What in The World is Bobby Parrish Talking About?
Thank you to Food Science Babe, who not only provided me with the images and information for this Flavcity review, but who has also valiantly found against Flavcity’s misinformation on many occasions. As always, this post is my opinion.
Bobby Parrish, aka FlavCity, isn’t a food scientist or a dietitian. He’s a home chef with big opinions about nutrition. He has a multimillion business with hundreds of thousands of followers that promotes products, recipes, and nutrition content.
People eat up Bobby’s goofy jokes and ‘eat this, not that’ type of rhetoric. He talks about ‘cruddy ingredients’ a lot. He posts plenty of videos of himself walking through grocery stores, pointing out which foods are good, and which foods we shouldn’t eat.
In one recent video, Bobby is cautioning us against buying garlic from China. He incorrectly says that it’s grown in sewer water and has all sorts of scary chemicals like CHLORINE sprayed all over it. Food Science Babe, a food scientist and RD who actually knows what she’s talking about, said this about his video:
This is his thing…he points out an ingredient he can’t pronounce and/or doesn’t understand what it’s used for, like monosodium glutamate (which he has also fearmongered over several times) or like in this case farming practices that he doesn’t understand to say “ewwww don’t eat that.” In this case it’s specifically regarding garlic from China despite not providing any data whatsoever that it’s less safe as a result of these farming practices, which again, are not unique to China or even necessarily true or bad in the first place.
In another recipe video, Bobby is eating chicken nuggets from ChikFilA. As he eats, he reads off a list of the ingredients in the food, apparently as a cautionary explainer for why this food tastes so great. It’s the artificial flavors! It’s the MSG! So horrible for us! But it tastes amazing, because CHEMICALS!
Bobby says he hasn’t had a chicken nugget in a really long time, implying that this sort of food is beneath him because he’s so much healthier than that.
He seems to really be enjoying himself, though. In fact, he says the food is so good, it’s ‘like crack,’ completely ignoring the fact that there are people out there who are actually addicted to crack and that they – or their families – wouldn’t ever compare a piece of fried chicken to a serious, life-destroying street drug.
And in yet another video, Bobby is with his daughter at Costco, pointing out how Goldfish crackers aren’t a good choice because they have ‘GMO cheese’ and ‘processed oils.’ He tells us that we should be buying non-GMO oatmeal because they don’t have glyphosate in them.
GMO cheese doesn’t exist, but okay.
Bobby’s daughter Rose has her own Instagram account with over 200,000 followers. Bobby often features his daughter in his videos, while he talks about how certain foods are bad and harmful. Rose is 2 years old. Her recently published twee little picture book tells a story in which she makes cookies with Paleo flour.
I don’t think it’s right to talk about food like he does, in front of kids.
But I’m also thinking that using Rose helps Bobby sell things and get clicks and views. That’s just my opinion.
Still, people like to defend Bobby. In some cases he validates their cognitive biases, and in others, people just don’t know that what they’re watching may be faulty.
They say things like, ’he’s just teaching people what to eat! That’s a good thing!’ and, ‘I like to know what’s in my food!’ and,‘he’s not corrupt, like Big Ag and Big Food! Thank goodness for Bobby who tells us the TRUTH!’
Bobby has been publicly called out for his content, most notably in this scathing open letter by Farm Babe in Ag Daily. It shows an exchange between her and Bobby, in which he cites EWG and Cornucopia, as well as ‘farmers,’ as his evidence sources to justify promoting only organic foods and talking down about conventional ones.
Even if you like to know what’s in your food, that information is useless when it’s not correct or given in the correct context.
If you didn’t know, the EWG and Cornucopia Institute are organic food activist groups, not reputable sources of unbiased information. (I reviewed the accuracy of EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen here). Organic food is mostly a ruse, too – it’s far more expensive, and no studies have shown it to be significantly better nutrition-wise than conventional food. Yet, Bobby is a hard-core promoter of an all-organic diet.
Bobby has been mostly smug, evasive, or unresponsive when faced with questions about his sources, content, and qualifications.
