Farmarian online community, Post Of The Day | #2. A Heated Exchange About Food Babe’s Tactics and Motivations

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Poster #1

Are you sure that Vani Hari is doing this just for her own gain? What evidence do you have that she has cynical motives?

That she exaggerates or overstates or even may mis-state information is not evidence for cynical motives; the way she uses evidence may be related to her beliefs, not necessarily to darker motives.

Do you have any evidence that she makes a large amount of money doing what she is doing? Does she peddle supplements on her website like Mercola? Is there evidence that she’s living in a mansion somewhere?

People throw this idea around about Vani Hari that she’s somehow rolling in cash from the traffic to her site. If that’s true, you guys have been exposed to information that I haven’t. Please inform me if you know something that I do not.

Poster #2

I wasn’t even thinking of Vani, but since you brought her up, here is evidence of her blatant money grabbing.

It is not in the form of a scientific study. It is in the form of a fact-checking of her claims of toxic chemicals compared to the products she sells and the same chemicals in them.

While she could very well be an unsuspecting front for a bigger agenda, she has already been caught out in this once before.

https://badscidebunked.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/food-babes-tricky-treats5/

Poster #3

Here’s a response I’m about to leave on that Food Babe article:

“Vani Hari is not perfect, but the criticisms in this article are, with few exceptions, very weak.

Hari never said that all “natural flavors” are bad, only that the term is a catch-all that companies often use as a fig leaf for questionable additives. To show that she’s a hypocrite on this score, you’d need to do more work: You’d need to show that the “natural flavors” in these products are actually ones that Hari would find objectionable. But you haven’t.

It seems you’re creating a straw man with regard to Hari and evaporated cane juice. In the Food Babe post you linked to, Hari doesn’t say that she never eats evaporated cane juice; she points out that it’s probably not that great for you (though better than more intensely processed sugars), and says she doesn’t eat a lot of it. Selling a candy as a “treat” intended for occasional consumption seems entirely consistent with her position there. There’s only a hypocrisy if you put words into her mouth, as you do in this post.

The phenylalinine “gotcha” you’ve posted is similar: To my knowledge, Hari never wrote against naturally-ocurring phenylalinine or caffeic acid, but only against the industrially-processed versions. Hari isn’t being crazy here: There are lots of examples of substances that seem to work great in whole foods but lose protective effects or become dangerous in isolation. For example, the antioxidants that are abundant in fruits and vegetables seem to have protective effect against cancer, but antioxidants synthesized or isolated via industrial processes instead seem to feed cancer cells. The entire supplement industry is littered with stories like this: omega-3 capsules, Vitamin A and E capsules, etc. Another example: The sugar in confectioner’s sugar is technically the same kind of sugar found in pears, but the first gives you diabetes while the other doesn’t. But your equivocation here doesn’t allow for this kind of nuance.

What you’re doing here is equivocating between two very different things: the chemicals in food, and the chemicals created or isolated by industrial means. Treating these as exactly the same in all contexts, as you do here, is scientistic and could easily form a basis for dangerous eating behaviors. “Hey, sugar’s all the same, and as a diabetic I can eat whole fruit, so why not eat processed sugar too?”

Out of all this post, the only thing that lands even halfway squarely is your point about Hari and soy lecithin. Yes, she admits that soy lecithin is “junk filler”. But junk filler isn’t necessarily something to be avoided at all costs; it may just be something that could nudge people to superior alternatives, such as chocolates that don’t have soy lecithin. Unless Hari is advocating a guru-like life, these kinds of grey areas are bound to be explored, and met with some kind of compromise. So I think your criticism of Hari here, as are your other criticisms, is pretty unreasonable.”

Curious to hear your thoughts.

Poster #2

I think the writer of the article doesn’t really understand Vani Hari’s point: many natural flavors are not only undisclosed, but actually laboratory compounds. They’re not “natural” at all. The distinction between artificial and natural flavors is largely a function of the kind of processing technique used to produce it. As far as I remember, a bunch of the older techniques characterize “natural” flavors, and a bunch of newer techniques characterize “artificial” ones. But the distinction doesn’t comport at all with what we understand, common-sensically, as natural or artificial.

I looked up some of the natural flavors ingredients. Here’s what I found.

Alter Eco Truffles:

WHAT ARE THE NATURAL FLAVORS FOUND IN SOME OF YOUR CHOCOLATES MADE OF?
The natural flavoring in our truffles is made from a combination of natural inputs like herb, root and starch and does not contain GMOs or any of the eight major allergens.
– See more at: http://www.alterecofoods.com/our-story/faq/#naturalflavors

Surf Sweets Sour Berry Bears:

We use a number of natural flavors to make our candies taste delicious! All of our natural flavors are organic compliant and do not contain synthetics, GMOs and are not irradiated. For example, we use fruit extracts like orange oil to make the natural orange flavor. The natural flavors do not contain MSG or any of the eight most common allergens.

