Ever find your hand at the bottom of a (family-size) food bag and still not feel full? It’s not your fault. Author and activist Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe, reveals the lies the food industry feeds us that are sabotaging our health. From manipulating studies to engineering food to be addictive, Vani breaks down how to spot food industry lies so you will never be duped again.
Founder of Food Babe
Named as one of the “Most Influential People on the Internet” by Time magazine, Vani Hari is a food activist, New York Times best-selling author of The Food Babe Way, and co-founder of Truvani. Through corporate activism, petitions, and social media campaigns, Hari and her Food Babe Army have become one of the most powerful populist forces in the health and food industries. Her new book Feeding You Lies: How to Unravel the Food Industry’s Playbook and Reclaim Your Health, will officially hit stores February 19, 2019.
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:36] Welcome back to the Happier and Healthier podcast. Today I have my friend Vani Hari on this show and she’s going to be sharing about her new book, Feeding You Lies How to Unravel the Food Industry’s Playbook and Reclaim Your Health. You’ve probably seen her Web site before, seen her on social media as the Food Babe. She is a food activist and author on a mission to get unhealthy ingredients out of our food supply through corporate activism, petitions and social media campaigns. Vani and her Food Babe Army have become one of most powerful populist forces in the health and food industries. She has been a pivotal force in getting huge corporations to remove some of the most harmful ingredients from popular foods. Her first book, The Food Babe Way, became a New York Times bestseller. And her second book, which we’re talking about today, Feeding You Lies, was just released recently and hit the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, USA Today bestseller lists and many more.
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Maria Marlowe: [00:03:11] Vani, thanks so much for being here.
Vani Hari: [00:03:13] Oh, I’m so glad to be here, Maria. Thank you so much for having me on.
Maria Marlowe: [00:03:16] Of course. So both of us have a very similar food philosophy. And one thing that drives me crazy about the food industry in general, particularly in America, is that they seem to run the show and there doesn’t really seem to be much oversight. So let’s talk about food standards in the US. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about food sold in grocery stores is that it’s all safe to eat. So I’m curious if you would agree and what your thoughts are on food standards in the US.
Vani Hari: [00:03:52] Yeah, absolutely. So. Like just to echo what you just said, you know, there’s this underlying assumption that every single thing you see on grocery store shelves is safe to eat. And, you know, we were very trusting of the American food supply when I was growing up.
Vani Hari: [00:04:08] I had two immigrant Indian parents that came here and they said, you know, if we’re going to be living like Americans, we’re going to eat like Americans. And the first thing my dad introduced my mom to after they had their arranged marriage in India and came here to the United States was a McDonald’s hamburger. And he’s like, here you go. You know, first time have a beef ever. You know, beef is usually like forbidden in India. And that’s kind of how I was raised. I was raised on the American processed diet. And for the folks that don’t really understand what these ingredients are that are being put into our foods and created to make our foods, you know, you really can get blindsided by what’s happened to the American food system. And it really happened about 50 or so years ago in the industrial revolution, where all of these different manmade chemicals were started to be invented. And the food industry realized that that they could actually create food with a lot of these manmade chemicals and saved money.
Vani Hari: [00:05:06] And so over the last 50 or so years, there’s been over 10000 food additives created for use. And those food additives largely have been only invented for one purpose, and that is to improve the bottom line. The food industry, they actually are not creating. You would think that these students, scientists at these food companies would create these chemicals to improve our nutrition or to add some health benefit or to make us feel better. But really, it’s to make their food perform a certain way, whether it’s to increase the shelf life of a product.
Vani Hari: [00:05:40] So, again, they make more money or it creates an addictive quality to the food. They add things like natural flavors or MSJ additives and other things that create a specific trigger in your brains. You remember a flavor, remember a taste, can’t stop eating it. So to create an addictive quality to a food or they’re adding different additives that again, or preservative in nature or some type of mechanism that they want the food to perform a certain way. So, for example, a few years ago I campaigned Subway to remove a chemical called azodicarbonamide. This chemical was banned all over the globe. Subway wasn’t using it and their bread and other countries only in America. And this chemical, when it’s heated, it turns into a carcinogen. But it’s the same chemical that they use in rubber and yoga mats. And if you turn a yoga mat sideways and you look and you see all the evenly dispersed air bubbles, it was the same property that they were doing the bread. So every time Subway’s bread would get baked in their stores, it would have this azodicarbonamide in it, so that the bread would be uniform across all stores so that everyone would know what they’re getting and they wouldn’t have these big air pockets that would be evenly dispersed air pockets. But this is obviously a chemical that’s not necessary in our food and provide some risks to the consumer.
Vani Hari: [00:07:00] And so I wanted to start a campaign to remove this because Subway wouldn’t pay like know I had written and posted about Subway for years before I started this petition. And finally, the petition got their attention and it opened up like the Pandora’s Box about ingredients in food because it was a worldwide news story when this happened. And people finally realized that a company that had the slogan Eat Fresh, that they weren’t eating fresh, were actually eating this chemical. And it just broke open kind of the discussion about ingredients in food in a way that went super viral and sort of it getting people to pay attention and look at their bread and other things that had this chemical in it. And they started to look at what they were eating. And suddenly you started seeing azodicarbonamide completely get wiped out of every single bread in this country. It’s incredible to watch. And just the awareness factor about ingredients and food started and people started really turning over the package and reading ingredients. And it was just incredible to see how one campaign can inspire people to start paying attention. And it wasn’t just that campaign. People to start paying attention. Many things, many activists and people like you, Maria, that do your work every single day to educate the public about ingredients in food and what they should be eating. But it was just it was amazing because it had just incredible power within the media and everybody was talking about it.