Here’s an exchange between Bobby and Food Science Babe around his beliefs on flavourings. He calls her, ‘my friend,’ which is IMO just so infuriating and demeaning:
What did I just read?
His comments on social media posts are sometimes obtuse AF.
HEY, BOOBY: MS IS NOT CAUSED OR CURED BY DIET.
How exactly will we ‘pay for it later’ if we eat cheap deli meat?
I often get asked for my opinion about media personalities and ‘nutrition experts.’ It’s an unfortunate truth that even if half of what someone has to say is legit, when the other half consists of misinformation, conspiracy theories, fear mongering, or just unproven claims, it ruins their credibility. All of it.
So, while some of what Bobby says may be correct (even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while), the other stuff is what bothers me more, at least as a dietitian.
I had to review FlavCity aka Bobby for myself.
It would be impossible for me to address every piece of content that Bobby has put out there, so I chose a few of his YouTube videos to see what he’s all about.
In a March, 2020 YouTube, Bobby is in Whole Foods. He starts off with the well-worn and disproven myth that we should the perimeter of the supermarket, saying, “There’s a lot of bad actors in the middle aisles of the supermarket’ that are bad for brain, gut, microbiome, intestines…”
Does he mean that the gut, microbiome, and intestines are all separate things? I think he’s referring to one. thing. here, but using three words. SCIENCE!
He then starts to pull items off the shelves and explain why they’re so horrible for us. Predictably, he starts with oils.
If you didn’t know, Bobby hates seed and vegetable oils. I know he has videos specifically on oils, but he talks about them all the time in other videos like this one.
He tells us that agricultural cooking oils like canola are highly processed and refined. That if they aren’t organic, they are processed with hexane, and that oils like this are ‘highly inflammatory’ and they cause higher cholesterol because the cholesterol ‘goes to the body to reduce inflammation.’
He then drops the bomb that ‘our brains can’t recognize and don’t know what to do with fatty acids from oils that are processed with such high heat.’
Is this true? No. It is not. It’s actually crazytalk. Oils like canola are perfectly safe, and they aren’t inflammatory according to any research. Hexane levels in canola oil are minute. And that stuff about our brains not recognizing fatty acids? I have no idea what he’s even talking about. Keto bros like Booby love to hate on seed oils, even with the lack of evidence for doing so.
Also: cholesterol doesn’t ‘go to the body to reduce inflammation.’ That’s not a thing. Our bodies don’t produce cholesterol in order to calm inflammation.
In another video, he attacks the oils in supplements (while putting in a plug for supplements he promotes, OF COURSE).
He strolls down the vitamin aisle and tells us that there’s ‘processed inflammatory GMO corn oil and soybean oil’ in the vitamin D he picks up. He says that these things ‘reverse the effect’ of the supplement, and that processed oils are highly inflammatory, and that they contain free radicals that ‘destroy the cells in your body.’
This is not correct. The amount of oils in supplements is minute and even so, they don’t ‘reverse’ anything about the supplement.
And about that free radical comment: oils don’t ‘contain’ free radicals, free radicals are created by the body. Even if a substance creates free radicals in the body, other things we eat (antioxidants, anyone?) and do can get rid of them. This is just pure, overblown fear mongering.
Back to the March 2020 vid, Bobby then starts in on carrageenan. He points out a can of whipped cream that contains carrageenan, and warns us to avoid it because it’s ‘very inflammatory and it will ‘do bad things to your gut and intestines.’
What bad things, he doesn’t say. And hey, Boob, the ‘gut’ and ‘intestines’ are the same things.
He does tell us that ‘in some studies, doctors give patients carrageenan to induce inflammation. I would not put that in my body, there are other emulsifiers that are much safer’ The use of the word ‘safer’ implies that this ingredient is unsafe, but this is not supported by evidence.
In his medical reference, Bobby appears to be confusing food-grade carrageenan with poligeenan, which is NOT used in food. And it’s not given to ‘induce inflammation;’ it’s added to barium to change its viscosity for imaging procedures.
