It’s no secret that Vani Hari (the “Food Babe”) makes money from pushing certain products on her web site. Also common knowledge is the fact she uses scare tactics to frighten people away from safe and nutritious products in order to drive them toward those from which she’ll earn sales commissions.
What may be slipping through the cracks is just how pervasive this process is, especially now that the Babe is encrypting her product affiliation information before presenting it on her web site.
Let’s look at her recent article, “Do You Know What’s Really in Your Tea?”1 In a future article I’ll examine the hypocrisy in Hari’s recommending tea at all, since it contains one of the highest concentrations of aluminum in all food,2 and she falsely claims aluminum is toxic.3 If you’d like a primer on the safety of ingesting aluminum, check out my article here. But for now let’s concentrate on how Hari hides her relationship with Amazon customers. In her article, after countless paragraphs of lies and misinformation on the dangers of just about every tea in the world, we come to this:
You can bet your arse she recommends looking at this chart! We’re about to find out why. This nice graphic tells us that “Numi”, “Rishi”, and “Traditional Medicinals” are, apparently, the safest drinks around. No check marks for these three!
Then, here comes the confirmation–conveniently linked to Amazon.com for purposes of placing orders are these same three teas:
But where’s the Vani Hari connection? If you hover your mouse pointer over the linked product names and look carefully at your web browser, all you see is what looks like an innocent Amazon URL (“Uniform Resource Locator”… the way web pages are found on the Internet):
“amzn.to/16LydJk”… no apparent ties to Food Babe here, right?
Wrong. Let’s look at the “page source”… the hypertext markup language (HTML) behind the web page. You can click on the image to enlarge it:
“amzn.to” is a shortened URL used with bit.ly’s “Pro” service.4 “bit.ly” refers to Bitly, a web service company that makes long URLs shorter and easier to read. When you click on a bit.ly link you’re directed to a Bitly-powered server. That server translates the shortened link into something longer, then sends you along your merry way to the intended destination–in this case, Amazon.com. Looks innocent so far, right?
The tie-in to Food Babe comes with the “16LydJk” portion of “amzn.to/16LydJk”. This innocent-looking 7 character code is an encrypted version of a link to an Amazon.com web product page. That encrypted link also contains a Food Babe affiliate ID. This is how Amazon knows that Vani Hari referred you to their web site. When you buy, her cash register goes “ka-ching!”
You may not realize this when you land on Amazon’s web page. Just look at the following screen shot. The Food Babe referral isn’t obvious even though it isn’t encrypted anymore:
… but let’s copy that entire URL (highlighted, above) to the clipboard and take a closer look at it:
See the text “tag=foodbab-20” tacked on at the very end of the decrypted URL, where it couldn’t be seen in the browser’s address bar?
So, when Food Babe builds a web page, she encodes her own affiliate ID along with the Amazon product link. If you’d like to see how that’s done, the entire Amazon affiliate encryption process is simply and elegantly described in this LinkTrackr tutorial.5
Vani Hari… the woman knows no shame. She’s even trying to make a commission on cookware (you can see the stainless steel and glass tea strainer affiliate links encoded in the page markup I showed earlier):
As an exercise, try visiting a Food Babe page and hovering over all the links you find. You’ll be amazed how many products she’s selling. After warning her scientifically challenged army of followers about non-existent dangers in foods, she gets them running to Amazon like lambs to the
slaughter checkout counter.
Screen snapshots of Food Babe and Amazon.com web pages 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.
Please note: to avoid assisting with search engine exposure for quack web sites, I use the DoNotLink URL obfuscator on certain links. I promise you are not being redirected to porn 🙂
(1) Original Food Babe tea scare article
(2) World Health Organization: Aluminum in Water and Food
(3) Food Babe on Aluminum
(4) “Amazon Goes Pro with bit.ly”
(5) LinkTrackr Amazon affiliate coding tutorial
This is one of the things that bothers me the most about her and her followers don’t seem to get or understand. I have been a food blogger for years and have been around the scene, and it’s very common for bloggers to have an Amazon Store and make money this way, but the difference is the ethical bloggers put it all out there! They ask you if you are going to purchase items to do it through the store and it will help the blog. Big difference.
I really hope she is exposed for the charlatan she is. Nothing irritates me more than a freaken cult leader taking advantage of gullible people. (Although the gullible people irritate me too! Willful ignorance.)
I think your comparison to a cult leader is so appropriate. Her followers rush to defend her no matter how offensive she is. It’s SO OBVIOUS that she’s a shill yet people rush to her like lambs to the slaughter. It scares me that society has come to this 😦
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Given the fact I was born into and raised in a cult, I can spot the dogma immediately. I found the foodbabe because someone wanted to hire me to create content for a website just like hers. I took one look at it and was appalled. BTW, I grew up in the Transcendental Meditation Movement.. I am very familiar with their tactics, but only realized the full extent of how much they control(controlled) the whole GMO movement within the past year. It’s disgusting. I remember way back in 1996, the outrage about Bovine Growth Hormone.. and Mother’s For Natural Law as part of The Natural Law Party. The fact that the TM movement is directly profiting from the testing of GMO’s.. (pretty sure I’m preaching to the choir, but look up Genetic ID and Fairfield, Iowa if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
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Melody, I’m a choir that’s always willing to be preached to. The more background on what these folks are up to, the better!
So… do you know if Food Babe discloses anywhere that she is an Amazon Affiliate? It states under the Associates Program Operating Agreement (found at https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/agreement/) under section 10:
“You must … clearly state the following on your site: ‘[Insert your name] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert the applicable site name (amazon.com, amazonsupply.com, or myhabit.com)].'”
I haven’t seen any acknowledgment by FB that she participates in such program… although it is quite obvious that she does.
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Absolutely! I looked through her entire terms of service & privacy statement on the website and saw nothing. She thinks she’s above the rules and it’s bonkers!
Message received and replied to! Thanks Lindsey!
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