Here is a complete listing of the natural flavors used in our products:
Gummy Bears, Gummy Worms, Jelly Beans, Fruity Bears & Sour Worms: Cherry, Grape, Grapefruit, Lemon, Orange and Strawberry.
Fruity Hearts: Cherry and Watermelon.
Sour Berry Bears: Sour Cherry, Black Raspberry and Strawberry.
Spring Mix Jelly Beans: Tropical Punch (Pineapple, Passion Fruit, Banana, Orange & Cherry), Pineapple, Mixed Berry (Plum, Strawberry, Blackberry, & Raspberry), Lemonaid, Tangerine.

Yummy Earth Organic Gummy Bears:

Food that is Certified Organic under USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) must be grown and processed using organic farming methods without synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers and may include natural flavors using only non-synthetic sources and must not be produced using synthetic solvents or synthetic carrier systems or any artificial preservative. MSG and other unannounced artificial ingredients are not permitted in certified organic food. Natural Flavors used in organic food must not contain artificial ingredients or added colors or anything that is processed to fundamentally alter the raw product.

All our Natural Flavors are Organic Compliant Natural Flavors and conform to the regulations of both the FDA and the very strict National Organic Plan (NOP) by the USDA as described above. These YumEarth natural flavors do not contain added MSG or other junk that we would not be proud to put in our family’s mouths. Please note that we consider our Natural Flavors to be secret recipes so we do not reveal the contents of our Natural Flavors. We are aware that some people may not be able to eat some of our flavors because we are unable to reveal the secret recipe and we are truly sorry for this inconvenience.

So, these are not the same thing that Vani Hari criticizes when she writes about natural flavors, with the possible exception of the Gummy Bears. But even in the case of the Gummy Bears, they say they abide by organic standards. If what they write about their flavors is true, it seems clear that they are minimally processed–what we usually think of when we think “natural”–not at all similar to what Vani Hari criticizes.

Some may think that the distinction that Vani Hari makes has no significance and is therefore an unscientific way to distinguish between good and bad food, but that’s not the point. The distinction is real and relevant to a worldview that considers the processedness of a food as a defining marker for healthy eating. I’m not sure I endorse processed food at all, but if you’re going to eat it, it seems reasonable to try to follow standards that Vani Hari is using.

Poster #2

As I mentioned earlier- this isn’t the first time she has been caught saying one thing and doing another.

In an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, Duane D. Stanford wrote that Hari has an apparent financial interest in generating controversy in order to draw traffic to her website to increase ad sales and drive readers to buy a subscription to her organic Eating Guide, which Hari says is her primary source of revenue.[40] Hari’s critics have drawn attention to her affiliated marketing partnerships with small organic and non-GMO brands, that she profits from recommending above mainstream brands. Hari has stated “I’m not doing this to make money. This is my life. This is my passion. This is my calling. There is no way I would put myself on the line like I do because of money. This is all about what I’ve learned, and I have to tell everyone.”[22][8]

A 2015 article in Skeptical Inquirer details products Hari declares as having toxic ingredients while Hari promotes and profits from products containing the same or similar ingredients. Hari’s claims that these chemicals are dangerous have been dismissed by experts in science and medicine as incorrect or exaggerated.[56] Hari has in the past removed products from her site when attention was drawn to them containing chemicals she has spoken against. [57]

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vani_Hari

Poster #1

She may be financially rewarded by her blogging, but that doesn’t mean she is cynically motivated. Those are two different things.

Unless you have evidence that Vani Hari is exploiting her website to generate large amounts of money, I think you should hold off on those accusations.

I also take exception to the notion that her criticisms are not science-based. Nothing that you have posted in this thread supports that claim. I have looked up some of her claims. And they panned out.

Lots of people come down on Vani Hari, but most of these people seem to have a pretty reactionary orientation toward food. When was the last time such a “science skeptic” went after the USDA for its unscientific recommendations? When was the last time a “science skeptic” went after processed foods?

I’d be glad to hear criticisms of Vani Hari from people who actually seemed interested in changing the food system for the better. So far, that’s not where most of the criticisms seem to be coming from.

I think that Food Babe has been instrumental in many ways for raising consciousness about processed food, and real food. She makes money from what she does, yes. We all have to make money. It’s the part of life that I don’t like so much. (I would prefer if I could be fed grapes and receive massages all day.)

So, two questions: one, does the amount of money Vani Hari makes undermine her claim that she does what she does for the passion of it? Two, do her product recommendations undermine her message? I think I’ve given my opinion about the first question. As for the second, maybe, maybe not. If we all need to make money, and all live in this world, sometimes compromises are necessary. Do such compromises make the main thrust of our lives and messages meaningless?

Show me where Vani Hari seems to be ostentatiously money-grabbing. Show me where the harm she has done has outweighed the good. Until then, I cannot agree with your assessment of her work.

Commentary: 

I am not sure that there is sufficient evidence for Vani Hari to definitively make the criticisms that she does, with individual ingredients. Yet there certainly is definitive evidence that, as a whole, our food system is unhealthful.

Is it wrong to get upset at Vani Hari for harping on virtually all individual industrial ingredients—when they, together, nearly comprise what makes industrial food industrial food, which we do understand to be unhealthful?

Critics of Food Babe’s science miss the forest for the trees.

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