Vani Hari, known to most as The Food Babe and to skeptics as The FUD Babe, is a blogger, affiliate marketer and self-styled consumer activist who offers a potent and media-friendly mix of good looks and bad science. She has been described as “the Jenny McCarthy of the food industry”.
Her signature tactic is rallying credulous followers via her Twitter hashtag #FoodBabeArmy to try to coerce businesses into making changes to products based on alarmist claims about their ingredients - a process colloquially known as “quackmail”. In this she has been notably successful despite the absence of any actual evidence that the ingredients are in any way harmful.
Targets to date include Chick-fil-A, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Kraft Foods, Subway and brewery giants Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors. Several have caved in to the social media pressure and removed sometimes entirely benign ingredients. [More details on a couple of examples appear in the reference footnotes below.]
Hari started her “Food Babe” blog in 2011 using skills learned as a computer science graduate and in her job as a management consultant for Accenture. She has no known qualifications in chemistry, biology, dietetics or any other subject relevant to the science of food. She does, however, have evident talent for monetising social media campaigns: many of the products she hypes are linked to direct sales pages via affiliate marketing links meaning that she gets a cut from followers who buy these products and others from the same store. She also charges substantial speaking fees, reportedly $6,000 for one engagement, which is quite a chunk of change for promoting your personal brand. Nice work if you can get it.