Updated – see end of this post.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. – Mahatma Gandhi
We are close to winning.
Over the last three years, the coalition we have built, the Food Babe Army, has had an incredible amount of success and been featured in major newspapers, magazines, on radio stations, and TV shows across the globe. Together, since we as customers control the income for corporate agribusinesses, they are starting to pay attention.
- We’ve highlighted ingredients that are banned in other countries due to health concerns, and forced companies like Kraft, Subway, and Starbucks to show Americans the same respect they show other countries by committing to remove these ingredients in the US. We also inspired one of the largest fast food companies, Chick-fil-A, to commit to stop using antibiotics in the production of their chicken, and to remove controversial chemicals and other artificial ingredients.
- We’ve demanded transparency. We convince some multi-billion dollar corporations from Chipotle to Anheuser-Busch, (and MillerCoors and Starbucks who are dragging their feet) to finally release their ingredients for the first time in history. Scientists may all not agree about how dangerous these ingredients are, but we have the right to know what’s in our food and why it’s there. Because of our efforts these companies can no longer hide behind antiquated regulations that keep Americans in the dark.
- We’ve educated the public about the food system which in turn inspired more companies to change their ingredients for the better like Chipotle, General Mills, WhiteWave (Silk & Horizon) and Panera Bread. And people now are getting the information they deserve to make educated decisions about what they eat. As human beings, we do not have the option to not eat food, so at the very minimum we should have the right to know what is in our food and the right to choose whether we ingest chemical additives or adulterated food.
And while enticing big companies to change is important, I’m even more excited to learn that smart organic companies are now on the general public’s radar and the organic food movement is continuing to grow. They do the right thing and they deserve our business.
But we still have work to do–and, as our consumer coalition gains power, fueled by the influence of social media, resistance is starting to dig in against change.
With this much game-changing activism and success in a short period of time, it comes as no surprise that some powerful corporate executives and some “independent” voices they help to finance, disagree with our work. An intelligent debate is welcomed, but not all the discussion has been civil.
There’s a group of aggressive scientists, biased doctors, skeptics, agribusiness publicists, lobbyists (and their anonymous webpages and social media sites), along with in some cases, well intended but misinformed people (influenced by propaganda) attacking our work, other consumer advocacy groups, my partners, my friends and me, personally.
Did you think the powerful chemical companies and food giants of the world were going to let us waltz right into their world and turn it upside down?
No – they won’t and, as I expected, the people who wish to keep the status quo are attacking me personally while simultaneously trying to discredit the entire Good Food Movement.
Instead of focusing on the issues at hand I’ve raised about the food industry, their go-to criticisms are ad hominem personal attacks: they’ve attacked me, as a woman, in ways they’d never attack my male colleagues. I am personally being subjected to hate speech, harassment and cyber-bullying on a daily basis. I won’t dignify these immature, and often misogynist, remarks with a response. Here are a few examples of the disturbing and graphic recent remarks. Warning: These are extremely offensive.
These bullies have begun to band together to attack and terrorize media publications that feature our hard work and they’ve even started an unethical ruthless campaign to write “one star” reviews about my book that isn’t even released yet attempting to silence new investigations and research into the food industry. They even try to intimidate and outright lie in order to advance their message – taking games right from the Tobacco industry playbook creating a smear campaign against me. Some of their antics include creating fake social media profiles with my likeness, stealing and posting my copyrighted material, modifying my photos inappropriately, and posting my private personal data publicly and even sending me death threats.
Part of the reason I am responding now is because their messages have started to infiltrate the mainstream media. Seemingly reputable news organizations even linked to the hate groups – quoting one of their spokespeople and repeated their ridiculous and biased messages as if they have any merit.
Obviously, some powerful entities in the chemical and food industries have a financial incentive to try to discredit me in the work we have all done together. And that’s why I created this page — to comprehensively address the criticisms levied at our movement to secure a healthy, unpolluted food supply — and the work I have been personally doing in support of this effort.
This is my attempt to drain the swamp so these toxic rumors, innuendos and outright lies can’t be used to divert attention away from the unethical behavior of many food manufacturers.
Because the debate we need to have is about chemicals and our food, it’s not about me.
This page is a living document, and I will add to it and make changes where I see fit. In the future, feel free to reference this page anytime you see a questionable, personal attack on the internet about me, FoodBabe.com or our movement.
What they say: I’m not an expert because I am not a scientist or doctor or nutritionist.
Truth: There is an old saying, “these issues are too important to leave up to the experts.”