Maria Marlowe: [00:08:26] So I know it’s incredible what you’ve done and you’ve really mobilized thousands or hundreds of thousands of people to start being interested in what’s in their food, because I think most people, you know, when they’re buying a loaf of bread, they can’t even fathom that there are chemicals like that in it. Right. Like they think, oh, there’s probably some flour, some yeast, some sugar, maybe, but they wouldn’t even fathom that those types of ingredients are in there. So I want to thank you for doing this amazing work to really not only make people aware of it, but then to go after the actual companies. And in a way, forced them to take it out of their products.
Vani Hari: [00:09:05] You know, something that is happening across the board with just about every big food manufacturer, you know, they are making actually products that are with a lot more different controversial chemicals here in the United States and then overseas.
Vani Hari: [00:09:21] They actually make their products without these chemicals. And another great example was Kraft Macaroni and cheese. Kraft decided to take out artificial food dyes in Europe because Europe requires a warning label. When a company uses an artificial food dye, it says may cause adverse effects on activity and attention to children. There was a big study done several years ago that showed that artificial food dyes made from petroleum synthetic chemicals can actually affect the hyperactivity in children. And so Kraft, instead of taking out artificial food dye on all their products, they decided, you know what, we’ll just take them out in Europe because they require this warning label. We don’t want to put the warning label on our product, but we’re gonna still serve the safer unsafe, more controversial chemicals here in United States, because you know what? We’re getting away with it because our FDA doesn’t require these warning labels and doesn’t oversee these chemicals. And it’s a perfect example of another assumption that our food is being tested. And there’s a lot of oversight in terms of these chemicals that have been put into our food.
Vani Hari: [00:10:23] These chemicals largely have been invented by the food industry themselves. So like the food companies themselves create these chemicals and then they start putting it in their food to save money and to make money. And then they submit the safety data, which usually ends up being a very short term study, three months, six months, nine months to show, oh, look, it didn’t cause any harm in animals or anywhere. You know what? We’re going to be putting this in our food. Now, FDA, what do you guys think? OK, we’ll rubber stamp it because, you know, we don’t have the manpower or even the amount of knowledge to even understand the long term safety effects of a lot of these chemicals that we trust to food industry. Because, you know what? You line our pockets and you get us elected. So, you know, we’re going to continue to allow you free companies to like run the show. And so that’s what’s really happened, is that these food chemicals are being approved and safety tested by the food companies themselves that benefit from them. And then the FDA just rubber stamps it and allows it in our food. And so people don’t understand that a lot of these chemicals are very risky and we’re part of this massive experiment. And if you look at the disease rates over the last 50 years or so, they just continue to skyrocket. And we have a serious issue where we need to pay attention to what we’re eating and the packaged, processed foods.
Vani Hari: [00:11:46] I know when you eliminate those from your diet as well as you know, you start to feel so much better. And just like a different person. And that’s where, you know, I started my journey is when I eliminated processed foods, I went off nine prescription drugs. I mean, how’s that? I mean, that’s all I needed to do was start eating real food. And I no longer had to pay for all these pharmaceuticals and feel better and look better. And if it’s that easy, that’s the reason why I do this job. And why do this work is to convince people that they can’t really trust the food industry with their health. They have to take back ownership of themselves and really get into the kitchen and learn about food and become their own food and health investigator. And that’s actually why I wrote Feeding Lies, because the first book, Food Babe Way was great in terms of getting people on a non processed food diet. You know, it’s the 21 habits on how to break free from the food industry. But this book is really about all of the tactics and manipulations that the food industry continues to use to confuse us about what we should be eating. You know, when the media comes out with the sensational headline, for example, like coconut oil has never been healthy and never will.
Maria Marlowe: [00:13:03] Oh God. That was so bad.
Vani Hari: [00:13:06] Yeah, right. It was everywhere. I mean, it was all over social media. Tons of people were emailing it to me. It was on newspapers everywhere. My mom is texting me, going, hey, what’s going on with coconut oil? Why? It’s not healthy. I thought you said it was healthy and long and behold, it’s another way the food industry has figured out how to use the media to their advantage to confuse the public. And so I in the book, I take you behind the scenes of these types of examples and show you how the food industry has literally paid experts behind the scenes of organizations. That sounds so reputable. Incredible, like the American Heart Association. You think, you know, to an average person, the American Heart Association is this amazing association that’s like looking after your heart and they’re trying to rid America of heart disease and trying to make us all feel better. But no, they’re actually you know, that may be their motive. But behind the scenes, they’re actually getting their funding from the food and chemical corporations.
