Recently a graphic made the rounds on social media. It was from this chick who calls herself the “Food Babe” and it was full of paranoia, propaganda, lies, and bullshit — with a huge, HEAPING dose of food shaming. (I am not sharing the image on this post, because it’s food-shaming and gross and could trigger either eating disorders or an explosion of rage, and I really don’t want to give any of y’all aneurysms.)
You can easily see this image is a crock of crap if you go to Snopes (warning, they do share it). Honestly, I think the world would really improve if peoples’ browsers forced them to visit the relevant Snopes page before they can share any of those fraudulent pieces of BS to their FB pages.
Anyway. “Food Babe” has several problems with Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and Starbucks as a company, it seems. She actually appears to be on a bit of a crusade against them, which sends up MAJOR red flags as to whether or not I should trust what she says. She claims to be skeptical, but doesn’t realize that to be skeptical means to neither believe nor disbelieve — ie, be neutral — not hold in outright contempt. (Lots of self-identified skeptics could stand to relearn the definition of the word.)
One of her complaints? “The latte has no real pumpkin in it!”
Well, duh? It’s a Pumpkin Spice Latte, not a Pumpkin Guts or Pumpkin Seeds Latte. Honestly, having pumpkin mash in your latte would be disgusting and not drinkable. I ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte, not a flipping smoothie. I’m perfectly okay with that delicious spicy flavour coming from a syrup, not actual pumpkins. (Also, can you imagine the cost? Starbucks is already expensive.)
Mmm, delicious pumpkin-free coffee on a nice fall day.
The biggest issue with the Pumpkin Spice Latte, according to “Food Babe”, is the inclusion of Caramel Colour IV because it’s apparently carcinogenic. What she fails to note is that the thing that is carcinogenic, 4-MEI, not only occurs as a natural byproduct of cooking some foods, but is in levels so small the FDA has labelled it as safe. Here’s a quote from them:
What is 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI)?
4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) is a chemical compound that is not directly added to food; rather it is formed as a byproduct in some foods and beverages during the normal cooking process. For example, 4-MEI may form when coffee beans are roasted and when meats are roasted or grilled. 4-MEI also forms as a trace impurity during the manufacturing of certain types of caramel coloring (known as Class III and Class IV caramel coloring) that are used to color cola-type beverages and other foods.
Is there a risk from eating foods that contain 4-MEI?
Based on the available information, FDA has no reason to believe that there is any immediate or short-term danger presented by 4-MEI at the levels expected in food from the use of caramel coloring.
See that? It may form when coffee beans are being roasted. So you can’t even escape it by eschewing Pumpkin Spice Lattes and drinking home-made coffee. Don’t think your barbecue is safe, either, because it might form in grilled meats.
Bottom line on this one: the FDA may not be infallible, but they’re also not run by a cabal intent on hiding info to poison the world. Trust them on this one, and not “Food Babe” (whose qualifications are what, exactly?).
She also claims Starbucks is hiding the ingredient list, which is an outright lie, seeing as it’s listed on their website. Though it should be noted, the ingredients for the pumpkin syrup listed on the site is the ingredients for the sold-for-home syrup, which differs from the syrup used in retail locations. Namely, the syrup used in retail locations doesn’t have HFCS, while the sold-for-home syrup does.
Another claim: made with “Monsanto milk!” Yeah, no. Starbucks phased out the use of Monsanto milk products back in 2007.
“Food Babe” also seems to think that 50g of sugar is a “toxic dose”. If nothing else, this should tell you she’s completely ignorant and shouldn’t be trusted. 50g is not a toxic dose of sugar. A fruit salad would send you to ER if it were. “She’s probably talking about processed sugars,” you may shout, desperately clinging to the idea that this woman knows something (hint: she doesn’t). Even if she is, 50g of processed sugar is not a toxic dose. Most North Americans get that level daily, or at least weekly. Most of us would be dead or dying if 50g were a toxic dose.
Also on the list: “ambiguous ‘natural flavours’ that can be made from anything on earth“. OH MY GODS. NATURAL FLAVOURS FROM ANYTHING? IT’S PROBABLY MADE OUT OF BELLADONNA AND HEMLOCK, FOR THAT ZESTY AFTERBURN. Fear-monger more, lady.
Artificial flavours she claims are made from petroleum. Uh, sources please? Oh wait, you probably can’t supply any, which explains why there are none in the blog post and it’s all just a bunch of vague fear-mongering. (Which leaves me wondering about the critical thinking skills of the people who take what you say at face value.)
Preservatives and sulfites that “can cause allergic reactions.” Look, anything can cause allergic reactions. Literally anything. And on that note, Mr. Katje’s mom is allergic to sulfites and she’s able to drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes WITH NO ILL EFFECTS. (So long as she orders it without nutmeg.) So I seriously doubt the levels of sulfites are at a dangerous level.
