Food Quackery

Published on September 17th, 2014 | by Rayne


The Brand of the Food Babe: The potential for harm

Last post I spoke about the various ways in which the Food Babe has constructed her army and positioned herself as an “authority” on the subject of food (and chemistry, science and vaccines in general – apparently she’s an expert in immunology and virology now as well).

The Food Babe has not only branded her ignorance of all things food and science but she has also branded her image as well – that is, she has branded her appearance. She has branded her chemical phobia. Anyone who has seen a photo of Food Babe knows that she is pretty, toned and flawless. She looks like someone who puts a lot of effort into her appearance and looking good.

There is nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong it that she uses her appearance as a way to reel in more customers to her site and to her store. This tactic is reminiscent of the beauty industry – people are less inclined to buy products from someone who doesn’t look like what society believes those products should make you look like.

The only reason I’ve been able to maintain my ideal weight for over 10 years now and feel amazing, is because of my habits, food choices and routine. And now I want to share that with you every month in a digestible and attainable way.”

Maintaining a healthy weight is in no way a bad thing but as you would have seen in my earlier posts – using scare tactics as an incentive for people to buy your products, shouldn’t be acceptable. Scaring already confused people into becoming more confused about the food they eat – shouldn’t be acceptable. Scaring people about food enough the only person they have to turn to is you and your eating guides – shouldn’t be acceptable.

The website “This Week In Pseudoscience” have released an interesting blog post on the subject of Orthorexia NervosaOrthorexia has been coined by Steven Bratman, MD that describes his own experience with food. Orthorexia is characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy. Bratman describes orthorexia as an unhealthy fixation with what the sufferer considers to be healthy eating. The sufferer may avoid certain unhealthy foods, such as those containing fat, preservatives, man-made food-additives, animal products, or other ingredients, products that are preserved with additives can be considered dangerous. Industrial products can be seen as artificial, whereas fruits and vegetables can be seen as healthy (source).

As of 2007, two studies have been conducted regarding Orthorexia. Orthorexia nervosa: a preliminary study with a proposal for diagnosis and an attempt to measure the dimension of the phenomenon and Orthorexia nervosa: validation of a diagnosis questionnaire. Researchers Donini etal define orthorexia nervosa as a “maniacal obsession for healthy foods” and propose several diagnostic criteria“.

The questions included on the questionnaire were as follows:

1) When eating, do you pay attention to the calories of the food?
2) When you go in a food shop do you feel confused?
3) In the last 3 months, did the thought of food worry you? 
4) Are your eating choices conditioned by your worry about your health status? 
5) Is the taste of food more important than the quality when you evaluate food? 
6) Are you willing to spend more money to have healthier food? 
7) Does the thought about food worry you for more than three hours a day? 
8) Do you allow yourself any eating transgressions ? 
9) Do you think your mood affects your eating behavior? 
10) Do you think that the conviction to eat only healthy food increases self-esteem?
11) Do you think that eating healthy food changes your life-style (frequency of eating out, friends, …)?  12) Do you think that consuming healthy food may improve your appearance? 
13) Do you feel guilty when transgressing ? 
14) Do you think that on the market there is also unhealthy food? 
15) At present, are you alone when having meals?

I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of Food Babes followers (or Mike Adams followers) will develop Orthorexia, with the amount of scare-mongering Food Babe does. Amongst the scare-mongering is the message that if her followers just follow what she says – they’ll be like her. They’ll look like her. Except without the wealth of money and economic privilege to live an absolute organic farm lifestyle.

The stricter the rules become, the more expensive it gets to follow. More and more budget is engulfed on food shopping, and it takes longer and longer to fill the shopping cart, the orthorexic reading each label with obsessive attention, and following an ever growing list of banned foods and ingredients. As with any other eating disorder, food is not the real problem here. Specific causes can vary, but often revolve around a motivation to improve health, a need to improve self-esteem, a compulsion to regain absolute control over one’s life, a fear of sickness or a way to cope with a received diagnosis. Using one’s eating habit as a way to define self-identity or to fit in a specific group can also be an underlying cause. (source)” Genevieve April – “Orthorexia, also nicknamed the food babe disorder“.

