The battle of the "babes" continues. Food blogger Vani Hari (who goes by "The Food Babe") is celebrating a victory over Kraft, which just announced that the artificial dyes in its quintessential mac and cheese product will be replaced by natural alternatives, such as paprika.
Hari is a controversial figure, because most of what she says has no basis in science. Many feel she's relying on the fear of her massive following to gain fortune and fame without really making a positive contribution to the "safety" of the food they eat. She's the kind of person who uses "chemicals" as a dirty word, ignoring the fact that everything (including water) is a chemical. You are chemicals, Food Babe. You are made of chemicals.
But Hari has an arch-nemesis: Yvette d'Entremont, who goes by SciBabe, is one of many science communicators who are swift to debunk Hari's claims. Here she is on the recent Kraft news:
Hari declined to be interviewed for the video.
As d'Entremont points out, there were no particular indications that the food dyes used in Kraft's products were unsafe. And now kids who are allergic to paprika, which will most likely be used as a replacement to tint the cheese product orange, will be left out. The taste may also suffer, but we can't know that until we shovel some slightly-less-orange but still blessedly unhealthy mac and cheese into our faces.
Personally, I can't say I'll weep for the day-glo dyes of yore. But here's the real problem: Hari has a habit of picking out ingredients to go after for the wrong reason, and when companies yield to her (even if they claim they already planned to switch ingredients) her "victory" gives her more credibility.
Last year she led the call for Subway to ban a particular chemical preservative from their bread, because it happens to also exist in yoga mats. There are a lot of chemicals that are used in multiple kinds of products. Hari doesn't care: As far as she's concerned, Subway was force feeding you a dirty yoga mat every time you ate there. She did the same with Kraft. As the SciBabe herself wrote in a glorious take-down of Hari on Gizmodo:
Hari uses this tricky technique again and again. If I told you that a chemical that's used as a disinfectant, used in industrial laboratory for hydrolysis reactions, and can create a nasty chemical burn is also a common ingredient in salad dressing, would you panic? Be suspicious that the industries were poisoning your children? Think it might cause cancer? Sign a petition to have it removed?
What if I told you I was talking about vinegar, otherwise known as acetic acid?
But there's no dissuading Hari's loyal followers. It seems all we can do is hope that her next food industry target is something that's actually, you know, shown to be unsafe.
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