What Do “Food Babe” And Fox News Have In Common?

Parody Food Babe image from the Facebook page "Chow Babe."

Parody Food Babe image from the Facebook page “Chow Babe.”

If you haven’t heard of her by now, there is this woman named Vani Hari who goes by the alias “Food Babe” who has become infamous for her attacks on a number of food companies, including Subway and, most recently, Starbucks.

In this latest attack, she has sent thousands of her fans, known as the “Food Babe Army,” to post on Starbucks’ Facebook wall demanding they make their drinks organic and disclose every single one of their ingredients in every one of the products that they serve.

Wait, that doesn’t sound like an unreasonable request, does it? On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. After all, don’t we have a right to know what is in our food – or in this case, frothy hot pumpkin spice latte goodness that you have to wait in line for while the person in front of you wants a skinny, decaf, soy milk with extra sprinkles and no whipped cream?

On a personal note, I rarely drink Starbucks. When I do, it is because I need to download some really large files on their Wi-Fi and the five bucks spent on a pumpkin pie flavored coffee is my exchange for using their internet.

Anyhow, Food Babe went after Starbucks and specifically their pumpkin spice latte. After all, it’s that time of the year – and what better way to make some noise than to target the one thing many of us will actually spend money on an over-priced coffee for?

Here’s a few of the comments left by the #FoodBabeArmy on Starbucks’ wall recently:

“Starbucks please consider making wholesome quality drinks by using organic milk and organic coffee!!!”

“When do you plan to phase out caramel coloring and when do you plan to switch to organic milks in your drinks? Timelines please. We, the consumers, want to know. ‪#‎foodbabearmy‬

“As a family we love starbucks and look forward to it! A treat! Please treat us kindly and make your ingredients be healthy. We don’t need the chemicals and I am sure you can make the drink even better without adding them.”

“Starbucks, I would really love to walk in to your store and not worry about what ingredients are in your drinks.”

“You know that eventually, consumers will learn more about the bad stuff that is in many of your products. Why not take the lead on this one rather than wait for us to get all angry and stop using your products?”

“PLEASE stop putting bad stuff in your drinks. Top of the list is Class IV Caramel Color. There are more, but we’ll save those for a later post.”

“For those of you who want more info, or alternatives to these yummy but really unhealthy drinks, check out…” (link to Food Babe website)

So what does this have to do with Fox News? What is the parallel? It’s very simple: Both use fear and conspiracy stories to make money.

Fox News caters to an often angry crowd of misinformed, self-described “patriots,” many of whom believed for the longest time that President Obama was hiding his birth certificate from them. Even when it was shown to them, they still continued to claim that it was fake and relied on wingnut blogs that stated he was an illegal alien, despite all evidence to the contrary. These people see a conspiracy around every corner where the government is going to take their guns and use Common Core to turn their kids gay.

Food Babe has amassed her army of over 710,000 fans and uses every chance she gets to plug her diet plans and tell them how companies are hiding secret toxic ingredients from them. Again, conspiracy-mongering with companies instead of political stories. Take for example the recent attack on Starbucks’ seasonal favorite, Pumpkin Spice Latte. She claims that Starbucks is failing to yield to her ridiculous demands because “they don’t want you to know about the harmful additives in their biggest selling items.” 

In the past, she went after Subway for using a scary-sounding chemical called azodicarbonamide, which is used for maturing bread and had not been proven to be harmful. Instead of telling her take a footlong and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine, Subway caved to her demands and she pronounced it as a great victory for her Food Babe Army.

Like Fox News comes up with Obama conspiracies, she comes up with one company after another to direct her fans to demand answers from until they cave to her requests. Once they cave, she claims victory while pushing more of her products, many of which have nothing to do with food. Like many Fox News viewers, her followers also ignore research which disproves her wild claims and tactics, which resemble extortion.

Consumers of rightwing media and the Food Babe Army also tend to believe that Snopes is a tool of whatever their perceived opposition is. This recent story from Snopes caused her followers to claim that the website was bought off by Starbucks. In their world, respected scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson are tools of “Big Food,” just like Fox News pushes the idea that climate scientists are part of a big, evil plot by liberals to make our air cleaner.

I should point out that I think that eating right and exercise are very important. I believe that whenever possible, a company should list allergens and ingredients for the information and safety of their consumers. However, like Fox News, Vani Hari isn’t interested in the truth. Both Food Babe and Fox News claim to be on your side and trying to hold people accountable. The truth is that both are actually interested in keeping people afraid, tuned in and buying from their sponsors.

Blogger Zach Bussey sums it up best:

“While I’m all for better foods, better labeling and better information, I am certainly against these food crusaders who rely on the same tactics that the media use to sell wars and other lies. Fear mongering, creative interpretation of the facts and relying on people’s office chair outrage is not the way to make a point…  We should be trying to build intelligence, not propagate the armchair activism.  We should advise people to eat things in moderation, instead of scaring them about everything in the aisles of our local grocer or coffee shop. And, without a doubt, we should stop the fear mongering/scare tactics. When you waste our outrage on a sugary treat (and then you’re found to be false), you hurt any movement where we SHOULD be scared/fearful/sharing the issue. But instead, failing that, we’re going to continue to live in a world where some of these food crusaders are more dangerous than the foods they are fighting against.” (Source)

Fear and bullshit sells – and both Food Babe and Fox News know this all too well.


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