Food Babe under fire for beer campaign: Scientist sniffs at ‘Jenny McCarthy of food’


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Miller Coors, along with AB InBev, is one of the two big brewing names in Hari's sights
Miller Coors, along with AB InBev, is one of the two big brewing names in Hari's sights

Related tags Miller coors Beer Genetically modified food

Celebrity surgeon and ‘beer snob’ David Gorski has attacked ‘Food Babe’ Vani Hari for peddling pseudoscience as a ‘young, telegenic, clever but scientifically ignorant blogger’ attacking Miller Coors and AB InBev.

Oncologist Gorski hit back at blogger Hari - fast becoming a minor celebrity herself - in a Monday article for the website he edits​, Science-Based Medicine, which prides itself on evaluating product of interest to the public “in a much-needed alternative perspective, the scientific perspective”.

“Her transparency is very transparent, but unfortunately it’s also very effective: name a bunch of chemicals and count on the illiteracy of your audience to result in fear at hearing their very names,”​ he writes, in a scathing article - there's another one here​ - that is sure to fan the flames of controversy still further.

However, we can’t help but think that the wider mantra Hari pushes, that of greater corporate openness in terms of how beer is made and the ingredients used, carries virtues for brands beyond this particular spat with Gorski, particularly in the noisy internet court of public opinion.

‘‘Shocking ingredients’ list ignores the dose-response principle’ – Gorski

Since companies live and die by public perception, Gorski says it was easier for Miller Coors and Anheuser-Busch to give Hari what she wants and publish ingredients for beers like Budweiser publicly (they have done so, she still accuses them of concealment​) than “try to resist…her propaganda by educating the public”.

Taking Hari to task for her list ‘The Shocking Ingredients in Beer​’, Gorski says the list comprises various ingredients with no concentrations provided, “ignoring the principle of dose-response and the dose making the poison”.

Propylene glycol is used in antifreeze, he admits, but it also occurs in vaccines and e-cigarettes and was generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for food use​ by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) in 1973.

Hari wins further criticism for listing isinglass (dried fish bladder) as a nasty, but Gorki notes that it is used in Guinness as another form of gelatin to speed up the fining process – by helping to settle yeast and solid particles, and is easily separable from the finished product.

If Gorki has been saving his powder thus far, he blows a lot of it up on his criticism of Hari’s attack on GMOs – who revealed to readers of her blog that Miller Coors had admitted to her its use of GMO corn syrup.

‘Grains used in beer have been genetically modified for centuries’

The scientist provides a link to educational not-for-profit Biology Fortified in saying that “the most ‘damning’ studiespresented by anti-GMO activists to convince people that GMOs are pure evil have been thoroughly discredited by multiple sources”​.

“The basic fact is that the wheat, barley and other grains used to make beer have been constantly genetically modified over many centuries through selective breeding, as has nearly every plant commonly farmed by humans for consumption,”​ Gorski adds.

“Ditto the very yeast used to ferment the grain products into beer.”

Wrapping up, Gorski counsels against drinking too much beer – due to the link between excess alcohol consumption and diseases including cirrhosis and cancers – but not because brands sometimes use GMO-derived grains and sugars or “scary sounding”​ chemicals.

“Whatever grain of a possibly reasonable point (such as whether various food colorings are necessary [) is completely drained by her tsunami of pseudoscientific nonsensical fear-mongering about chemicals,”​ he concludes, comparing Hari to US model turned anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy.

After we contacted her on Twitter, Hari declined to respond directly to Gorski's attack. "I don't respond to name calling (I don't act like I'm 5 yrs old) but I did write this to address it". ​She then provides a link to her latest blog post with an update on her campaign​. 

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