“The obsession about which foods are “good” and which are “bad” means sufferers can end up malnourished. Their dietary restrictions commonly cause sufferers to feel proud of their “virtuous” behaviour even if it means that eating becomes so stressful their personal relationships can come under pressure and they become socially isolated” – “Healthy food obsession sparks rise in new eating disorder“.


Food Babe as you may or may not know, is a self-proclaimed “Food Investigator”. Quote the Food Babe: I’ve never said I was a scientist or a nutritionist,” but “I don’t think you need to have those degrees to be intellectually honest, to be able to research, to be able to present ideas“. Good point. People don’t need degrees or higher education to present an idea – but they should have some form of higher education or structured learning to present a valid idea that can be considered more than just opinion. At the very least people need to understand the fundamental basics of what they are talking about, you don’t necessarily need a degree but it would go a long way if you did. After all I would prefer to have heart surgery from a licensed cardiologist than someone who has read the first link that appears from a Google search.

For all of Food Babes downfalls (her lack of logic, scientific knowledge, ability to critical think or even her lack of ability to do research), people still hold her up to be an authority on what should be in their kitchen:

I do hope Food Babe remembers to tell this person that coffee is a Group 2B carcinogen (as listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer). Remember Group 2B? That’s the same group classification as 4MEI – the substance found in Caramel Colouring in Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte’s. The very same substance in the very same drink that Food Babe scared her followers with.

It looks like Food Babe has decided to take up that offer. In a recent post, Food Babe shows us her medical degree by commenting on the flu shot.

Alcohol is a Group 1 carcinogen as listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Unlike Group 2B (possibly carcinogen to humans), Group 1 is carcinogen to humans. Organic vodka is vodka created from organic ingredients that haven’t be in contact with pesticides but still contains ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Ethanol is a volatileflammable, colorless liquid with the structural formula CH3CH2OH. It is a psychoactive drug and is used in thermometers, as a solvent, as an antiseptic and as a fuel. It is not chemical free. The selling point of the Food Babe is that chemicals are bad – indeed the “Yoga Mat” controversy hinged upon the idea the same chemical used in Yoga mats were being used in Subway bread therefore it is bad. By her own logic, Food Babe needs to stop drinking alcohol.

That endocrinologist is going to get fired.

Because personal stories is how we know something works. Not high quality randomly controlled clinical drug trials or anything. Just personal stories from the Internet.

Here is Food Babe’s response.

Food Babe and other pseudoscientists who specialise in food have built their careers on demonising food – Food Babe has made a lot of money with turning food into a war. The science blogging community has been following and debunking pseudoscience since the very first days of the Internet. Some notable posts include:

The Philosophy Warrior has a great article on the dangers of eating clean.
Neurologica examines Food Babes lack of understanding around Chemistry and science.
Jon Stewart and the Food Babe: Toxins in your tea.
Science Based Medicine has called the Food Babe the “Jenny McCarthy of Food“.
Mark Crislip debunks the Food Babe scam.
Steven Novella takes on microwaves and nutrition from the Food Babe.
IanChadwick: Food Babe and other nonsense.
Food Friday: Investigating ‘Food Babe’ over at eekology.
What’s In YOUR Beer? Or, The Dangers of Dumbassery by Maureen Ogle.
The Curious Wavefuntion: The Problem with Food Babe. Food Babe – Stop Using Logical Fallacies.
10 Things I Wish Food Babe Knew.
Food Babe, my pumpkin latte tastes like shit.
Is the Food Babe a Fraud?
Five minutes of the Food Babe: Why does she matter?

Some interesting things to note about the Food Babe:

P.S: I know that Ethanol Alcohol is a bit redundant but for the sake of my not-so-scientific readers – Ethanol is Alcohol.

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4 Responses to The Brand of the Food Babe: The potential for harm

  1. Blunt Belief says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  2. Pingback: » Food Babe: A different kind of smart

  3. Pingback: Saturday five, 4/10/15.

  4. Pingback: » Science Babe vs Food Babe: Facts vs Failing Grade School Science

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