I’m grateful for the advances made by generations of tireless independent scientists, doctors, and nutritionists. Without their work, we would not be able to have conversations like the ones we are having here about what goes in our food and why. But just because you have a degree, doesn’t make you right.
For example, for years, the expert food scientists and the FDA said trans fats were safe for consumption. The industry even went as far as saying margarine that was full of trans fat was better for you than butter. Trans fat actually provided no benefit to the consumer, it was a profit-generating ingredient that allowed products to stay on the shelf longer. Now, the CDC estimates that trans fats are linked to 7,000 deaths and 20,000 heart attacks per year!
I’ve never claimed to be a scientist or nutritionist, but a high percentage of the “expert” scientists, doctors, registered dietitians and nutritionists in this field have a financial relationship with the entities I investigate. They oftentimes are unwilling to disclose where their funding really comes from. Some use their credentials to promote and market new inventions by the food industry. Calling me “The Jenny McCarthy of Food” is another sexist attack and shows the low blows these experts are willing to take on an activist who calls them out.
In the same way you don’t need to be a doctor to know smoking causes cancer, you don’t need to have any credentials to read an ingredient label, research food ingredients, teach yourself what to eat or how to take care of your health (in fact, the argument that only a scientist would understand what’s natural and healthy food, makes my point).
On a regular basis, I seek the counsel of many credentialed experts in this field and present my data which often includes access to published, peer-reviewed research.
What ultimately led companies like Kraft, Subway, Chipotle, and Chick-fil-A to change their ingredients were my specific questions about their practices and ingredients. Questions the experts were not asking or lacked the platform from which they could share their findings.
The Food Babe Army empowering their friends and family to these findings is what elicited change from these giant corporations.
When other countries start safeguarding their citizens from certain ingredients, it has to make you wonder why our government hasn’t responded as well — this is where I started — looking for discrepancies and going from there.
In order to create social change, all you need is passion. To think you need a degree in food science or whatever else in order to share your personal journey to inspire people to eat real food or encourage companies to do the right thing is small minded. This is like saying Upton Sinclair, was not qualified to write his groundbreaking book “The Jungle” which exposed the conditions in the meatpacking industry and eventually led to historical consumer protection & safety legislation being passed by the US government.
The bottom line is that many of these people who use this argument to discredit me, don’t want the truth, regarding our food supply, coming out. These detractors are dependent on the food system staying like it currently exists today, developing chemicals that increase profits for food companies.
What They Say: Our findings are based on pseudoscience or we hate science and we are “fear mongering”.
The Truth: If our findings didn’t have any concerns, do not have a solid basis in fact, why are companies willing to drop these controversial chemicals?
Apparently, science that people don’t like—that conflicts with their paid positions or sources of funding — can just be written off as pseudo-science (or an ad hominem attack). Given where we are today, where 1 in 3 women will get cancer, and 1 in 2 men will, I think we need to look for answers on how to live healthier lives and break free from the downward spiral of disease our country is facing. True health starts with the quality of our food supply.
We are, objectively, a nation full of inexplicable illness. I’m not the one who got us here. My job as an activist and consumer advocate will always be to look out for the consumer and empower them to think and question.
Food is not rocket science. People have been eating and cooking food since the beginning of time. What makes food complex is the food industry’s never-ending quest to improve profits – often at the expense of the consumers. That is where the Food Babe Army comes in – we let people know what is really in their food so they can decide for themselves.
I know with my own body, that eliminating food additives was one of the best decisions I ever made — before that I was on several prescription drugs, felt and looked awful. I have more energy now than I did 10 years ago, 10 years older! – How is that possible if there isn’t something to all of this healthy eating? Or more directly, to eliminating the chemicals that major food companies have yet to justify to us with any explanation.
Others without a PhD have also conducted the same experiments, using their bodies and personal experience, and have come to a similar conclusion.
I use a variety of published scientific papers, interviews with experts, studies and opinions from noteworthy and respected public interest groups in my writings (they are usually blue hyperlinked throughout my posts). We are still learning the impacts of the food we eat – much of it hasn’t even been studied – thousands of chemicals in our food supply remain untested. So much new information is being discovered every single day.
In terms of food ingredients, the FDA depends on agribusinesses to review synthetic substances and grants them GRAS status (generally regarded as safe) based on the research by the food companies themselves. Self-regulation! It’s my role, it’s all of our roles, to question this system that has become corrupted and is not, as designed, protecting the public.
Some advocacy groups that I work with and cite on a regular basis include The Environmental Working Group (who’s scientists and experts support my research on azodicarbonamide – the “yoga mat” chemical), The Center of Science In The Public Interest (who’s scientists and experts support all three of my petitions: Kraft, Subway and Beer), National Resources Defense Council, The Center For Food Safety, Consumers Reports / Consumers Union and The Cornucopia Institute – all organizations work with scientists and researchers to bring the latest consumer protection information to the public. Many of my campaigns have been based on what these organizations have thoroughly studied.
