Authors note: after selling the product described here for nearly 3 years, Vani Hari quietly removed it from her web site after this information went public. For the most recent information, please see Food Babe’s BHT Denial Doesn’t Hold Water.
All of her denials aside, a product being sold by Vani Hari (the Food Babe) contains BHT, and she has apparently been associated with a company selling at least a dozen such products since the summer of 2012. This despite the fact that she’s gone on record saying BHT should be avoided in all beauty products, due to supposed toxicity. Because Hari claims to personally use each and every product she sells, it’s troubling that she feigned ignorance of the product contents in a Chicago Business Journal interview yesterday, during which she offered a rebuttal of the article you’re now reading.
In a tweet last week, Hari called my proof of BHT in her product “bull****” and said the ingredients listed on the manufacturer’s web site (no BHT) were correct–despite being confronted with photos of product labels clearly showing the additive.
I reached out to the manufacturer and received the following response today:
Thank you for contacting us!
“Our apologies that our website incorrectly does not list BHT as an ingredient in Brown Sugar Body Polish. The packaging picture you attached lists the correct ingredients included in the product.
Fresh uses BHT as an antioxidant to protect the ingredients against the risk of oxidation. Our toxicologists certify that this use of BHT may be incorporated in our products according to the recommendation of the joint FAO/WHO expert committee on food additives and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review expert panel which confirm that the use of BHT in cosmetics is safe.”
Here is the “packaging picture” referred to in the email (click to enlarge):
Fresh is correct–according to experts, BHT is safe. I appreciate the honesty of this company. What I want to concentrate on here is the hypocrisy of Food Babe. How is it possible that she has been selling this product for 2.5 years without ever reading the label?
To be absolutely certain of my claims, I placed an order for Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish via the FoodBabe.com shopping page on Friday, February 6. Food Babe earned an affiliate sales commission from this purchase.
My order confirmation is shown below (click any image to enlarge).
The order arrived today, February 9. Let’s open the box:
As you can see, the item I purchased from FoodBabe.com contains the same additive at the center of Hari’s campaign against General Mills and Kellogg’s.
Food Babe’s web site claimed she used this product personally. If Vani Hari believed so strongly that this product didn’t contain BHT, why did she delete it from her web site after being confronted?
Based on simple forensic work on her site, it’s apparent that Hari has been associated with Fresh since July, 2012. The date of her association can easily be determined by examining the source code of her shopping page, which I saved before she had a chance to delete it:
Here’s a closer look:
Note the highlighted sections of the above images. The year and month that Food Babe uploaded each product image is included as part of the URL (Uniform Resource Locator). In this case, she uploaded the brown sugar body polish content in July, 2012. (Similarly, she got started with Josie Maran “Eye Love You” in December 2013, and John Masters’ Shampoo in December, 2011.)
I think the Food Babe Army deserves an explanation as to how their leader could have been using this product for 2.5 years and not seen the BHT on the label. Here’s what Hari said about the body polish in 2012. I’m taking this quote directly from the HTML markup of her web page:
“This is quite an amazing scrub. I could use it everyday. Makes my skin baby smooth and the smell is so nice.”–Vani Hari
You have to ask: if she personally uses this product and it’s clearly labeled as containing BHT, how did she miss it?
Apparently, everyone else has known about the BHT all along. Sephora’s question and answer page listed it as far back as 2011–a full year before FoodBabe.com put it on sale. Amazon.com, the fulfillment source for Food Babe, lists BHT. The product label lists BHT.
Does Food Babe actually use this product, or has she just been quoting the Fresh.com web site?
Fresh sells over a dozen products containing BHT. Isn’t it hypocritical for a blogger to criticize companies for selling a product with a certain additive and yet have a commercial affiliation with one that does the same? In July, 2011, she specifically said BHT in beauty products should be avoided. In her Chicago Business Journal interview, Hari waffled, saying, in effect, that her BHT wasn’t as dangerous as the General Mills/Kellogg’s BHT. A clever dodge, as the charge made against her is much more simple: she told her readers not to buy any beauty product with BHT, but sold that very thing for over 2 years and claimed to use it personally.
It’s important to stress yet again that Fresh is not the villain here. Like Kellogg’s and General Mills, they are selling a product with an additive that is recognized as safe by experts. On a personal note, my wife and I like Fresh products. I hope they won’t be punished for this.
What really saddens me is the willingness of some news outlets to promote Ms. Hari as a hero campaigning against giants. The fact that Food Babe has been “in bed with BHT” since 2012 has been made known to these publications and is now public knowledge. Thankfully the Chicago Business Journal (and sister publications) did present my BHT charges to her. Sadly, she sidestepped the issues.
Edited for Clarity
11 Feb 2015–link to Hari’s statement that BHT in beauty products should be avoided has been emphasized in response to comments she’s only against BHT in food products. Also added additional screen capture of Hari recommending the product in question.
12 Feb 2015–link to Chicago Business Journal added along with refutation of claims Hari made there.
Amazon.com, Fresh, and Food Babe screen snapshots are used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.
Why Is Food Babe Selling A Product With BHT?
Food Babe Shopping (She deleted the body polish after being confronted–see screen snapshots in article)
Sephora Questions and Answers: Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish
Food Babe on BHT in Beauty Products
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