Vani Hari: [00:14:05] A lot of times the food and corporations have so much influence that they run the agenda and a lot of these organizations in this case, when this headline came out about coconut oil, it was being funded by the corn and canola industry behind the scenes. And so people need to recognize and understand these examples. So the next time there’s something confusing about health that happens in the media and on social media and everywhere, they can look behind the scenes and say, wait a minute, what what organization is this? Is this a reputable organization that I can trust with my health? Oh, wait a minute. I look a little deeper into this. The American Heart Association used to put their seal on Trix cereal. Like what? You know, you can’t trust that seal. I mean, that’s ridiculous. That that’s you would even be on a products like that. And so you start to use your common sense and you start to realize that you’re really smart. And in the food industry really wants to make you feel dumb. They want you to think that you have to believe the media. You have to believe that you have to believe the front of the package on what it says. And they really they use every trick in the book that they’ve learned from some of the most sinister organizations and corporations like the tobacco industry. And they use every trick in the book to manipulate you into buying a product that isn’t healthy. And I want to continue to make money. And honestly, the only way for us to make break free again is to become our own smart, savvy consumers that can look through these different lies and see the truth.
Maria Marlowe: [00:15:36] So you brought up one of the biggest lies that the food industry feeds us, which is they manipulate nutrition research. So you cannot believe every study that you see, every headline that is out there, because ultimately these media companies, they want clicks as well. So they usually over sensationalize the headline. And then oftentimes, you know, what’s unfortunate now is people don’t even read the article very often. Right. People just share things on social media without actually reading the article, without digging into where the research is coming from and then taking it a step further and seeing who funded the research. So when you do see these sensational stories, that’s kind of what you want to do. So you want to look at who’s funding the study and what organizations are behind it. Is there any other ways that we might be tipped off that it’s fake news?
Vani Hari: [00:16:23] Well, you know, obviously, if it goes against your basic common sense in what you’ve been taught about things, I think that’s another trigger. You know, once you see it again, these are sensational headlines. That’s a great way to describe them. You know, really do kind of feed into our fear and our emotions. And we really need to look beyond that. And that’s I think those are the ones that you really do want to sit down and read, you know?
Maria Marlowe: [00:16:48] Right. For sure. Yeah, I know. Same thing with me. When I when that article came out about coconut oil, everyone was texting me, e-mailing me fun doing this article. So I ended up doing this huge blog post on it and really breaking down the whole history of coconut oil and saturated fats and why they’ve been demonized and why they were wrongly demonized. So it’s really important that you do do your research and you find people or sources that you can trust for your nutrition advice for sure.
Vani Hari: [00:17:13] You know, what’s so funny is this happens not only within the food and nutrition industry, it’s happening across the board with politics and other areas. I mean, just this week, I was just determining like when my daughter should start school. Like, I was just curious about the age and starting to do research. I saw this study that said that, oh, they don’t need to start kindergarten until 7. That actually benefits them. Well, that just totally goes against my common sense. And I was just like, really, wait till 7 to start kindergarten and I start talking to my mom about this. I said, Have you heard about this? She says, Vani, she goes, Vani, this is just a way for you. This study was actually funded by the people that benefit for the fact that they don’t have to pay for your schooling and schooling for kids until a later age. I mean, this is actually you know, this is like another one of those like manipulation tactics to get parents to think that, oh, we need to, you know, figure out we need to pay for private schooling until 7 years old before you can go into public school. That’s another way for the government having to pay for schooling. So I was like, oh, my gosh, look, I didn’t even see through that. You know, and and I’m not an expert on the education system. And so for folks that aren’t an expert in the food and nutrition system, that’s why I wrote this book. It’s so that you can become an expert and you can kind of point all these different things out for sure.
Maria Marlowe: [00:18:36] And yeah, I mean, food politics is such a rabbit hole to go down once you really start realizing what’s going on behind the scenes. I know that personally when I was growing up, I used to love looking at the food pyramid. It was actually I was interested in how, funnily enough, when I was growing up and I used to have three bowls of Cheerios every single morning, because on the back of that Cheerios box, there was a huge USDA food pyramid which advised me to eat 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice or pasta. So I thought I was actually being really healthy by doing this and eating my bread and my sandwiches and pizza and all of that stuff. But I had no idea that those guidelines were not scientifically based, that they were based on political and economic interests. So fast forward that, you know, because of a lot of petitioning and scientists and researchers complaining about it, they eventually have changed it, which it’s now. The USDA, my plate. There’s still some flaws in it. But it just kind of underscores the fact that we you know, there’s this innate trust that the government or, you know, maybe even the food industry, that they’re not going to fear us the wrong way, that they’re gonna tell us accurate scientific information. But unfortunately, that is not the truth.
Maria Marlowe: [00:19:52] So, yeah, food politics is just a crazy rabbit hole to go down. But let’s talk about another lie that the food industry imposes on us, and that is how they manipulate the food to make it addictive. And I know you touched on this a little bit earlier, but can you speak a little bit more to what what are they doing behind the scenes to make sure that you keep going until that box is empty?
Vani Hari: [00:20:16] Yeah. You know, one of the most sinister ingredients that sounds, again, so like just benign and innocent is called natural flavors and actually have a whole chapter dedicated to this in the book.
