The Food Babe

I first ran across the Food Babe several months ago when I came across her ridiculous assertion that everyone should avoid "Monsanto Butter."

The Food Babe appears, in the intervening time, to have gained ever more followers and media attention.  But, her most recent campaign against an ingredient in beer, by drawing the attention of actual experts on the topic, may turn one of her greatest successes (getting Anheuser-Busch to disclose ingredients and alter their production process) into a credibility stumbling block that she is likely to have trouble overcoming.   

Indeed, it's been a bad few days for the Food Babe.  Her latest campaign has even spawned several new phrases from the blogosphere.

  • From Trevor Butterworth at Forbes: "quackmail" - as in using quack-science to blackmail food companies 
  • From David Gorski at Science Based Medicine: The "Jenny McCarthy of the food industry" 
  • From Tom Cizauskas at Yours for Good Fermentables:  "Food McCarthyism"
  • From Jay Brooks at the Beer Bulletin:  "Yellow journalism", which is “a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism.”

Each of the above links roundly criticize and debunk the fear-mongering and pseudo-scientific approach taken by the Food Babe.  To those I'll also add posts by Hank Campbell at Science 2.0 and Maureen Ogle,  author of Ambitious Brew.  There really isn't much left to add to these critiques.

While there has been some positive discussion of the Food Babe's activities (e.g., see this article in Business Insider), mainly focusing on the power of social media to force food company change, one must ultimately ask whether the change is good or bad, and whether the methods used to obtain such change are justifiable.  And, when we see the Food Babe's other writings against GMOs or against the flu vaccine, there is cause for concern (those efforts have also been criticized, for example, see here and here).