulle Airport, incidentally, has to be pretty much the worst airport in the world.

I know everyone likes to complain about United, but they’ve been fine to me. And fill me to bursting with water and Diet Coke in cattle class. Not as good as Hawaiian (actual meals and guava juice!), but they go more places.

Still, they’re really stingy with their oxygen. I don’t think it’s ever been more than ~20% of the air on their flights.

The Charles de Gaulle Airport, incidentally, has to be pretty much the worst airport in the world.

I think Brussels, Dulles (the tall people movers are fascinatingly SF, but not if you’re trying to make a connection), Newark, and Guangzhou are worse than de Gaulle. Arriving at terminal 4 at Heathrow from the US is always an adventure in queuing theory as well.

The best airport in the world in my experience is Changi Airport in Singapore.

I know everyone likes to complain about United, but they’ve been fine to me. And fill me to bursting with water and Diet Coke in cattle class. Not as good as Hawaiian (actual meals and guava juice!), but they go more places.

I’ve had several really bad experiences with United. The actual transatlantic flights aren’t bad, it’s the stateside connections that go haywire. I once got to spend an extra 24 hrs, and get shipped between three different airports, just trying to get from the D.C. area back to DTW. I couldn’t even get a freaking hotel voucher out of them.

Squirrelite @31 — Didn’t know who Danica McCkellar was, but now I do, and amen. I love it when girls talk “Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on mathbb{Z}^2” to me.

The Charles de Gaulle Airport, incidentally, has to be pretty much the worst airport in the world.

It’s worse if you’re coming down from mushrooms used to pass the time on a trans-Atlantic leg. But as others have noted, it has some stiff competition.

DLC
Somebody Call me a Cab!

OK. You’re a cab.
I don’t know you well enough to call you a Hansom cab.

I love it when girls talk “Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on mathbb{Z}^2″ to me.

At the risk of venturing too many tangents too early, there’s a reason it’s called blackboard bold, you know.

It’s worse if you’re coming down from mushrooms used to pass the time on a trans-Atlantic leg. But as others have noted, it has some stiff competition.

Yeah, I’ve only really experienced European and USian airports, but I’ve found it to be the worst among those. Something about riding around that freaking little shuttle/train thing five or six times trying to get to your gate just gives you some real insight into the Gallic mind.

I’ve heard there are some real contenders (for worst airport in the world) in Central Asia. This airport, thankfully, is imaginary.

I remember Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg being particularly unpleasant, but that was in part because my luggage had gotten lost, and I spent a fair bit of time getting yelled at by the lady in the lost-and-found booth thingy because I didn’t understand the Russian word for “boarding pass.” (I definitely know it now.)

I feel like there should be a sign when you deplane in Russia:
“Welcome to Russia. Your troubles have just begun.”

Yup, in the original wiki article it looked like the “Z” used on a blackboard to represent the complex plane.

I’ve never had cause to use such a symbol in anger, except when explaining the easy way of solving the harmonic oscillator to very skeptical intro physics classes.

I remember Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg being particularly unpleasant

My experiences departing from there were definitely exacerbated by the discovery, having taken the bus to Pulkovo 2, that Condor Air was unique among mezhdunarodnij airlines in flying out of Pulkovo 1 (which was a domestic terminal at the time).

Going back to this comment about Hari:

Ms. Hari said that chemistry shouldn’t be necessary to decipher what to eat.

That much may be true, but chemistry is necessary if your proclaimed vocation is commenting and criticizing the chemistry of food.
It seems to me the Hari has launched into a war without realizing that’s basically unarmed. She seems to think that vocal activism and charisma replace actual knowledge of your subject matter.

One of the issues here is that her premise is actually plausible – a profitable industry is harming the public’s health by hiding their production practices – and that her audience lacks the same scientific knowledge she lacks. They just get on board with “wow – that sounds bad.”

I mentioned organic nomenclature. Your average high school student in the US isn’t likely to know how to name an ester, even if they know what one is. They’ll be lucky if a small amount of organic chemistry is included at the end of a full year chemistry class, and that goes for the first year of college general chemistry (and high school AP classes) as well. Students need to take organic chemistry – majors or non-majors level – before they are presented this level of information in detail.

How many students outside of science or health related fields take organic chemistry? Maybe we need to rethink what we include in general science courses in this country.

JP:
I read somewhere that United knowingly includes nitrogen in their cabin air. As some people may be aware, nitrogen is one of the main ingredients in NITROUS OXIDE, a Big Pharma anesthetic! They do this to keep the SHEEPLE FROM WAKING UP and asking for more water.

@CTGeneGuy:

Nitrogen is also a principal ingredient in CHEMTRAILS.

I read somewhere that United knowingly includes nitrogen in their cabin air. As some people may be aware, nitrogen is one of the main ingredients in NITROUS OXIDE, a Big Pharma anesthetic! They do this to keep the SHEEPLE FROM WAKING UP and asking for more water.

I wish you could get nitrous oxide on flights; it’d make the whole experience much more enjoyable. As it is, I stick to liquor.

@DLC, Orac and Chris,

Thanks for the suggestions. I have my colonscopy prep next month. They gave me Gavilyte G, but it’s still polyethylene glycol with a bunch of electrolytes.

I’ll probably be using raspberry lemonade Crystal Light since that’s what we have.

No fun, but they found benign polyps the last two and my dad had colon cancer which was successfully treated with chemo and radiation, so I need to get it out of the way.

They’ve been 10 years apart with a bit of a delay for this one, but I’ll see what they recommend for the next.

I’ll probably be using raspberry lemonade Crystal Light since that’s what we have.

I’m pretty sure pink colorings are out.

I am surprised that the Food Babe is not mentioning the most dangerous chemical in beer, CARBON DIOXIDE. This chemical can be used as a refrigerant, in its gaseous form it is toxic in small concentrations, and it is a significant contributor to global warming!

Let’s start a petition requesting Chiquitas (TM) to remove Ethyl Butyrate from their Organic all-natural Banana.

Reason #1: It’s not listed as part of their ingredient. But it’s there, and we required transparency in the food industry.

Reason #2: It’s hard to pronounce therefore it is a toxic chemical. We don’t need that in a banana.

Reason #3: It is use as artificial flavor, but also as a plasticizer for cellulose. Cellulose is one of the main component for Cellophane. It’s like they are feeding us with plastic bag.

Oh, my, I just took a look at her latest entry:

Paleo: Watch out for the ingredient “carrageenan” found in alternative nut milk products. This ingredient is linked to intestinal inflammation. Don’t overdo the meat consumption which can make the body overly acidic – the emphasis should be on whole plant based foods. Consider eating beans, they have been shown to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and help keep you slim.

“It’s worse if you’re coming down from mushrooms used to pass the time on a trans-Atlantic leg.”

We flew into and out of Amsterdam on our big Euro trip. At the time, we did it for cost, but the side bennie was having space cake right before the flight back to the US. I’m not one to pretend that marijuana cures cancer, but it sure helps with a long flight.

Unlike our last flight, where the only free movie we could both agree on was Fog of War. It didn’t exactly get us in the holiday mood.

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