The latest skirmish in the war of anti-chemical crusaders against the food industry broke out in an unlikely place – the usually tranquil waters of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte. Vani Hari, author of the widely read Food Babe blog, recently kicked up a fuss by charging that the popular drink contains a cancer-causing substance called 4-mei, which is a byproduct of its caramel coloring.
As the name of her blog suggests, Ms. Hari trades on her trim physique to make up for her lack of credentials in chemistry, nutrition, or food science. No matter; not only was Starbucks forced to defend the healthiness of its product, but the Food and Drug Administration found it necessary to restate its longstanding position that there is “no reason to believe that at current levels it causes a health concern.” The FDA also noted that the amount of 4-Mei found in coffee is far exceeded by that in soft drinks, bread, and ice cream. But it’s difficult to counter the audience appeal of a headline like “Drink Starbucks? Wake Up And Smell The Chemicals!”