Johnna Holmgren, the mind behind the naturalist lifestyle blog Fox Meets Bear, lives a picturesque, wild and free dream.
Her Instagram (under the same name) showcases beautiful photos of a small, content family living in the woods, exploring nature and preparing freshly foraged meals.
As demonstrated by the emergence of tiny house trends, home farming and off-the-grid lifestyles, the societal push for sustainable and environmentally friendly living has increased public interest in a return to nature and the simple life.
“Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen,” which was written by Holmgren and advertised as a field guide that features over 80 different recipes and tips related to foraging, appeals to the same audience.
The cover of the book and the photographs inside are just as stylistically pleasing as the official Instagram of Fox Meets Bear; however, concerns regarding the Holmgren book surfaced not long after its publication and listing on Amazon.
In a recent review, Amazon user Sam Sycamore labeled the book as “Not safe (or palatable) for consumption.”
Sycamore said: “Unfortunately, I have to conclude that this book is about the style and not the substance, which contains several quite glaring and damning errors that would have immediately been caught by anyone with at least a couple years of experience with wild foods — or cooking, for that matter.”
Additional reviews, which were even more concerning, provided evidence of exact recipes promoting the improper preparation of possibly toxic plants, such as raw morel mushrooms and uncooked elderberries.
Raw elderberry seeds contain compounds known as glycosides, which induce cyanide poisoning in humans when consumed in large amounts. In her recently published book, Holmgren recommends to use them in a blended smoothie.
The Michigan Department of Community Health warned the public about the risks of consuming raw wild mushrooms, noting that morels (the same mushrooms used in the Holmgren recipe for dark chocolate dipped fungi) can cause a variety of symptoms under certain conditions, such as nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
On Aug. 10, Rodale Books recalled the book due to health concerns for readers and made a statement in conjunction with Holmgren to offer full refunds and discontinue the book in all stores.
Holmgren responded to criticism of her book by clarifying that readers are ultimately responsible for identifying non-toxic plants.
A disclaimer on the bottom of the blog reads, “While I strive to be 100% accurate, it is solely up to the reader to ensure proper plant identification. Some wild plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. I am not a health professional, medical doctor, nor a nutritionist.”
When considering that personal trainers, self-made dietitians and lifestyle bloggers are constantly promoting detox teas, supplement pills, workout enhancers and beauty serums, similar disclaimers should perhaps be on all Instagram influencer’s profiles.
Despite their aesthetics, quality feeds and thousands of followers, how are such social media figures reliable and accountable for their sponsorships or products?
The microcelebrity world of Instagram, short shelf life glamour and sponsored endorsements included, is changing how the world relates beauty and aesthetics to credibility and expertise.
A scientist, nutritionist, dermatologist or doctor may not always be as beautiful as the model on Instagram promoting a nondescript health product, but the knowledge of professionals is what keeps the wandering children of the information age from blindly following social media marketing into disappointment or disaster.
Or, in this instance, poisoning everyone at your next vegan, naturally sourced and foraged barbecue.