Field of Science

Food Babe versus the Science Babe: Of Beaver Butts and Bullshit

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece for Slate about the Food Babe's tactics, prompted by the flurry of publicity for her new book, The Food Babe Way.  I pointed out the Food Babe's strategy of "malicious metonymy" whereby she deliberately confuses the source or use of something with the molecules.  So instead of reason you get "because beaver butts," her favorite example being that vanilla ice cream might contain castoreum, a  purportedly vanilla scented natural flavoring extracted from sacs found in beavers (yes, near their butts): "Readers of my blog know that the next time you lick vanilla ice cream from a cone, there’s a good chance you’ll be swirling secretions from a beaver’s anal glands around in your mouth." There is not, and here is why.

"While in low concentrations castoreum reputedly tastes of vanilla with a hint of raspberry, I’ll admit I’ve never tasted it. Not because I’m particularly disgusted by the source—I eat animal products and am inordinately fond of the fermented genitalia of Theobroma cacao—but because of its scarcity and cost. Enough castoreum extract to replace the vanilla in a half-gallon of ice cream would cost $120. Worldwide, less than 500 pounds of castoreum is harvested annually from beaver pelts, compared with the more than 20 million pounds of vanilla extracted from the ovaries of Vanilla planifolia orchids each year. Perfumers, not ice cream manufacturers, are the real market for castoreum. So while beaver secretions just might be in the expensive perfume you dabbed on your pulse points or in the aftershave you splashed on your face—did you just touch that with your hands, yuck—rest easy, there is no chance that the pint of ice cream you picked up at the store contains it. Not at the price you paid for it." -- read the rest at Slate.

The Science Babe took on the Food Babe yesterday in Gawker - neatly taking apart each of her standard tropes, with references to others who have done the same. The Food Babe wasn't happy and shot back.  Her response to the Science Babe, who has a long history of debunking her claims, begins with a nasty ad hominem attack.  But none of Food Babe's rant changes the science, or the history.

No Food Babe, nitrogen is not an additive to air in airplanes mixed in by evil airlines (up to 50% oh dear!), we breathe 80% nitrogen all the time.

No Food Babe, the microwave was not used by the German army in WW II, even Wikipedia knows it was invented after WW II.

Yes, Food Babe, that "MSG free tomato soup" you tout on your blog contains 400 mg of glutamate per serving and a lot of sodium, which makes?  Monosodium glutamate.  MSG.  It exceeds the limits for added MSG in the UK.

And did you know that Food Babe recommends high daily doses of oxidane, laced with 2-methyl-5-(6-methylhept-5-en-2-yl)cyclohexa-1,3-diene?  Write her now and demand that she confess to drinking chemicals with gross and hard to pronounce names.

Eat naturally, but eat knowledgeably.


  1. If you want to read a more balanced argument, read here:

    1. I don't think this is a balanced argument. I read and compared both Food Babe and Science Babe posts, I can see which one is Laing.

    2. It's not intended to be balanced. It's intended to be accurate.

      Science Babe has explained how Food Babe is wrong. If you care about your food, pay attention to the Science.

    3. I balance falsehoods with facts. How do you do it?

  2. "If you care about your food, pay attention to the Science."

    Really??? If you care about your health,ask questions about where food comes from. Ask scientists. Ask farmers. Ask corporations. Ask the corporations who pay the scientists. Ask the farmers who are being sued and bankrupted by the corporations and the scientists who are manipulating and patenting what used to be natural food.

    Why is it so wrong to ask questions? Consumers are ignorant, that's pretty clear. Does that mean it's OK to let scientists,let the government and let profit-hungry corporations take advantage of that ignorance?

    'Science' is behind all those food-like synthetic products that line supermarket shelves. Personally, I prefer to go to the farmers' market and buy a simple apple. Yep, it's an apple made of chemicals, but it comes from a tree and it hasn't been made in a factory. Unless it's an Arctic® apple. That's a whole other story. What used to be an apple is now a Twinkie, it'll never go off.

    And I guess asking those questions, or wondering out loud as to the long term consequences of eating a genetically doctored - and trademarked - apple makes me a quack - according to science.

    Because it seems that the only response that 'scientists' have to people who ask questions is to dismiss them as idiots or quacks, usually with a few profanities thrown in to make them look cool. That's a great start for an honest debate.

    1. Questions are fine, choices are fine, but basing them on fictional scenarios is not so great. The Food Babe suggested adjusting medication doses because of the effects of nitrogen in the air on airplanes. Since she made up the "fact" about nitrogen laced air in airplanes (it's the same percentage as air at sea level, pressurized to an altitude equivalent of 8-10 thousand fee), altering your medication would on that basis would be incredibly foolish.

    2. " Ask the farmers who are being sued and bankrupted by the corporations and the scientists who are manipulating and patenting what used to be natural food."

      If you don't mind me asking, what are you talking about?

  3. That's why this ridiculous Food Babe v. Science Babe BS is doing such damage to what is a very complex and nuanced debate. On the one side, we have hysteria and high school level hair-tossing simplicity. On the other, we have petty bitchiness taking the piss out of reasonable consumer fear and ignorance about the fact that science - which for the most part seems to be completely unaccountable - has taken control of our kitchens.


Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS