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Response: NY Times Lets Biased Freelancer Attack Food Babe – Vani Hari

This is a response to the NY Times article: 

Taking On the Food Industry, One Blog Post at a Time by Courtney Rubin, Published March 13, 2015

I am very sad to have to post this rebuttal to the New York Times story about our movement. The Times is among the most respected newspapers in the world, but it violated its own standards of accuracy and fairness in Courtney Rubin’s story about me last week. This story is a classic one-sided hatchet job.

You know the work we do is important to the health of millions. We’ve demanded transparency, helped remove questionable chemicals from the food supply along with other respected groups, changed major multi-billion dollar food companies and educated many people. This unfortunately is not the focus of the story.

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.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumer’s Union, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, The National Academy of Sciences, The Center for Food Safety, and many respected medical and scientific authorities support reducing the synthetic chemicals used in our food. Authorities in the UK, the EU and Australia have banned many of the ingredients we have campaigned against, based on the scientific evidence. None of these were quoted or mentioned.

Let’s examine who was…

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.

Furthermore, he has made sexist remarks about me including one that was quoted by Bloomberg Businessweek: “She gets on all these talk shows partly because she is easier to look at.” He’s been highly and personally disrespectful to me (2) more than once in public comments. He said “I’m addicted to the Food Babe”, called me “the stupid woman”, I have “zero knowledge”, that he’s concerned about “the location of my brain”, and I am “an American Hoax artist.” He cyberbullies by asking his students to post repeated questions about my credentials over and over again on my Facebook wall, although they already know the answer. I sent this information to Ms. Rubin, but again she failed to mention it – instead glorifying his comments like a thoughtful critic.

Ms. Rubin quotes Kevin Folta, chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. He does not specialize in health or nutrition; rather he is a crop scientist specializing in GMOs who seeks industry funding and support for this research (3). He has repeatedly stated in the media he wishes to improve the public perception of GMO technology. Dr. Folta writes for GMOAnswers (4) a website that’s funded by the biotechnology industry. There’s an obvious conflict of interest here – he is a pro-GMO activist and as you have read through my investigations, I have doubts about the technology and its role in the proliferation of chemicals that are impacting human health. I, along with the majority of Americans believe we should have the right to know whether we are consuming GMOs – he does not. UPDATE: Although Folta has claimed publicly he has no relationship with Monsanto multiple times, it was found during a FOIA request that he received 25k from Monsanto. Evidence & details herehere and here. FOIA request also revealed emails that show evidence of coordinated messaging between executives at Monsanto and Monsanto’s PR Firm Ketchum.

Professor Dr. Fergus Clydesdale of the University of Massachusetts is on the Board of Sensient Technologies (5), a “global manufacturer of colors, flavors and fragrances” – which means they make synthetic food additives. As you know, many experts find these artificial ingredients in food questionable and sometimes misleading – so of course he would oppose our work. He also served on the food industry front group International Food Information Council (5a). His argument that synthetic chemicals in the food supply are the equivalent of naturally occurring ingredients is not only disproven, but laughable. By his, and apparently this reporter’s logic, there should be no regulatory action taken against the proven carcinogens, obesegens, teratogens that cause birth defects, and synthetic estrogens or chemicals that have invaded our food supply and our bodies.

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.

I truly thought when I agreed to be interviewed by Ms. Rubin, I was meeting with a fair and unbiased journalist. Based on the last 48 hours of repeated tweets by her and others (11) I see where her true colors lie. For example, she chose to favorite a tweet that called me “Fraud Babe” and that claimed my “activism is purely an opaque money making operation.” She retweeted a spokesperson from a hate Facebook group. Ms. Rubin also repeatedly tweeted accusations at me. This is what harassment looks like, and is very unprofessional for a freelancer for the venerable New York Times. See screenshots below.

Regardless of her agenda, Ms. Rubin has a history of being misled before (12) and looks like she is being duped again by an organized food industry campaign against us.