If my work is based on pseudoscience why are these organizations working with me and why are prominent physicians like Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D. (the doctor to the Clintons), Dr. Joel Kahn, M.D., and Dr. Frank Lipman, M.D. all fans of my work?
What they say: The phrase “If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it” is not scientific.
The truth: I didn’t come up with this clever phrase, but think it’s generally great advice.
This idea actually originated with Michael Pollan in his prominent book “In the Defense of Food” and later on in “Food Rules” where in rule #7 he stated “Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.” I have repeated this advice before, and notably one time in an ABC interview that my detractors like to mention over and over again.
I think it works well in the majority of cases when reading the ingredient label on food products in the grocery store. Not everyone has the time to tirelessly review all the ingredients allowed in our food system. This simple rule makes it easy for the average person to avoid processed food, which I think everyone can benefit from!
If you can’t pronounce it that probably means the material has been part of the human diet for a minute period of time in terms of the human evolutionary or developmental process. Using many of these substances is a grand experiment that many people would prefer not subjecting themselves or their children to.
One point my detractors like to mention is that dihydrogen monoxide which is the chemical name for water is hard to pronounce for some people but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t drink it. I find this an inaccurate and unreasonable comparison because you would never see the words “dihydrogen monoxide” on a water bottle or package of processed food. Another example they use is showing the chemical make of a banana – the same holds true here, you would never find the chemical breakdown of a banana on a food label that contained banana.
What They Say: The dose makes the poison and food additives are safe.
The Truth: That food industry orthodoxy is outdated and dangerous.
Unfortunately, we don’t know the overall dose of food additives we are actually ingesting. How many different food chemicals are people consuming in one meal, in one day, in one year? The overall load, especially for children, has been grossly understated and the interaction between many of these synthetic compounds have never been studied.
For example, a recent study out of Purdue University stated that children are exposed to up to 15 times more artificial food dyes than the dose approved by the FDA. The Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, Michael Taylor, recently admitted to the Washington Post, “We do not know the volume of particular chemicals that are going into the food supply so we can diagnose trends. We do not know what is going on post-market”.
But, we do know disease rates continue to rise at an alarming rate. Instead of attacking me, why aren’t the detractors finding a way to deliver more real food to us instead of inventing chemicals that make food companies richer and us sicker?
Who should we trust? The FDA? The Food Giants? The Food Scientists making these chemicals? Or the foreign governments who are following the precautionary principle of taking these additives out of their food (or commonly, never approving them in the first place)?
What they say: I exaggerated claims about the ingredients in beer – from Propylene Glycol and it’s derivatives to Isinglass (fish swim bladders).
The truth: The beer campaign was all about transparency and we have the right to know what we are drinking.
For decades the multi-billion dollar beer industry (along with the entire alcohol industry) has gotten away with not disclosing their ingredients and I find this appalling. That’s why I started a petition to ask the 2 largest beer companies to disclose their ingredients. I pointed out several of the ingredients beer manufacturers are allowed to use in our beer according to the Treasury Department, where beer is regulated. I listed these ingredients in the video I created for my petition that received over 40,000 signatures in 24 hours and that ultimately forced Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors to start disclosing their ingredients for the first time in history. Propylene glycol (which is found in airplane deicing liquid, aka “anti-freeze”) and propylene glycol alginate that is derived from kelp are both allowed to be used in alcohol. In fact, Fireball Whisky recently had to remove it’s products from shelves in Europe because it contained too much propylene glycol (the antifreeze variety). Corona beer uses propylene glycol alginate. Regardless of which propylene glycol ingredient is used in an alcohol product, I believe we have the right to know what ingredients we are consuming. The same goes for “Isinglass” – which is made from fish swim bladders. I know this ingredient has been used for centuries and not harmful, but this is a real issue for vegans & vegetarians. They deserve to know if an animal product was used in its production and I’m not personally convinced that these fining agents are completely left behind in the tank bottom, especially since Guinness admits that their beer may contain trace amounts. Along with these ingredients, I have exposed several other very controversial chemicals in beer my detractors fail to mention, like caramel coloring level IV, carrageenan and high fructose corn syrup. Who will hold the alcohol industry accountable for transparency, if we don’t?
What They Say: I have an eating disorder.
The Truth: Deciding to opt out of the “Standard American Diet” is not an eating disorder.
Would this accusation ever be leveled at one of my male counterparts?
