Using sex to sell fashion products is classic marketing. Using sex appeal to sell nutritional advice? That’s atypical, but it’s exactly the method of quacktivist Vani Hari, the self-proclaimed “Food Babe,” who trades substance for low-cut tops on her widely read blog that preaches unscientific nutritional advice. A better name for her, therefore, might be the “Food Bimbo.”
Besides setting the feminist movement back several decades, the babe’s information falls off the deep end of nonsense: water will negatively “react” to being called negative words like “Hitler” and “Satan.” No, seriously, she actually wrote that. (So do water molecules only “speak” English, then?) She has also jumped on the extremely dangerous anti-vaccine bandwagon, claiming that flu shots can give you cancer. She stands against an overwhelming scientific consensus, claiming genetically improved foods (GIFs) are dangerous. The offenses against science go on and on, and in place of scientific credentials or resources, there are splashy pictures of Ms. Hari. (We count five on her homepage alone, at time of writing.)
Since she appeared on the scene, the mainstream media have largely given her wild claims a free pass, but that is changing following her successful public relations hostage taking of Subway for using trace amounts of azodicarbonamide (ADA) – a harmless leveling agent – in its bread. (Science journalist Trevor Buttersworth has called her approach “quackmail,” in that she exploits consumer companies’ reliance on the public’s perception to achieve her ends of building publicity for herself.)
Science writers have recently begun eviscerating her for her baseless and dangerous claims. Most notably (and aptly), is cancer surgeon David Gorki calling her “the Jenny McCarthy of food,” an homage to McCarthy’s evangelical, baseless, and dangerous opposition to vaccines. “Just as Jenny McCarthy has been a prime force spreading fear and ignorance about vaccines,” Gorski says, “Vani Hari has been a malignant force promoting ignorance about food.” This follows several other exposés on the babe’s “dumbassery.”
And yet, in spite of the fact that the Food Bimbo’s advice is solely sold by a heavy dose of skin, the media still treats her as a respected consumer watchdog. This may pass in the fashion industry but shouldn’t form the basis for nutrition which should be based on science.