Remember when celebrity Jenny McCarthy was championing a cause that claimed vaccinating your children might lead to autism?
McCarthy’s outlandish claims have repeatedly been proven false, and she’s now become a bit of a laughingstock because of her viewpoints. However, McCarthy’s anti-vax activism still reached many people with false claims disguised as “science.” A lot of damage was done.
Now there’s a new McCarthy in the activist world, and her name is Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe. As her name indicates, the Food Babe’s issue isn’t vaccinations, it’s food. Also like McCarthy, the Food Babe is an expert marketer, knowing exactly which buttons to push to draw consumers’ attention to herself, her products and her claims, however questionable they may be.
That’s all well and good, but there’s one problem, a major one: A lot of what the Food Babe says is bunk. Often, her claims are based on fear-mongering instead of science and peer-reviewed research. That’s what several actual scientists and researchers said in a NPR story that focused on the Food Babe last week.
“What she does is exploit the scientific ignorance and fear of her followers,” Kavin Senapathy, an anti-pseudoscience blogger who frequently challenges the assertions in Hari’s posts, said in the NPR story. “And most of us are in agreement that we simply can’t accept that.”
A passage from Yale neurologist Steven Novella’s blog is also included in the NPR story:
“Unfortunately, the Web is cluttered with people who really have no idea what they are talking about giving advice as if it were authoritative, and often that advice is colored by either an ideological agenda or a commercial interest. The Food Babe is now the poster child for this phenomenon.”
Be sure to read the entire NPR story for yourself.
Hats off to NPR for doing some actual reporting on this topic and including scientists and researchers as sources. Too often, we see food stories that don’t question claims made by activists and don’t bother offering insight into the science behind an issue.
There’s nothing wrong with the Food Babe, or anyone else, asking questions about food and other food-related issues such as GMOs or additives. However, the dialogue about food should be based on science, not fear or commercial interests.
In the long run, misguided and anti-science efforts by people like the Food Babe end up doing more harm than good in the area of food safety and security.