On a tangent, Bobby says ‘natural flavors aren’t natural,’ like it’s some sort of tagline. Bobby hates natural flavors, and he even goes off on RX Bars because they were previously ‘Bobby approved’ but they tricked him with their natural flavors.
It’s important to note that natural flavors aren’t ‘bad’ at all. There is nothing harmful about them, especially in the amounts we consume. This sort of blanket ‘it’s all bad’ language pops up a lot in the FlavCity videos. It’s a flawed and unhelpful way of talking about an entire group of ingredients.
In Feb 2022, Bobby released another grocery store video. It starts with Bobby in a classic rant:
‘This is Bobby coming atcha from the grocery store, and I’m MAD. I’m mad as heck and I’m not gonna take it anymore, because when you walk around the grocery store and see the ingredients in these food products that people are buying every day, it makes me so angry because these aren’t even real ingredients, sometimes they aren’t even real food, just loaded with filler, sugar, and ingredients that are going to make you fat, sick, and nearly dead.’
That sounds scary! Booby is mad and ranting about fake food, and we’re going to die if we eat things! He doesn’t look mad, though. Maybe that’s because he knows that when he makes videos and promotes products, he’s going to make money!
Newsflash: if you’re eating food, it’s not ‘fake.’ Some people can only afford to buy the ‘fake food’ with ‘grubby oils’ that Bobby sh*ts all over. Something to think about. Not everyone can afford to shop at Whole Foods, Booby.
Of course, Bobby stops ranting long enough to mention his ‘Bobby Approved’ app, which he does a lot. In fact, in every video I watched, Bobby plugged his app, the e-commerce site Thrive Market, and many other products, which he manages to name-drop very unobtrusively.
In this video, Bobby shows us Laird Pili nuts. I found these online for $13 USD for 3-1oz bags.
He doesn’t say that they’re paying him to mention them, but ‘Laird Superfoods’ is on the ‘Promos’ page on his site. Bob tells us to use his promo code – if you spend $40, you get 20% off.
How curious is it that I found this ‘Bobby Parrish Bundle’ on the Laird Superfoods website:
A bunch of things that nobody needs, for almost $100. What a deal!
Isn’t it illegal to promote products without disclosing the relationship between promoter and the product company? The FTC says it is.
Because it’s Super Bowl weekend (He makes lame Super Bowl jokes throughout this video), Boob decides to sh*t on Doritos. He says, ‘There are a couple chips that I find criminal.’ Doritos are one of them, because they’re made from ‘GMO corn fried in sunflower oil are GMO corn oil.’ He looks at the ingredient list on the bag, and says, ‘when you see that many ingredients, it makes red flags go up.’
The number of ingredients in anything doesn’t automatically mean that the food isn’t healthy, but anyhow. This too is a tired old myth.
I knew that when Bobby picked up the Doritos, he was going to go on an MSG tirade, and I wasn’t disappointed.
He points out MSG in the Doritos ingredient list, and tells us, ‘MSG IS BAD FOR YOU. MSG is a chemically made, man-made flavour enhancer that has one job: to hijack your tastebuds, makes your brain excited, produce ‘excitogens,’ and makes you crave more food.’ In another video he says that MSG is ‘pure chemicals that can really mess up your brain.’ He says that it tricks your brain and taste buds to crave more food, so that food companies make more money.
If you haven’t noticed yet, Booby loves to catastrophize outcomes and weaponize foods to make them appear ‘toxic.’
Let’s get this straight, then:
Food companies using MSG so people think their products are delicious and buy more = bad.
Making money by spreading fear and misinformation about food = good?
You don’t say.
MSG makes food taste delicious, and has been used around the world for decades. Bobby mentions natural MSG which he declares is ‘fine,’ and ‘man-made MSG is horrible for you.’ Besides the fact that naturally-occurring MSG is no different nutritionally from packaged MSG, there has been no evidence at all that supports the claim of MSG being harmful to humans.
This is called the ‘naturalistic fallacy,‘ and it’s one Bobby uses a lot. It’s when someone argues that if something is natural, it must be good for us. It’s untrue, of course, hence the name ‘fallacy.’