Vani Hari: [00:20:29] And natural flavors are added to food because the food itself wouldn’t taste good without it. And so the food industry has figured out that they can use these added flavors to mass processed food or processed chemicals that aren’t real food so that they can make something tastes like real food. So a lot of times you’ll see know Quaker is a great example of this. They have this strawberries and cream, Quaker Oats cereal. It’s like a nice and oatmeal product, you know, little packets or whatever you put hot water in. And a lot of people who work in different office environments have these available to them to have a quick breakfast. And these things are literally just died apples and there is not even real strawberries. And then they add run 40 to make the dried apples look like strawberries. And then they add this natural and artificial flavor to the product to create that pop in your brain that make you think that you are eating real strawberries. But the worst part about it is it’s usually the one millionth best part of a strawberry. So your brain thinks it’s eating strawberries. And so your body keeps continuing to believe that you’re eating real strawberries, but you’re not getting the nutrition from the strawberries so that it actually in your brain triggers. Hey, I’m still not getting the nutrition from the strawberry, so I need to look for it somewhere else.
Vani Hari: [00:21:55] And so you end up craving something else and you end up eating more than you actually should. And so your cravings actually kind of take control of your body and your taste buds get hijacked, really. And so for me, I’m not interested in letting the food industry hijack my taste buds. So I personally decide not to eat natural flavors. Now, once in a while, they will make their way into my house. And one way they do that sometimes is when I have a you know, I have a low threshold for these and these chocolate organic bunnies and they’re like a treat food and they’re like a cookie. And I eat them and I can’t stop and I never can stop because I’m telling you, they add natural flavor to them. And when I make a cookie at home from scratch or with ingredients, my own kitchen, I eat like one or two and I’m good. There’s no like over eating involved. But when I open up that box of Annie’s chocolate bunnies, I can’t stop. And I know that my taste buds are being hijacked.
Maria Marlowe: [00:23:02] It’s insane because natural flavors is such an innocuous looking ingredient. And it is also very prevalent, not even just in a regular grocery store, but also in the health food store. Right. And you know, you’re saying that now. And I actually the other day I bought these energy balls which were made from nuts and dates and, you know, the usual of that stuff. But they did have natural flavors in it. And I know that it’s not great, but I was like, I really want them. So I eat them. And I had to eat the whole box. I could not stop, but just one or two. I just had to plow through them. And it’s true. You don’t realize it, but it really does hijack your taste buds. And before you know it, you’re you’re at the end of the box.
Vani Hari: [00:23:41] Yeah. And when you eat real food, your body has normal, you know, all the biochemical things that are normally supposed to happen to get you to feel satiated happen. And when you start eating chemically produced food, that is literally there so that you love that flavor. So that food company can keep selling that product and make you eat the whole box and you buy another box. I mean, that’s another thing. So people need to recognize that this is happening, and I think, you know, again, we need to make decisions based on that for sure.
Maria Marlowe: [00:24:14] Now, besides for natural flavors, are there any other very common ingredients that we’ll find in the health food store that we should avoid?
Vani Hari: [00:24:22] Yeah. Another one that’s added to a lot of different soups and Bone Broths. And things like that. It’s used to extract and it’s added into actually into like, you know, boxed organic mac and cheese and a bunch of the organic processed foods you find in the freezer section.
Vani Hari: [00:24:38] And so like yeast extract is one that is allowed in organic food that I think that is one that you want to pay attention to because again, they’re trying to create that normy flavor that acts like MSG and they’re still adding that glutamate acid. And, you know, MSG is just monosodium glutamate. So it’s like salt plus glutamate, basically to create that flavor in your mouth where your mouth your mouth is watering and you continue to crave a flavor. And so the food industry is figured out instead of using monosodium glutamate. They can still use yeast extract, which is that glutamate. And then they can add salt separately and still create that same kind of flavor profile that makes you kind of addicted to that food. So that’s something that I get something I just avoid because I get I don’t want my tastebuds being hijacked. I really want everything I eat. I want my body to do what it’s supposed to do biochemically. I don’t want it to be manipulated by these chemically produced foods.
Maria Marlowe: [00:25:35] And I think that’s why it can sometimes be confusing or frustrating for people. I know when I first started eating healthy about 10 years ago and I grew up on a standard American diet, so going into health food store was like going into a foreign country. And, you know, I was buying things like gluten free cookies or not gluten free cookies, vegan cookies and these red hot blue organic corn chips, which I thought like, oh, those are so much better. Which did have this yeast extract in it. And same thing. I would find myself eating an entire family sized bag to be supposedly healthier chips. Right. Not realizing that they’re actually just a complete junk food and they’re really not healthy at all. So, yes, yeast extract is a big one. And that’s when I definitely advise people to avoid 100 percent.
Vani Hari: [00:26:20] Yeah, I forgot them. That’s one of the main places it is, is chips. And, you know, all the a lot of the organic companies have tried to reproduce like Doritos. Right. Just be organic. But they’re still using these addictive additives that kind of defeat the purpose of making it organic. You know, I mean, I think it’s great for us to have organic versions of our junk food and still enjoy life. But again, I don’t want my food to be addictive.
Maria Marlowe: [00:26:45] Exactly. So you mentioned oatmeal earlier. And oatmeal is another food that I think a lot of people think is very, very healthy. But that’s not always the case. So let’s talk a little bit about oatmeal and what is the biggest problem with oatmeal?
