A "meme terrorist" is someone who basically induces terror in your mind with a meme, rather than an actual weapon. It used to be known as "fear monger", and modern communications with Youtube, Twitter, Blogs, and such have allowed more people to spread their often ignorant views to the world.
One recent meme that went viral is "azodicarbonamide" in Subway sandwich bread, that started with a boycott of Subway sandwiches by #foodbabearmy that resulted in scary headlines like "Subway sandwich chain to remove chemical found in yoga mats from bread".
Find out what's the truth behind meme terrorism, and what you can do about it.
What is azodicarbonamide?
What is azodicarbonamide? It has two primary uses, according to Wikipedia: a) as a flour bleaching agent and improving agent (i.e. improve bread for baking), and only in tiny concentrations (up to 45 ppm can be added to flour, that's "parts per million") and b) as a "blowing agent" (creates bubbles in plastic foam).
Frankly, neither of which sounds very harmful.
Now let's think about dosage for a minute. To give you a VISUAL representation of what exactly is "parts per million", here's a photograph made by Federal scientists of NOAA to illustrate the Gulf oil spill. Keep that in mind as we go think about what exactly would 45 ppm do to your bread. Remember, your bread is foamy already, so by weight... there's going to be virtually NOTHING in there.
How much of this chemical do you get? A typical subway bread for 6 inch sandwich is about 80 grams. Let's double that for the foot-long... 160 grams.
That's 0.0072 grams azodicarbonamide... IF it's still in raw form. That's so small it's less than a speck of dust.
But wait! During the baking process those would have turned into biurea and other stuff. There would be virtually nothing of the original chemical left!
Amount of this chemical that you'd be exposed to by eating the bread? So small as to be not worth considering.
What Did Vani Hari Claim?
Vani Hari aka "FoodBabe" started a petition in early February 2014 on her website, with the following picture:
Let's evaluate the claims.
a) "Azodicarbonamide is the same chemical used to make yoga mats and shoe rubber"
This statement is extremely incomplete. Azodicarbonamide, as explained in Wikipedia entry above, is a "blowing agent" that when heated, decompose into gasses that creates the bubbles in the plastic foam used to make yoga mats and shoe rubber. The primary ingredient in yoga mat and shoe rubber is rubber and plastic.
By the same token, the following statements are true:
"Sodium Chloride is the same chemical used to melt snow on highways. "
"Dihydrogen Monoxide is the same chemical that makes up acid rain."
But sodium chloride is salt, and dihydrogen monoxide is water. And everything I wrote is true, yet it just sounds that much worse, doesn't it?
That's the SAME sort of statement in the claim.
b) It (azodicarbonamide) is banned all over the globe because it's linked to respiratory issues, allergies, and asthma
Again, this is a lot of half truths. Let's examine the exact document as linked on Wikipedia to the World Health Organization report:
Data obtained by the United Kingdom’s Health and
Safety Executive at a plant milling azodicarbonamide powder
in micronizing mills (four samples were collected in total)
showed average personal exposures during the day shift to be
11.8 and 9.8 mg/m3
"Micronizing mills" is basically where the chemical, in raw form, is grounded and mixed with other ingredients, and workers are BREATHING the dust. They are exposed to FAR HIGHER concentration than parts per million, and they are BREATHING IT IN, NOT EATING IT.
If you breath in enough of anything, even all natural flour, you're doing to get sick from something. Those working in Pizza shops often develop cold like symptoms from breathing in too much of that loose flour. It's called baker's asthma.
In other words, this dust is no different from any other fine powder that can be breathed in. if you breath in enough of it, you're going to get asthma, allergies, and respiratory issues.
I don't see FoodBabe asking Subway to ban the use of flour, do you? No, she picked an ingredient that SOUNDS SCARY!
FoodBabe's Non-Food Claims Are Idiotic
Both of Vani Hari, i.e. FoodBabe's claims are half-truths that is designed to SCARE you. That's why she's a meme terrorist. She terrorizes you with some nonsense misrepresented as danger, and she wants you to act... to follow blindly, with no fact-checking on your own.
She wants you to follow her like sheeple, by clicking "Yes" "Like" "Retweet" whatever.
But who really is FoodBabe?
We've shown that her claims on this chemical cannot be trusted. What about her other non-food claims?
Apparently, Vani Hari made some extremely ridiculous claims NOT regarding food.
Exhibit 1: Microwave Pseudohistory / Pseudoscience
On her blog, Vani Hari / Foodbabe made some crazy claims about the Microwave. (NOTE: She has since deleted the entry)
Those of you who bothered looking in Wikipedia and verify the sources will find that microwave oven was INVENTED in 1945, patented in 1949, but did not make it to home use until 1970s. That's 25 years of research. But here's the REALLY crazy claim repeated by FoodBabe:
The microwave oven was developed more than 80 years ago, and in WWII German solders were given these ovens to warm meals
This myth had been around since the 2000s and think about it... it makes absolutely no sense. At 1000 watts each, there is no infrastructure in the field for the German army to POWER such "radiomissors" in the field. They have enough trouble to get enough fuel to get their tank moving. Who'd have fuel to power a meal heater, when there's plenty of engines firewood and such around? But wait, it gets better.
the studies that the Germans produced are actually some of the same ones Russia used in issuing their temporary ban of microwave ovens in 1976
There were no such studies. In fact, there were not even any evidence of such alleged ban of microwaves either. Likely, there was a temporary rationing of power due to electrical grid failure and thus there's an advisory to not use microwave oven until the power grid is restored. See the rebuttal over at rationalwiki
But this next one will really have you scratching your head:
Oh, yes, she repeated claims that water when exposed to word "Satan" or "Hitler" form a specific pattern, and microwaved water form the same "negative thought pattern".
