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‘SciBabe’ tells animal producers how to fight misinformation
By WHITNEY PIPKIN
ARLINGTON, Va. (May 17, 2016) — Donning a black dress with gray double helix DNA strands down the front, Yvette d’Entremont asked a roomful of people who represent the animal agriculture industry where they think today’s food consumer is getting information.
The answer, she told attendees of the Animal Agriculture Summit last week, is too often “not from you.”
Consumers, she said, are making too many of their decisions based on food myths, Internet memes and the opinions of food bloggers rather than science.
That’s part of the reason d’Entremont says she launched her website, SciBabe.com, in 2014 to provide an alternative to the popular Food Babe activist, Vani Hari, who d’Entremont said has developed a brand out of “exposing” the ingredients in food products and shaming restaurants to ban GMOs or antibiotics.
d’Entremont now has more than 165,000 followers on Facebook, where she trolls the Internet for myths to debunk and creates her own memes to clarify misinformation, applying a master’s degree in forensics and her experience as a pesticide researcher to the task.
Among the posts on her website is “The Top 5 Dangerously Misinformed Mommy Bloggers.”
All this to counter the sort of headlines that typically garner attention even on mainstream news websites: “23 Worst Food Additives in America,” “9 Reasons Juice Cleanses Will Work in Your Favor” and “Diet and Weight Loss Tips From Zoo Animals.”
Consumers are also faced with confusing information on food labels at the grocery store and in restaurants. d’Entremont showed one label for “harmless” coconut water, but added that the coconuts that made it were likely harmed in the process.
She also gave examples of labeling conundrums that hit closer to home for this audience.
“One of the things people are really confused about is antibiotics. They’re not sure if some of the beef has antibiotics in it, whether they’re being served massive doses. Consumers need more education on this and they need it from you,” she told the audience of more than 200 representatives of animal agriculture. “It needs to not just be coming from bloggers like me but from the industry.”
d’Entremont challenged producers and their representatives to reconsider how they label their own products on store shelves.
Labeling a product as not including ingredients that science indicates are harmless, she said, can harm the broader industry and add to the perception that certain additives or processes are something consumers should avoid.
She showed a photo of a package of chicken thighs bearing nearly every buzzword known to the industry — such as “all natural,” “no added antibiotics” and “no coloring agents” — each of which imply that other chicken products aren’t natural, have antibiotics added to the final meat product and are dyed with coloring agents.
“When customers ask these questions, they’re really asking, ‘Is it safe?’” she said. “Someone has sold them a line of fear and they just want to make sure that they’re not going to hurt their kids.”
d’Entremont said proving and maintaining the image that a product is safe for consumption can be difficult, because all someone else has to do is introduce doubt.
She showed several examples of memes that have spread misinformation cross the Internet, and of her own attempts to counter that.
One of her posts uses humor to inform readers about “hormone-free” pork: What do a Major League Baseball player and a pig have in common? Using growth hormones is illegal for both.
She said these are the type of messages companies need to send if they want to speak customers’ language rather than allowing so many others to do so for them.
“Let them know that it’s safe and why it’s safer than ever before.” She said. “Show customers that you are a farmer. The biggest thing is to let them know that there’s a human being behind it.”