Ms. Rubin’s story had many errors and omissions. Here are some of the biggest ones:

  • The dough conditioner azodicarbonamide is banned in food in the EU, Australia and Singapore. FDA allows its use, as they do many chemicals banned abroad, relying solely on industry representations without independent testing, and often without testing of any kind. Both the EWG (13) and The Center For Science In The Public Interest (CSPI ) (14) supported my Subway petition to remove it from their bread and agree the FDA should remove it from the “Generally Regarded As Safe” or GRAS status. FDA approval sadly does not mean proven safe – this is well known and legislation has been proposed to address it. (15) 
  • I never said that microwave ovens are ”causing cancer.” I said using them could create carcinogenic compounds. Many experts advise against microwaving food in plastic, for example, for just this reason. (16a, 16b) 
  • The beer investigation and petition was all about transparency. My objection to fish bladders in beer stems from the view that ingredients should be labeled, so that vegetarians can avoid them if they choose. I never said the ingredient is harmful. I responded to this argument in my beer investigations (17) – but this keeps getting rehashed as part of an intentional industry campaign to paint me as a fearmonger. 
  • Ken Cook’s statements about me were taken out of context. Ken is an advisor of mine, and several of the ingredients we’ve campaigned against appear on his respected Environmental Working Groups’ list of the “dirty dozen” chemicals to avoid in the food supply. Of course this wasn’t mentioned.
  • I (just like the NY Times and most other bloggers & websites) remove comments on my website and on social media pages from people making blatantly sexist, objectionable remarks, using fake profiles, and those that conduct astroturf, organized campaigns to harass over and over again. No apologies for that. I also provided Ms. Rubin with a 2-paragraph explanation (via email with screen shots of examples) of our social media moderating methodology, and this was not mentioned. We want to interact with people who truly want to have a better food system — promoting healthy ingredients on a daily basis and create a positive environment. A healthy debate is fine, but someone can make their point without stepping over the line and becoming abusive. 
  • Ms. Rubin wrote that “the dose makes the poison”, which is not always true. In the case of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, for example, studies show that it is precisely the lowest doses that cause an effect (mimicking hormone levels in the body) while higher doses have none. This statement also ignores the very real – and unregulated – problem of the additive and synergistic effects of the cumulative soup of chemicals we are being exposed to everyday. (18)
  • Since this reporter failed to do balanced reporting, I want to share this research by my friend and colleague Max Goldberg who documented the scientists and experts who do agree with our work. It’s a must read.

This story is just way outside the normal standards of a normally truly great newspaper. However, it won’t daunt or stop us from pushing to clean up the food supply to improve the health of this country.

Onward!

Vani

 

Sources:

1. http://web.archive.org/web/20070627055333/http://oss.mcgill.ca/

Slide2 Slide1

2. Derogatory and immature remarks by Dr. Joe Schwarcz:

Slide1

3. Kevin Folta – http://www.gainesville.com/article/20140629/articles/140629633

Slide3
Slide4Slide5

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4. Kevin Folta writes for GMO Answers, a website funded by the members of The Council for Biotechnology Information.

Slide8Kevin Folta does not support GMO labeling: http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2014/04/gmo-labeling-ill-agree-when.html

5. Dr. Fergus M. Clydesdale is on the board of directors of Sensient – a global manufacturer of colors, flavors and fragrances.

http://sensient.com/about-us/leadership

Slide9

5a. Dr. Fergus Clydesdale is on the Board of Trustees for The International Food Information Council. 

http://www.foodinsight.org/users/fergus-clydesdale

IFIC Fergus

5b. What is the IFIC? http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/files/front_groups_final_84531.pdf

IFIC

6. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/editorial-staff/david-h-gorski-md-phd-managing-editor/ 

7. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/traditional-chinese-herbalism-at-the-cleveland-clinic-what-happened-to-science-based-medicine/

8. http://www.mensjournal.com/food-drink/drinks/yes-theres-propylene-glycol-in-your-fireball-20141029

9.  http://www.ttb.gov/ssd/limited_ingredients.shtml#a

10. Food Babe Response to Critics: https://foodbabe.com/food-babe-critics/

11. Courtney Rubin, Freelance Writer for NY Times Twitter Account – sending unprofessional and biased tweets regarding this story – http://twitter.com/courtneybrubin :  

CourtneyRubin3

Accusations of banning:
CourtneyRubin

More unprofessional comments:

Courtney Rubin 4

12. http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/189752/nyt-reporter-photographer-fooled-by-cornell-students-giving-false-names/

13.  http://www.ewg.org/research/nearly-500-ways-make-yoga-mat-sandwich

14.  http://www.cspinet.org/new/201402041.html

15.  https://foodbabe.com/subway/

16a. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324493704578433290465517564
 
16b. http://www.ewg.org/research/healthy-home-tips/tip-3-pick-plastics-carefully
 
17. https://foodbabe.com/not-so-fast-beer-companies-why-arent-you-disclosing-these-additives/
 
18. https://foodbabe.com/read-ingredient-lists/

 

Link to original NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/style/taking-on-the-food-industry-one-blog-post-at-a-time.html?_r=2

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