Do I want you to eat unlimited amounts of Doritos? Of course not. But, I want you to be able to enjoy food and make educated decisions about what you eat, instead of choosing out of fear.
Bob then decides to attack juice, specifically Diet Ocean Spray, which he says is ‘basically watered down concoction of really bad ingredients, it’s really bad news, and Sucralose, that’s a terrible sweetener that’s very bad for your gut.’
The studies on the effect of Sucralose on the gut are in animals and lab dishes. They have been done by giving rodents Sucralose in amounts so large that most of us would never consume that much, or in cells in lab dishes, and extrapolating it to humans. This tells us nothing about how this ingredient behaves in an actual human body.I don’t want you to take what Bobby says and let it turn you into a nervous wreck about having sweeteners every so often.
Taking a grain of truth and blowing all of this out of proportion is a common method that’s used in the Wellness sphere to get us to adopt a certain way of thinking (and to spend money). It also seems to be Bobby’s intention to scare us about ingredients and foods, then give us ‘information’ to ‘save’ us, all the while convincing us to embrace his narrative and buy his ‘Bobby Approved’ products.
He then turns to Goldfish crackers, saying, that the enriched flour in them is ‘really processed, it has no nutrition. And I don’t think kids or anyone should be having too much gluten, because it’s inflammatory… the oils in these crackers, GMO processed canola oil, and GMO processed soybean oil, and the cheese isn’t organic.’
Also: gluten is not inflammatory, unless you’re allergic to it. Whole grains are actually anti-inflammatory, according to the science.
So yes, you can feed your kids gluten-containing foods.
In perhaps the most egregious show of elitism (and there have been many, up until this point), Booby hits the baby formula aisle and starts his intolerable bloviating.
‘The first ingredient is corn syrup solids. Corn syrup is the most addictive form of sugar there is literally baby steps to possibly childhood obesity, childhood diabetes.’
Wow. Food shaming and anxiety for parents. Not okay.
He then points out that a formula has ‘partially hydrolyzed nonfat milk,’ and says, ‘not even regular milk, it’s hydrolyzed GMO milk.’
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS GMO MILK, BOOBY.
And here’s a chemistry lesson for you: you need to hydrolyze milk in baby formula – that’s the process to break down the amino acid chains into a more manageable form for BABY GUTS. He adds that the formula contains ‘synthetic vitamins,’ which yeah, so what? What does he think supplements are made from? It’s completely inane.
Bob tells us that he recommends X brands, which are organic and European formulas. He says that the best one is a ‘grass-fed toddler formula that’s not technically approved for infants, but consult your doctor about that because I think it’s basically the same formula.’
Okay. Toddler milk and infant formula are NOT even CLOSE to the same. DO NOT feed your baby toddler milk. AND DO NOT GET HEALTH ADVICE FROM THIS PERSON.
He ends his rant on baby formula with an obnoxious, dismissive, ‘This stuff, ugh, I don’t even know what to say!’
He’s like a male mashup of Kourtney Kardashian, Food Babe, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Like I said, it would be impossible (and intolerable) for me to review everything that Bobby Parrish has ever said. But what I’ve seen, in my professional opinion, has a considerable amount of misinformation and fear mongering.
I feel that sometimes, he might not disclose his affiliations. I could be wrong here, but let’s just say this: Bobby is a selling machine. And everyone who buys into it, is paying him.
Who cares if ingredients are ‘Bobby Approved,’ if he fear mongers everything and doesn’t seem to know how to explain exactly why he’s against certain foods? He should be able to give a rational, scientific explanation for his choices. Instead, I heard word salad with science-y words and scary warnings, interspersed by what appear to be sales pitches for products and his app.
Sort of reminds me of V-Shred, to be honest. (Read my VShred review here)
No nutrition professional wants people to eat only ultra-processed foods. But implying to people that the ingredients in them are harmful in any dose, I believe, is irresponsible and untrue.
Lastly, something that many people probably haven’t connected with FlavCity’s content, is that promoting expensive, organic food and looking down on anything else, marginalizes people who can’t afford to buy what he’s recommending.