ABC, NBC and CBS Hype ‘Food Babe’ Attack on Subway

Food blogger is no scientist, but the networks don’t seem to mind.

Whether it’s beef, tuna or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, the networks love to scare people away from their dinner plates.

The latest attack was on Subway restaurant’s sandwiches. Food blogger Vani Hari made another appearance on the networks to hype her claim that Subway uses the same chemical to whiten its bread that is used to make some yoga mats.

Despite not being a scientist, Vani Hari is a media favorite, and all three major broadcast networks hyped her story. ABC’s “Good Morning America” even included a gross out stunt: a clip of Hari chewing on a yoga mat on Feb. 10.

According to the Hari, azodicarbonamide, a whitening agent in bread, is also used in “yoga mats, shoe rubber and synthetic leather.” Sounds terrifying, right? But did you know that corn is used to make sparkplugs, food containers, bedding, shirts, carpet and crayons? The fact that something commonly used in food is also used in something non-edible, doesn’t mean that it’s dangerous to consume.

On any of the network shows, there was no real discussion of the dangers of azodicarbonamide beyond its use in yoga mats and some types of rubber. Although ABC News did comment in both of its broadcasts that the World Health Organization mentioned that some “studies suggest it may increase the risk of asthma, allergies, and respiratory issues,” they conceded that the ingredient has FDA and USDA approval.

This isn’t the first time that the networks have hyped Hari’s work. Both ABC and NBC covered her attack on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in March 2013. This attack against Kraft cited a flawed study that claimed the yellow dyes used in the product caused hyperactivity in children.

CBS and NBC both mentioned the attack against Subway on their morning news shows on Feb. 6, without mentioning the source of the controversy. ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Feb. 10, and ABC “World News with David Muir” on Feb. 8 hyped both the attack against Subway, heavily featuring Hari herself and citing her as a trustable source.

After cuing up a story on “Subway’s decision to take a controversial chemical out of its bread among outrage from customers,” ABC’s David Muir said on Feb. 8, “tonight here we ask: where else is that chemical?”

Ironically, as GMA pointed out in its segment on the topic, Subway restaurants have been endorsed by Michelle Obama as a healthy option. Subway told ABC News in a statement that “before the petition” they’d “already decided to remove” the ingredient from their bread. 

— Mike Ciandella is Research Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Mike Ciandella on Twitter.