Vani Hari: [00:27:05] Well, I think the majority of meals that are out there that people are eating are like super processed meals. So a lot of them come in those instant bags. And so they’re not in the kind of raw form, they’re still cut form. Now, when I eat oatmeal, I eat a steel cut. That is like very hard. It’s almost like a hard little rock until you have to cook it down. And it takes a long time to cook unless you put it in a crock pot, which takes like less than 30 seconds to prep. And you can make it the night before and have it ready in the morning and literally have no time. I mean, there’s no time to make breakfast. You literally just scoop it your bowl and add fruit. You know, almond butter, whatever, chia seeds and you have an amazing meal.
Vani Hari: [00:27:47] So the instant oatmeal out there is super processed. And then on top of that, a lot of it is an organic. So like the typical Quaker Oats out there, you know, is it organic? And so a lot of people are like, but it’s not real. It’s healthy. And they really don’t realize that oats in this country and elsewhere, too, are pre harvested with Roundup, which is a chemical herbicide that’s produced by the company Monsanto, that the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research Lung Cancer has found to be a probable carcinogen. The main ingredient roundup called glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. And so it’s really important for us to choose organic oats and then obviously go that extra mile, do steel cut, and then you want to avoid any of the flavored oatmeal center out there like the ones I mentioned and that are using just kind of fake fruit and additives in there. And then some of them add a lot of sugar as well.
Maria Marlowe: [00:28:45] Yeah. So those are all great reasons. Definitely avoid the processed anytime you refine anything and you processed something more and you break it down. It has more surface area. It’s going to spike your blood sugar more. It’s going to have less nutrients. It’s just not going to be the best choice. So you always want to go for the whole form, like the steel cut and then definitely organic. That was really the main thing I was getting at.
Maria Marlowe: [00:29:05] I don’t think people realize that glyphosate is sprayed on oats and other crops for that matter, which can be really problematic. That’s definitely pretty scary that these big health organizations are raising the alarm bell on it and calling it carcinogen, and yet we’re eating it every single morning as a healthy breakfast. So definitely choose organic. And I used to love eating oatmeal, but I started eating cauliflower oatmeal recently, like in the past year or so where I literally use cauliflower, rice and add some coconut milk and we’ll put some fruits on top. And it’s a really delicious, totally grain free alternative.
Maria Marlowe: [00:29:43] Oh, I have to try that. Sounds delicious. Yeah. Send you the recipe and I’ll include the recipe in the show notes. So speaking of glyphosate, let’s talk about labels like all natural and non GMOs. Yeah. So why are they not always what they seem?
Vani Hari: [00:30:02] Yeah. So you know, there’s a spin, this explosion of non GMO foods everywhere. We were just, you know, before we started the show for everyone listening. You know, we were talking about Expo Natural Expo. It’s the biggest natural products.
Vani Hari: [00:30:14] Expo is the biggest show yet in United States. And we must be both missed this year. So we’re lamenting about it. But ever since I started going to that. And ever since, you know, I’m just a shopper in these natural food stores, which has been an explosion of non GMO project verified foods or just non GMO labeled foods. And the reason is it’s because, you know, people are becoming aware of GMO foods and how they’re produced, which if the folks listening don’t understand, you know, GMO foods, the ones that we actually eat, the majority of them are coming from seeds that have been patented to withstand heavy doses of Roundup. So that the seed or the plant survives without having weeds in other plants around them that kill them. And so they basically survive, you know. And then in the actual crop, you know, you see high levels of Roundup actually when it’s harvested. And so a lot of the corn and soy and canola here in this country and it’s, you know, elsewhere to around the world, you know, is full of glyphosate. So we have to be really concerned about that. And so there’s been a widespread kind of awareness about these GMO crops. And course, we want to avoid them because of this reason. And so non GMO became very appealing to the public. But the problem with that is that even though you’re buying a bag of non GMO corn chips, conventional corn is also sprayed with Roundup.
Vani Hari: [00:31:50] And so the only true way to avoid Roundup or to minimize your exposure the most is to buy USDA certified organic. And so in organic products. Life estate is prohibited, any other type of synthetic pesticides are also prohibited. So you are reducing your exposure to these very controversial pesticides and herbicides when you buy organic. And so you can’t just buy a product that says non GMO and feel like you are. It’s a safe product to eat. I really very strongly suggest you get that label along with the USDA certified organic seal.
Maria Marlowe: [00:32:35] Definitely. And what about the non-GMO Project? Verified.
Vani Hari: [00:32:40] Yeah. So non-GMO project verified, all it means is that it’s not coming from a genetically engineered crop that food or any of the ingredients. Ninety-five percent of the ingredients in that product are not coming from any GMO crops, but they still can come from conventional crops sprayed with these same herbicides that we’re trying to avoid. I think the main reason is tricky. Yeah, very true. I mean, the whole I mean, the whole reason I want to buy non GMO is because I want to avoid exposure to those chemicals. You know, some of the seeds also are injected with insecticide and other things that we want to avoid as well. But the main thing is Roundup.
