Vani Hari, the food writer known as the Food Babe, never met an industrial-sounding ingredient she didn't hate—even if said ingredient has nothing to do with industry. For example, Hari wanted beer makers to properly label and disclose their use of propylene glycol, a chemical she said was used in antifreeze. As it turns out, the product used in some beers is actually propylene glycol alginate, which is derived from kelp.
Although her ideas have been criticized as pseudoscience, Hari has a large enough following that she has seen some victories. Kraft dropped the artificial orange color in its mac and cheese, at least partly thanks to Hari. And after Hari likened an additive called azodicarbonamide in Subway's bread to the material used to make yoga mats, the chain dropped the stuff.
Even if her science is wonky at best and she likes to demonize big business, Hari continues to have influence. Her latest victory is coming thanks to Del Monte Foods, which recently announced that most of its products will eliminate genetically engineered ingredients and label such offerings "Non GMO."
When Food Babe commended Del Monte on its decision, the company tweeted back: "Thanks for the love. We are happy to join your #FoodBabeArmy."
— Del Monte (@DelMonte) March 30, 2016
Could Del Monte have known they were throwing their chips in with a largely discredited food advocate? The backlash began shortly after Del Monte's pro-Food Babe tweet.
Some object to Del Monte's declared affiliation with a person they believe is a charlatan.
Others object to the tweet because they feel classifying all GMOs as bad is overtly bad science. For example, geneticist Dr. Anastasia Bodnar told Forbes, "As a scientist, my biggest concern is that Del Monte and other companies are implying GMOs are bad by refusing to use them." She told Forbes that GMOs aren't better or worse than other breeding techniques. "The truth is, there is no quality difference."
— Farmers Daughter (@farmdaughterusa) March 31, 2016
Human molecular geneticist Dr. Layla Katiraee ttweeted at Del Monte wondering whether they were aware they were in fact biting the very hand that has fed them. She points out that genetic engineering previously saved the Hawaiian papaya—papaya that could very well be used in Del Monte's tropical fruit cup.
But Del Monte seems eager to garner favor with Food Babe's Army, so they've joined on, and are enjoying "the love."
When MUNCHIES reached out for comment from Del Monte, we received the following: "We agree with the many health and government organizations that have concluded that products containing GMO ingredients are safe, including the FDA, USDA, World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association. Likewise, we agree with the USDA and the many other regulatory agencies around the world that have concluded that BPA is safe to use in packaging."
They go on to explain, "Our conversion to non-GMO ingredients and non-BPA can linings is not a statement about the science around either issue. These steps represent our commitment to meeting evolving consumer preferences."
There you have it, folks. Will Del Monte rue the day it decided to dance with the pseudoscience devil? It's far too soon to tell, but all this talk makes us want a delightfully refreshing fruit cup.