Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Did "The Food Babe" really beat the macro breweries?

Back in April I posted a guest blog by Maureen Ogle entitled “What’s In YOUR Beer, Or The Dangers of Dumbassery” which was a point-by-point rebuttal to a piece of conspiracy journalism that was flying around the internet at the time called “8 Beers You Should Stop Drinking Immediately.” But even that was a re-hash of an article posted by anti-GMO conspiracy theorist food blogger Vani Hari a.k.a. “The Food Babe.” I was shocked, embarrassed, and disappointed to see that piece of drivel (and its countless variations) passed around by fellow beer bloggers and even some craft breweries (including Druthers, I might add).

My reaction whenever I see someone share a Food Babe blog.

I felt the need to post Maureen’s piece debunking the ridiculous allegations made by Hari and every other ignorant, malicious, “I know the truth they won’t tell you” wannabe blogger who shared and added to the article. I am quite proud of the fact that post went viral and has amassed over 216,000 views as of this writing.

The REAL Food Babe

“The Shocking Ingredients in Beer” was the beer world’s “Kony 2012” moment. I assume it was passed around so quickly and en masse for several reasons: it looked just like a Buzzfeed article; it made the macro breweries look bad;  the sentences were short and sassy; the allegations were shocking. After all, if it looks true, it must be true. Everyone needs a conspiracy theory to believe in, and “GMOs are a plot by Big Food to give us all cancer” seems to be a favorite of food and beverage snobs. I’ve no idea why since science is not on their side.

Anyway, last week The Food Babe started a petition and allegedly received over 40,000 signatures demanding the “Big Two” (Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors) reveal once and for all what’s in their brew. Surely, this would expose the fact there are beaver anal glands, fish bladders, high fructose corn syrup, and antifreeze in their beers just as she predicted, right?!


The Big Two responded by posting a list of ingredients in their major brands. Here they are:

Budweiser: Water, barley malt, rice, yeast and hops
Bud Lite: Water, barley malt, rice yeast and hops
The secret is out at last! Thanks, Food Babe!

Coors Light: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller Lite: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller High Life: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Keystone Light: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Blue Moon Belgian White: Water, barley malt, wheat, oats, yeast, hops, orange peel and coriander
Coors Banquet: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller Genuine Draft: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller Fortune: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops

When I saw this I just about fell out of my chair laughing. The fact they responded quickly, eloquently, and truthfully leads me to believe this was a passive-aggressive way of giving The Food Babe the proverbial middle finger. It’s in essence a form of very classy trolling, and I commend the breweries for having the chutzpah to do that.

Everyone who knows even the basics of the brewing process knows malt, hops, water and yeast are the primary ingredients in most beers by most breweries (with the occasional adjunct or flavoring additive here and there). Seriously, what else were they going to list as ingredients in their beers? Of course there are no beaver anal glands, no fish bladders, no high fructose corn syrup, and certainly no antifreeze as Hari alleged.

This is what happens when people who think like “The Food Babe” are given political power.

Regardless, The Food Babe has claimed “victory” because these major breweries acquiesced to her demands. You know who else claims “victory” over a major rival on a daily basis? However, the real controversy lies not with whether or not there are a bunch of scary chemicals and Frankenstein genetics in our beer, but whether the Big Two should’ve responded to this absurd petition in the first place. Allow me to address some of the complaints floating around the beer world in the wake of this story.

“By even responding to The Food Babe, the Big Two gave her legitimacy”

Just because you respond to a ridiculous claim, answer a stupid question or reveal “secret” information (that was never all that secret), in no way legitimizes the person or party making the demand. I doubt AB-InBev and MillerCoors revealed their ingredients because they were afraid of any kind of controversy or boycott, but because the facts make Hari’s allegations look so ridiculous. I’m no lawyer, but I’d think any of the companies mentioned in the original “Shocking Ingredients” blog could easily sue Hari for defamation or libel of some sort.

On a related note, Subway did indeed capitulate to The Food Babe by removing a scary-sounding chemical from their food. That revelation did not garner as much attention as this news item (among the beer world at least), but in my opinion it’s the bigger deal since Subway actually changed their product just to make a few wackadoodles happy. Once you allow people with illegitimate claims to affect the way you do business (even if it’s at no cost or a savings), then you’ve negotiated with the mob. NOTE: It’s possible Subway had already planned on removing that ingredient anyway and The Food Babe’s petition just happened to be in motion at the time.

“I shouldn’t have to defend Budweiser!”

You’re not so much taking Bud, Miller and Coors’ side as you are simply defending the truth and exposing lies. Propaganda is a weapon wielded by all sides on all issues, so let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that every allegations about every company, politician or whatever group or person we dislike is immediately true. Anyone that was suckered by The Food Babe’s original hit piece has now learned the truth thanks to the many debunking articles out there.
Not all propaganda is this obvious.

“The best way to defeat charlatans like The Food Babe is to ignore them”

In theory, yes. However, if you have the facts on your side you have a duty to expose liars for the frauds they are. The thing about truth is that it’s consistent, whereas conspiracy theories differ from person to person. Additionally, those possessing the facts have confidence and aren’t afraid to debate. Try going to The Food Babe’s Facebook page and debunking her claims using peer-reviewed journals and other legitimate sources. No matter how polite and articulate you are, you’ll still be blocked.

People who subscribe to conspiracy theories tend to get burned out eventually when they realize the only people and sources that back up their claims are those that just happen to align with their beliefs in every way (what a coincidence, eh?). Context is everything, and simply showing how ridiculously out of context allegations like “beaver anal glands” are goes a long way in getting the truth out.

In conclusion…

It’s nice to see many media outlets and plenty of bloggers have been covering this story and setting the record straight using facts and real science. This post is just one of the many salvos that will hopefully lead to the downfall of The Food Babe and others of her ilk. Here are some other articles and blogs I highly recommend reading:

David Gorski: Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe): The Jenny McCarthy of food
Trevor Butterworth: Quackmail: Why You Shouldn’t Fall For The Internet’s Newest Fool, The Food Babe
Jay Brooks: The New Yellow Journalism
Maureen Ogle: Beware the Dangers of [Profit-Driven] Dumbassery
Tom Cizauskas: Beer Wars: The Calumny of The Food Babe
Joe Schwarcz: The Food Babe is anything but an expert on GMOs

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