Vani Hari: [00:33:22] But a lot of people don’t understand that conventional products out there are also sprayed and things that you wouldn’t even think are being sprayed with roundup. Things like tomatoes and almonds and other really healthy things. So it’s really important that we buy USDA certified organic. We want to avoid these chemicals. Now, there’s different levels of organic, too. So people need to be really savvy about what they see on the label. You know, a product can say 100 percent organic. That means every single ingredient is organic. That means it hasn’t been sprayed with anything synthetic. It avoids a slew of chemicals, synthetic additives.
Vani Hari: [00:33:57] They only are allowed to use every single ingredient, organic. Other than salt water. Then you have USDA certified organic, which means that 95 percent of the ingredients are organic. That means 5 percent of them can come from non organic sources. But also it has to be non GMO as well. And so that’s when you’ll see the natural flavors sneak in to USDA certified organic products or yeast extract or carrageenan. There’s a list of allowable ingredients and USDA certified organic products and carrageenan is one that we haven’t talked about yet, but is one that, you know, they’re considering banning from organic foods. But it hasn’t been quite yet. But this is something that you’ll see and a bunch of nut milks as an emulsifier and ice creams and it can disrupt your gut and make you feel really bad. And so a lot of people wonder why they’re always bloated. This is one of the culprit ingredients for that. And so it’s you know, I say to avoid that.
Maria Marlowe: [00:34:57] I think it’s just also such a reason to just really choose real food. You know, even when you’re at the health food store, still go for the real stuff, still go for the stuff in the produce section and you know, the things that don’t really come in the packages with ingredient lists. That’s the way that you can really insure it because, you know, you’re saying all these things that I know all these things, but it’s just like it’s a bit overwhelming when you’re like, OK, I need to look out for this and I need to look out for that. And this chemical in that chemical and natural flavors and you’re like, oh, you can just avoid it all by just choosing the things that don’t have ingredient lists yet.
Vani Hari: [00:35:28] Absolutely. You know, in the book, I have a really great food additive. Listen, it’s not very long, but it’s the basic one that you kind of want to avoid. And that’s one place to start. But there’s another tricky organic label that I just want to mention before we move on to the next topic is made with organic ingredients. And that one gets me all the time, gets my husband, gets my mom, gets, you know, everyone around me. They’re like, oh, look, it says organic, but only 70 percent of the ingredients on products that say maybe the organic ingredients are actually required to be organic. So the other 30 percent can come from anything. And you’ll see this on Cliff bars and those type of products. No, Cliff Bar is a bought bar that I think they’re striving to go 100 percent organic, but they’ve been not a hundred percent organic for a very long time. But they’re using, you know, non organic soy protein isolate, which I find very problematic in other ingredients like that. But they’re using a lot of other organic ingredients. So, you know, it’s just you got to be aware and you’ve got to kind of look for that seal or that kind of percent label for sure.
Maria Marlowe: [00:36:35] So one other label that I’ve been seeing pop up over the years, not just on food but on various other products as well. Like I even thought I bought suitcases and it was on my suitcase. And that is a Prop 65 warning label. I’ve seen it on Coco. I’ve seen it on just a ton of things. So what is that? And should we be worried about that?
Vani Hari: [00:36:58] Yes. So this is actually really important topic. You know, last year I started my own company called True Vani. And this is one of the reasons why I started it is so that I could create products that were Prop 65 compliant, because every single supplement that I was taking was it. And that was really concerning to me. In California, they actually have requirements only in California that they have this Prop 65 requirement that they require products to be under a certain threshold of heavy metals. So led arsenic, cadmium, mercury, etc. And if a product has over a certain threshold, then you have required to put this Prop 65 label. On your product, and so you’ll see this label on just about every supplement and less the supplement company like ours actually goes through the extra measure of testing for heavy metals and ensuring that our supply is safe. Of that, you know, this was a really hard thing to do, especially with our protein powder, because pea protein, unfortunately, is very contaminated in this country. Even Organic.
Vani Hari: [00:38:03] And so we had to go through 50, two different suppliers and sources and failed tests in order to get our pea protein source that was clean. And this really opened up my eyes about what’s actually happening out there in the food supply. One of a big problem we have and we really need to require companies to start testing for these heavy metals and become Prop 65 compliant.
Maria Marlowe: [00:38:28] Yeah. Wow, that’s like super scary. I remember I used to see it. I used to buy this cocoa powder that had the label on there. And I like, you know, it’s not a big deal. They all have the label on there. So definitely something that we want to avoid. I know I got those suitcases that also had the Prop 65 label and I was like, oh, my God. I wanted to return them. They just smell like chemicals and God only knows what was in there.
Maria Marlowe: [00:38:50] But so let’s switch gears a little bit, and I want to talk a little bit about some of your big wins. I know you mentioned a few of them, like with Subway and removing the azodicarbonamide from the bread. I know you’ve done campaigns with Starbucks and a bunch of other companies, so can you just share a few of your wins and accomplishments as a food activist and getting some of these harmful ingredients out of our food supply?
