Urban legends abound regarding food. Who doesn’t recall the Pop Rocks scare of the 1980s wherein the famous Life cereal spokeskid, Mikey, apparently died after ingesting a potent and explosive mixture of the candy and a soft drink? And how many men stopped imbibing Mountain Dew after it was rumored that the soda would kill their sperm and decrease the size of their testes? And, of course, let’s not forget the scores of hopeful paramours who presented their love interests with bags of green M&Ms in the hopes of eliciting an amorous reaction from them after the candy was eaten.
But as silly and entertaining as urban legends are, there are some “true rumors” that occasionally get buried beneath the rubble of old wives’ tales and kids’ whispered stories. But how to parse out the good apples from the rotten ones? You turn, of course, to Snopes.com.
Today we’ll look at a few true, food-related urban legends, that may or may not have already made their way to your e-mail inboxes through the years:
- Appleseeds contain cyanide. Not only do appleseeds contain cyanide, but so do peach, apricot and cherry pits. Oh noes! But how often do you go around swallowing any of the above items, let alone crushing them first to release the hyper-minute amount of poison inside and then swallowing them? Yeah, not too often. Appleseeds have a very tough outer shell that is resistant to your stomach acids and digestive acrobatics, anyway, so there’s no real danger to be found here.
Besides, as Barbara Mikkelson points out, a far better source of cyanide to be found in your kitchen is the cassava root, hint hint.
- Girl swallows wire from a barbeque grill cleaning brush and requires surgery. This little gem comes to us courtesy of Galveston, where a girl accidentally ingested a small but sharp wire that had fallen from the grill surface into her hamburger meat during a backyard cookout. Somehow, the grill master didn’t notice this and served the extra-wiry hamburger to the girl, who ended up in the hospital and had to endure a six-hour surgery to remove the wire from her esophagus.
Moral of the story: ground meat can easily be contaminated, obviously. So be sure to check your meat throroughly for any debris throughout the cooking process. After all, people are very litigious these days…
- Certain red food dyes are made from beetles. I don’t understand why this bothers people. Trust me, that hot dog you’re chowing down on contains more bug parts than your Big Red does. Big Red is disgusting on its own merits, but that’s another article.
Carminic acid and cochineal, two common ingredients in red foods and beverages, are indeed made from the ground-up shell of the cochineal beetle, a South American insect that lives off cacti. Aside from a few rare cases of anaphylactic shock, this food dye is completely safe and historic to boot. If eating escargot doesn’t bother you, then why should this?
- Green potatoes are poisonous. Similar in nature to the appleseed item, green potatoes are poisionous but in such small amounts as to be perfectly harmless to the average adult. That doesn’t mean you want to eat a potato that’s gone green, of course, since it will taste disgusting and most likely give you a bit of a stomachache. More importantly, however, don’t feed green potatoes to children. Their little bodes won’t be able to filter out the toxin — solanine — quite as efficiently as yours and could get quite sick.
Of course, in addition to outnumbering them about ten-to-one, reading about the untrue urban legends tends to be much more exciting than the rather boring true ones. With that in mind, head on over to Snopes and check them out for yourself. You may be surprised at what kind of tripe you’ve been buying into all these years!