“Possible pesticide residue from using non-organic coffee beans.” Oh my gods could you be any more pretentious. If you want organic coffee beans, go to a different store, and complain about how much more expensive it is while you talk about how environmentally conscious you are drinking a beverage made from beans that are shipped thousands of miles to make it into your cup regardless if they’re organic or not. Also, sources please? And maybe you could mention what kind of pesticides are used, seeing as there are MANY MANY pesticides that are completely harmless to humans. Oh wait, again, you can’t supply any of this info, because you don’t actually know anything.
Her final complaint? The latte is not vegan even with soy milk options because of the use of condensed milk products. Again: sources, please. Also: you are ordering a coffee from a place that gets hundreds of customers a day. There may be trace elements of something not vegan in your soy-substituted latte. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. It might happen. You may not get 100% precision with your drink made by a rushed barista who just dealt with three assholes and someone under the influence (I salute you, baristas). If you absolutely cannot abide by minuscule trace elements of non-vegan ingredients in your food, then I advise you to eschew lattes at Starbucks, stick to their regular coffee, and bring your own soy or other milk substitute to add. Or just make coffee at home. Or learn to like it black.
This entire sundae of BS is topped off with the words “THINK before you drink!” Not only does “Food Babe”, with her absolute lack of any qualifications in the area of nutrition or chemistry, want to spread a bunch of lies about various foods that people enjoy, she has to shame them for liking them. Food Babe, I did think before I had that Pumpkin Spice Latte. I thought, Man, today would be great for a delicious Pumpkin Spice Latte, and then I enjoyed a delicious Pumpkin Spice Latte and suffered no ill effects from it. Just because I didn’t come to the same (misinformed) conclusions you did does not mean I didn’t think.
While I spent the past several days ranting about this image to Mr. Katje and anyone who would listen, it became clear to me that I’d seen “Food Babe” around before — back when she posted some serious BS about the ~*~dangers~*~ of beer. That was thoroughly debunked by people who actually know chemistry and science. From the link:
Yes, it would appear that the Food Babe got her education from popular books and Google University and somehow got the messianic bug to save the world! Maybe a better way to describe her is the Jenny McCarthy of the food industry. Of course, I don’t mean that as a compliment. Just as Jenny McCarthy has been a prime force spreading fear and ignorance about vaccines, Vani Hari has been a malignant force promoting ignorance about food. Sure, mixed in with all the pseudoscience, antivaccine beliefs, and admiration of cranks like Russell Blaylock, is the occasional bit of good advice about eating more vegetables, avoiding too much processed food, and recipes that, for all I know, might actually be tasty. But the price is too high, buried as the occasional trivial bit of good advice is under the tsunami of nonsense.
Bottom line, Food Babe — or “Fraud Broad” as she’s becoming known — is a quack. She has no qualifications for what she’s talking about, and it shows. Her conclusions are BS and she thinks that “chemicals are dangerous”.
Right. Chemicals are dangerous. I guess we should work to avoid things like Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12), or (2R,3S,4S,5R,6R)-2-(hydroxymethyl)-6-[(2R,3S,4R,5R,6S)-4,5,6-trihydroxy-2-(hydroxymethyl)oxan-3-yl]oxy-oxane-3,4,5-triol (Starch), or (heavens forfend) 3,7-Dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione (Caffeine).*** All very dangerous things that will surely kill us! Live a chemical-free life today: stop eating, drinking, and breathing.
I’m not listening to anything the Fraud Broad has to say, and neither should you. Her stuff is not only fraudulent to the point of being dangerous, it’s food-shaming, too. If you want to read things from an actual nutritionist who won’t shame you, I recommend Michelle Allison.
And keep on drinking your Pumpkin Spice Lattes! I’m certainly not stopping. Not for Fraud Broad nor anyone else sans qualifications, avec a major axe to grind.
(And if you don’t like Starbucks or Pumpkin Spice Lattes or pumpkin, that’s fine too. I am certainly not saying you have to. Just don’t shame people who do, because it will do no good. Every time someone shames me for drinking Starbucks — which happens often — instead of going to a local coffee shop, you know what happens? On my next trip to get coffee from a shop, instead of heading to the local coffee shop (because I do like to go to both! amazingly life is not black and white! I can hold love for Starbucks AND local places in my heart!), I head to Starbucks. Every time you shame someone for ANY of their food or drink choices, period, an angel turns to stone, becomes quantum-locked, and puts you on its hit list. So stop food-shaming people, unless you want to get killed by a Weeping Angel. And you know what? Food-shamers totally deserve to have Weeping Angels come after them. Enjoy living your life in the past where you have to deal with what food is given you.)
***No, I did not know those chemical names offhand. I got them from this article.