Vani Hari: [00:39:17] Yeah, absolutely. So one of my favorite ones. I mean, there’s been a lot that we’ve been able to inspire change. I think one of my favorite ones, a couple of my favorite ones have had to do with transparency. So food companies for a very long time have gotten away with not telling us what’s in their food and actually Chipotle back in the day. This is one of my very first campaigns. You know, had this amazing slogan to do with integrity. But then when you went to the website, you ask what was in their food? They wouldn’t tell you. And that really bothered me. And so, you know, I wrote about it and then a petition was started on my behalf. I didn’t even start the petition. It was just started as a result of that article and politely actually ended up reaching out to me and said, hey, you know, we’re going to start to publish ingredients. And you know what? Some of our ingredients are GMO. And so we’re trying to clean them up. And eventually they went completely GMO free except for their Coca Cola that they sell.
Vani Hari: [00:40:12] And it was one of the things that no other fast food chain has ever done. It was incredible what happened as a result of that campaign. Not only did they go GMO free, they completely recalled the ingredients in their tortilla. They’re very clean ingredients. And like just a few ingredients used to have a laundry list. And now all of their ingredients are published online. And it’s just it’s incredible to see what’s actually in their food. And you can see that it’s actually food integrity now. So not only did they become transparent, but they changed their menu and did something that no other fast food chain did, was decide to go non GMO. So that was really cool.
Maria Marlowe: [00:40:47] That’s amazing. We have you to thank for that you and the Food Babe Army. So that’s pretty awesome.
Vani Hari: [00:40:51] Yeah. I mean, it wasn’t just me. It was just me. I was very curious about why they were saying this. And I just wanted to know the truth. And it was an investigation and it was normal. Everyday people out there on social media sharing these articles and sharing this and feeling the same way I did and just being, you know, fed up with these companies that say one thing and mean another. So we just we hold them accountable. And it happened. It was amazing and they were incredible to work with. I mean, they were very gracious and they weren’t like trying to, like, blackball me or anything. They were just like, hey, we’re gonna do this, OK? Now, another company that was totally different with Starbucks, you know, Starbucks for the longest time, you had no idea what was in front chinos or any of their fancy free drinks. They completely hid this information from the public.
Vani Hari: [00:41:37] And it wasn’t until I actually convinced a barista to share with me what was in the pumpkin spice latte that anyone really even understood what was in one of their most popular drinks. And so I actually wrote about this and shared what was actually in the pumpkin spice latte after I’d take it like like sneakily behind the counter, like taking pictures of their potions back there and saw that they were using like a very controversial ingredient, class or caramel coloring, which is not like caramel that you make with like burning sugar and butter. But it’s like stuff that you make in a laboratory that, you know, causes cancer and lab rats, you know, stuff that you do not want to be consuming.
Vani Hari: [00:42:18] It’s actually the same stuff they put in Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Another, reason why not. You know, you should get off soda, but they’re putting this in the pumpkin spice latte. I’m like, what in the world? Why are you coloring your product? That’s an opaque cup with this harmful chemical like. Are you serious? And so, you know, I wrote an article about it. It went viral. I was interviewed all over the news for it. And not only did they eventually change their formula for pumpkin spice latte and take out Caramel coloring for the majority of their drinks, but they started to post their ingredients for the first time in history and that was the result. I mean, the reason for that campaign was really to get them to be transparent. And they did it. But they were one of the companies that I wrote to over and over and over again and tried to meet with them behind the scenes, not to shame them publicly first, but actually behind the scenes. I tried to say, hey, you need to address this. You know, your competitors like Dunkin Donuts are posting their ingredients. You guys don’t like this. Is it fair? Like what consumers deserve to know, especially as a premium chain like you are. And it really bothered me. And they just ignored me. They eventually invited me to their headquarters and then renamed their offer from me. And that is when I started the campaign. I was like, all right. You’re going to do this to me for me. And so I went up all over the news and they paid for it. You know how it is. Yeah.
Maria Marlowe: [00:43:45] But both of these are just great stories that why it’s so important to use our voice and to speak up. Right. Because if you didn’t go in there and really find out and beg the barista for the ingredient list and get that, you know, things may have never changed and they may not be as transparent as they are right now. But it’s a great reminder that each of us has the potential to make a huge impact if we just use our voice. Exactly. Yes, exactly. OK. So those are just two. I know you have, I’m sure, a million examples of, you know, these great wins that you’ve had over the years. But one thing I do want to address, though, is that it hasn’t been always very easy. And you’ve been smeared a lot in the media and by science groups as well. And it sort of comes as part of the territory to attacking the food industry. And I’d love you to share a little bit about that and what’s going on with that. I think it just exemplifies just how sneaky the food industry can be and makes you really wonder why the stakes are so high.
Vani Hari: [00:44:49] Yeah, absolutely. You know, one of the things the food industry was doing and the chemical industry and I had no idea that this was actually happening at the time. So I was very naive. I thought if I write about this in the food companies change for the better. Like everyone’s going to be happy, like there’s not going to be upset with me. And that was just very naive because there was millions of millions of dollars at stake when these food companies had to make these changes. Their millions of dollars they had to spend doing it craft changing their mac and cheese formula, subway changing their formula, other bread companies having that remove their formula. I mean, you know, Starbucks having to reformulate all their drinks without caramel coloring. I mean, this is like serious money that was costing the food industry along with just inspiring folks to like understand ingredients and demanding that we have less additives in our food. I mean, it was just an incredible.