I want to live the best life imaginable and that starts with caring enough about my body to put the best nutrients in it. Eating healthy is about self-love, not self-hate.
Saying no to fake food and synthetic food additives is not disordered thinking — it’s smart.
For most of my life I wasn’t proud of the way I looked. I felt terrible and ugly because of the dead nutritionless food I was eating. And now that I that feel amazing and confident, I find it incredibly sexist that people use my appearance to ridicule and personally attack me like this.
I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life – I’m off of all prescription drugs and feel great. It doesn’t come easy in this over-processed world — and that’s why I am here writing about the things I’ve discovered and tips that have helped me achieve a level of health I would have never dreamed of before when I was eating the Standard American Diet. This is the reason I wrote my forthcoming book, The Food Babe Way.
What They Say: I’m in it only for the money or I’m a snakeoil salesman
The Truth: I left a secure career without any guarantee or safety net that this new role as a full time food activist would ever support me.
The people who use this attack don’t know me or my story. When I quit my secure corporate job, in December of 2012, I wasn’t making any money blogging. Everyone needs to find a way to make a living and I feel very lucky that I’ve figured out how to do that without compromising my values. I have now dedicated my life to create a better food system and I feel good knowing my work contributes to the knowledge of others and their quality of life.
I work harder now, than I ever have in my life. I spend my days investigating, writing, meeting with experts and consumer organizations, traveling to conferences, speaking, and attending food trade shows.
For example, it can take me weeks to investigate certain food companies, calling headquarters, emailing customer service, visiting their farms, manufacturing plants or headquarters and talking to their employees to bring my readers the facts. Writing all of what I’ve learned through my investigations takes even longer.
Now, due to a lot of hard work, the blog does make money which helps pay the expenses for my wonderful team’s salaries, to grow our movement, and donate to consumer advocacy groups and GMO labeling campaigns. I’m making a living because of all the passion and investment my staff and I have put into it — not because I thought it could be some get-rich-quick-scheme.
What They Say: I blackmail companies, extorting food companies for money after investigations.
The Truth: For companies that truly want to gauge consumer sentiment, and position their brands in a more healthy “space” in the supermarket I’m available as a consultant — but that work has never impacted the information that’s available on foodbabe.com
This is what sets me apart from most activists. I have a background in consulting at major corporations and helping them to change — it’s what I did for 13 years before Food Babe became my full time career. I know how companies operate, how slow or fast changes can be made, I know the bureaucracy — so that makes me capable to not only hold these companies accountable for the harmful ingredients they are using — but also to help them see the pathway get these changes implemented faster.
I would never allow my interest in public health to be compromised — that is why most major agribusinesses won’t hire me — but some brave one’s are willing to engage in a collaborative process.
But even then, I would never compromise my personal independence and integrity — and I can prove it.
For example, after Chick-fil-A hired me as a consultant, I continued to publicly pressure them to source chicken that wasn’t raised with antibiotics on multiple national TV outlets, on this blog and on social media. This pressure eventually led to their decision to go antibiotic free in 5 years. (And they put in writing). Working from the inside can have real tangible results. Before walking into Chick-fil-A headquarters they thought my main concern was the MSG in their food — but I explained to them, this was secondary compared to the antibiotics issue.
I will consult, but get one thing straight; I am not a corporate spokesperson. I will not be restrained from overtly criticizing or challenging any of my past or current clients. You can buy my advice but you can’t buy my likeness, my logo or my endorsement.
There are brands that sponsor this website through advertising, located in the right hand site of the blog – and these are the brands I personally buy and/or use. I would never have them partner with me otherwise.
What They Say: When I give speeches I won’t stick around for Q&A
The Truth: I will gladly answer questions on stage, but follow the guidelines of the event coordinators decisions.
This is the most preposterous criticism I’ve seen and I think it’s pretty representative of how ridiculous these accusations have gotten. There was controversy surrounding a talk I gave at a University recently when a professor — who publicly supports and argues for Monsanto and other biotech companies by writing for their industry funded websites — claimed that I refused to answer questions following my talk. Yeah, okay.
Except anyone who was there heard the moderator make an announcement to the student body that I would stay after and answer everyone’s questions, but not on stage because my talk went over the time allotted because students needed to leave to attend other events and classes.
When I stepped down from stage, I had a long line of students and teachers waiting to talk to me, and I stayed long enough to speak with all of them which I really enjoyed. If this professor wanted to ask me questions, why wasn’t he brave enough to come speak to me in person? Was he just attempting to publicly humiliate me? Was he more interested in recognition than real debate?