Of course, she weaseled out near the end:
This fact (microwaved water is Hitler water) is probably too hokey for most people – but I wanted to include it because sometimes the things we can’t see with the naked eye or even fully comprehend could be the most powerful way to unlock spontaneous healing.
Wait, did she say she included it BECAUSE she does NOT understand it, but believe it?
That's faith, not science.
And while you're at it, read the rest of "Microwave Myths". (PDF File)
Exhibit 2: Flu Shots are Poisonous
It's absolutely amazing how much crap can one person write by simply soaking up all the crazy conspiracy theories and put it out there with a disclaimer.
And of course, this is NOT about food, but that's never stopped FoodBabe from expressing her absolutely ignorant opinion about what she knows nothing about!
But there she is, claiming to be showing the world the truth about "big pharma" hidden agenda about flu vaccine...
First she took a bunch of ingredients that was not in a flu vaccine...
Then she completely mixes up the different types of vaccines (the long-term kind vs. the seasonal kind)
Then she cites nonexistent "facts" like some countries banned flu vaccines.
Then she claims vitamin D and natural living will ward off the flu. ANY flu.
Vani Hari is a fine food writer, but when she starts to talk about stuff outside her world, she ventured into pseudo-science territory, and she seem to be just... WTF?!
And she's relying on people who forward stuff without thinking.
"Oh wow, that sounds bad. RT, like. Next item..."
Remember, when you don't think, you are STUPID!
And she's relying on your stupidity!
Don't give in to a meme terrorist. Fact-check anything you forward (else don't forward anything).
Don't be stupid.
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kschang (author) from San Francisco, CA, USA on December 17, 2014:
Water is a COMPONENT in acid rain, is it not?
the prover on October 02, 2014:
Well, sodium potassium is used to melt snow, and acid rain has a higher Ph than water. Big inaccuracies there.
kschang (author) from San Francisco, CA, USA on September 30, 2014:
I am sorry, I didn't realize you are prejudiced against sources that only includes citable facts, and thus are generally considered to be neutral and scientific.
Iambetman on August 12, 2014:
I'm sorry. I stopped reading your article after you used Wikipedia as a source to define azodicarbonamide...
Sonia Higgerbalm on July 27, 2014:
Vani is basically a scam artist. She uses her computer degree to design websites and pages that are attractive and get recognition. Then she opens her mouth and nothing but bullshit comes out. She's scamming all of us by getting paid every time we accidentally believe some of her bs. She's attacking companies she knows have a big consumer base so she'll "win big". It's not about public health, it's about paying for her lavish vacations at Four Seasons around the world. She's got her husband on her payroll, also. Every time you "like" her quack posts or products she endorses, remember you're sending them on an all expense paid vacation to somewhere exotic. Frankly, she makes me sick.
theend_myonlyfriend on June 27, 2014:
I've only just become aware of the Food Babe and her new project on beer. Her ignorance, and fear mongering is astounding. We need more people out there fact checking and combating her meme terrorism.
Noctis Wolf from Radford, Virginia on March 14, 2014:
Anyone who relies on Sensationalism and Fear (such as Food Hottie Vani Hari) should be viewed with suspicion. Why? Because they substiute that for logical and scientific facts. Illogical arguments and scare-tactics do not a correct and coherent argument make. And making the chemical that WAS used in bread sound scary does not MAKE the chemical dangerous!
Vani Hari, despite her smoking hot looks, is doing a grand DISSERVICE to people. She and other alarmists are terrifying people needlessly.
Oh, there is something called the "Halo Effect"; it's the tendency to view people who are attractive as being good people and correct all of the time. Looks have nothing to do with intelligence or wisdom. And looking sexy does not make up for the fact that she's spouting BS about topics which does not understand nor researched thoroughly. BS which is terrifying people when they have no reason to be.
If she is doing this knowingly then she should be tried and convicted for inciting panic. IF. If she is not, then she is simply ignorant and needs to stop scaring people.
MY sources [Warning to the Drones in Food Babe's BORG Collective: Logic and Critical Thinking ahead]
kschang (author) from San Francisco, CA, USA on February 26, 2014:
I advocate fact-checking, even stuff forwarded from well-meaning friends. If you don't know if whatever is *really* true or at least generally agreed as true by experts in the field, don't forward it. You'll just play into the meme terrorist's hands.
April Garner from Austin, Texas on February 25, 2014:
You know, I always wonder about all the stuff I see posted on Facebook about toxins in food and such. I never forward it, because I don't have time to check out all the tabloid-type claims I see online. Thanks for a well-written article pointing out you can't believe everything you read.