Vani Hari: [00:45:44] I think some of the biggest pieces where I got the most media attention was when I was talking about routine antibiotics and getting companies to stop the use of routine antibiotics in the production of their meat because the meat industry gets really dirty. And so, you know, there are trade groups and other people like dedicated to me to taking me down and front groups that were actually being paid from the food industry behind the scenes that I didn’t know this was happening at the time. I felt very like I was just like, I can’t handle the spotlight because every time I got into the press was not so that they could highlight me as an activist. I was trying to talk about gradients, the companies getting the message out about that. But what they ended up doing was trying to attack me as the messenger of change because they couldn’t take down the message. And so they started writing articles about how I was stupid.
Vani Hari: [00:46:34] I was called a bimbo in The Washington Post. I mean, there were people saying that I had literally knew nothing about chemicals in science. And they wanted the general public to believe that basically you have to not only get your information from experts, people who study this in sawmills, the situation in school, and they want the people to believe that they can’t figure this information out about chemicals and food, that they have to trust the food industry or the food scientists behind the scenes. And my message was, no. You are capable of learning this information. And, yeah, you can become your own nutritionist and your own health investigator if you learn and take an ownership in your health. And they want you to feel stupid so that you continue believing their lies. And really, you you are smart enough to figure this out. That’s actually what inspired me to write Feeding You Lies was going through all of these situations where I was being interviewed by some of the biggest newspapers in the world. I mean, The New York Times interviewing me for a profile piece and then the piece coming out and yeah, it was half good. Like in terms of like talking about some of the accomplishments and what I have been able to do with this movement. But then they were highlighting negative perspectives from people paid for by the food industry. I mean, one of the main people and then there was the guy on the Caramel coloring board of Caramel Coloring Company, and they were interviewing him as like a third party independent expert. And they didn’t give me the opportunity to point this out because I don’t know who they were interviewing, you know, to show the counter perspective.
Vani Hari: [00:48:14] And luckily, I was able to share it in my book, Feeding You Lies. Actually, open up the chat, open up the book with the story about how I sat down with The New York Times reporter. And it was almost like she was out to get me. And the thing was, she was because. I was looking at e mails, one of the ways I think this information out that these people were being paid by the food industry is I submitted Freedom of Information Act requests something that every American citizen can do when there is public available data about something. So a lot of these third party independent experts were actually university professors that worked at public universities. So I foyered their email correspondences with anything that had to do with my name so that I could see how they were interacting with The New York Times reporter or how they were interacting with chemical corporations or food corporations that would reach out to them wanting to pay them to be their spokespeople. And so I saw all of this behind the scenes of thousands and thousands of documents that I received and was able to untangle the web of deceit that was happening in the media. I really see who was being paid behind the scenes to take me down. And I was able to see who these experts were and realize they weren’t independent. They were actually working with the Food and Chemical Corporation to confuse the public and to try to convince the public not to follow me and not to believe what I was saying about the food industry.
Maria Marlowe: [00:49:43] It’s crazy, it almost reads like a novel. I like it. It’s almost you can’t believe that this is actually true and the web that the web of lies that the food industry has has woven. So for anyone who is listening and is just feeling outraged by all of this, besides for just making healthier choices personally when they’re at the grocery store, what else can they do?
Vani Hari: [00:50:06] Well, I think what’s really important for people to do and this has been a struggle for me, because there’s a lot of people in my life still in my family and elsewhere that just don’t eat like I do or you, Maria. And, you know, you really want to see the light. And so I think the most important thing that we can do and the only thing that has actually worked is just continuing to be the change. Literally, every time you learn something about food or nutrition, sharing it on your social media so that you can teach those around you, that eventually they’ll pick up those nuggets when you’re out to eat with people, when you’re making choices like talk about it and lead by example. Because I think that’s just the most beautiful thing that can happen.
Vani Hari: [00:50:50] You know, my daughter, who’s 2 now, is eating everything under the sun in terms of real food, not processed food, because she’s eating just like we are and we’re her greatest influence. And if I don’t bring in the crap into my house and I’m not eating the cupcakes and the, you know, the goldfish crackers and all that kind of stuff that typical kids eat, she’s not going to be eating it either, because she’s not going to know that. She’s not going to see it. Right. And so along the lines of when you know, when I have control and it’s in my house, I should be leading by example. And I think everybody should be doing that.
Maria Marlowe: [00:51:24] I agree. Definitely. All right. Last question. And this is a question that I’d like to ask everyone on the show. And it doesn’t have to be about anything that we’ve already spoken about previously. But if there’s just one piece of advice that you can leave our listeners with so that they can live a happier and healthier life. What would that be?
Vani Hari: [00:51:44] Know every single ingredient that you put in your body.
Maria Marlowe: [00:51:48] Yes. OK. Excellent. Definitely makes a huge, huge difference. Well, thank you so much for being here, Vani. If you guys want to check out her book, it’s Feeding You Lies. It’s available everywhere where books are sold. You can also check her out on foodbabe.com. And, of course, on social media. Thanks so much for being here, Vani.
Vani Hari: [00:52:08] Thank you so much, Maria.