This professor also claimed I was “whisked away in a limo,” I was actually offered a ride by the University organizer in her light-colored Prius. The last time I checked a Prius looks nothing like a limo. The truth just doesn’t have the same kind of utility when you’re trying to discredit someone.
What they say: I believe water can turn into Satan or Hitler crystals when they are microwaved
The Truth: I consulted several different sources, and made a personal decision to avoid microwaves in my house.
I’ll admit it. My microwave blog post was not my most impressive piece of work. When I wrote it, I just started blogging and wanted to share several opinionated reasons why I avoid microwaves. My detractors would rather have you talk about this irrelevant blog post (that is over 7 years old and removed from my site) than any of the food research and investigations I am uncovering.
In the post, I quoted this information directly from New York Times best-selling book “The Messages in Water.” Of course, I see how the research presented in that book could come across as hokey – or dare I say it, putting a tin foil hat on. But more seriously, even esteemed journalists like Michael Pollan think microwaves are creepy – with or without satan crystals. In his latest book “Cooked,” he explains… “The microwave oven which stands at the precise opposite end of the culinary (and imaginative) spectrum from the cook fire, exerts a kind of antigravity, its flameless, smokeless, anti sensory cold heat giving us a mild case of the willies. The microwave is as antisocial as the cook fire is communal.”
What They Say: I’m anti-vaccine.
The Truth: I’m not against all vaccinations.
I know this is a highly debated topic and it makes sense there will be some controversy. I find it interesting that my detractors are just recently bringing up yet another blog post that I wrote over three years ago about the flu shot and claiming that I am against all vaccines because of it. They’ll use any old card they can find to make people angry and turn against me.
The reason I wrote specifically about the flu shot was because my friends asked me to, they wanted to know my opinion and why I choose not to take it (obviously a very personal decision many of us faced with).
Actually, the majority of Americans don’t take it. Only 34% of adults do. I don’t take it because of the ingredients it contains and based on the evidence showing it’s ineffectiveness (it says so even on the package insert!) A myriad of health experts agree with my decision too, everyone from Dr. Mark Hyman here and here, Functional Medicine Practitioner Chris Kresser, Dr. Frank Lipman, Dr. Joseph Mercola and more. My decision does not make me anti-vaccine like my detractors would like the public to believe. A healthy debate about the propriety of many vaccines has and will go on.
What they say: I ban anyone that disagrees with me on social media
The truth: I give my moderators full authority to delete comments and ban insulting, harassing, or cyberbullying commenters.
There are several groups that condone violating social media platforms terms of service by allowing their members to create fake profiles and new pages to harass me and others who challenge the status quo and the food industry. My team is given the ultimate authority and discretion when they are monitoring comments on the blog or on our social media. If you are part of the hate groups that personally attacks me (or anyone else), are vulgar or insulting, repeatedly post the same comment in a harassing manner on multiple threads, use profanity, threats, or use impersonation, your comment will be deleted and/or your profile banned, it’s very simple.
This policy is very similar to other reputable websites – even The New York Times. I can only hope that we never have to do what Popular Science had to do recently. They completely turned off all comments due to trolling.
I think of my blog and social media pages as my home. I will let anyone in my house, act inappropriately they will be asked to leave. A healthy debate is fine, but someone can make their point without stepping over the line and becoming abusive.
For those of you that have defended our movement through countless discussions on the web, in forums and social media, THANK YOU! The truth shall prevail!
Remember, we need to keep our conversation focused on the food industry that is polluting the environment and our bodies and government agencies that aren’t protecting our collective health and consumer rights – not the haters. They want us to take our eye off the ball and distract us. Don’t let them win…Shake it off. Onward!
“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” ― Aristotle
Updated 1/16/2015: As is traditional in print journalism, I am going to start a Corrections/Editor’s Note feature on my web site. I want to be sure that if there are any mistakes, we admit and correct them immediately. I hope other web sites will follow and consider the same. Almost 4 years ago, before I had much of a following when my blog was a hobby, I made a mistake about oxygen inside airplanes. I took that post down as a result, but in the future if there is a mistake I will admit and correct it immediately with an editor’s note within the post.
Updated 1/25/2015: On January 22nd, 2015 a group of science students from the IFT Student Association wrote me a letter. Here is my response.
Updated 3/15/2015: On March 13, 2015, a freelance writer for the NY Times published a Style piece called “Taking on the food industry, one blog post at a time” – See my response here.
Updated 4/6/2015: On April 6, 2015, Gawker hired an ex-pesticide chemist to write a very unprofessional post about our work untiled “Food Babe Blogger is Full of $hit” – See my response here.