Thanks to the internet and its ability to spread information in an instant, our social media feeds are chock full of dubious claims, and nothing seems to spread faster than horror stories about our favorite food and drinks. As unbelievable as these stories may seem, they gain steam as they get thousands of outraged “likes” and retweets, and since fact-checking seems to have fallen out of favor these days, these urban legends live on. Let’s get to the bottom of the craziest food myths floating around online.
Have you heard that just six bananas contain a lethal dose of potassium, and if you eat that many at once you risk death? We can’t imagine why anyone would really want to, but should the overwhelming desire to scarf down six bananas at once hit, it’s perfectly safe to do so. While dangerously high potassium levels do require medical treatment, overdosing on bananas isn’t going to send you to the hospital. Catherine Collins, a dietitian at St George’s Hospital in London, told BBC that the average person would need to eat about 400 bananas a day to put you in serious danger. That’s probably never going to happen.
Coke-driven pork worms
Heard the one about giving raw pork a Coca-Cola bath and waiting for the worms to come out? It’s baloney. The reasoning behind this is actually a combination of two myths. Once upon a time there was a real concern that we would all get sick from eating undercooked pork that was infected with a parasite. But according to the CDC, this parasite is no longer such a threat and there should be no worms or worm larvae in our pork. The next part seems to stem from the “Coke will dissolve your insides” myth. The idea being that the soda is so incredibly caustic that even the worms can’t take it and must escape their Coke-ridden homes. Yes, Coke does contain acids, and yes, acid can dissolve things. But Coke cannot dissolve any of these things overnight. And even if there were parasites in your pork that hated Coke, they’d be microscopic so you wouldn’t see any mass exodus. “Ew.”
Bloody chocolate milk
Chocolate is obviously what makes chocolate milk brown, but some credulous people online think the color change is meant to disguise something pretty gnarly: cow’s blood. This bizarre myth seems to stem from a widely shared social media post purporting to show what cow’s milk looks like before it’s “whitened.” The image — a container of red-tinted milk — is real, but farmer Richard Cornock explains in the original YouTube video the image came from that it’s actually milk from a cow that had recently given birth, and it’s likely due from a burst blood vessel in the cow’s udder. Cornock also explains that this bloody milk is not fit (or intended) for consumption. One more time for the people in the back: There’s no blood in chocolate milk. The end. “So what’s the bad news?” “Mmm. I got nothing!”
One alarmist website asks, “Would you melt your Tupperware and spread that on your toast?” Because, apparently, margarine is actually just one molecule away from being plastic. But it’s actually not. Adding one molecule, or ten for that matter, will never turn margarine into plastic. Their chemical structures are simply not the same. Dietitian Caryn Zinn explained in layman’s terms to Healthy Food Guide: “[Margarine] has a similar chemical backbone structure to plastic. However, the same could be said about butter, or any fatty acid present in the human body. Many varied substances share similar chemical properties, but the the slightest variation in molecular structure can make a world of difference.”
Twinkies will be our saving grace when the zombie apocalypse hits, the story goes, because they never ever expire. Sorry, doomsday preppers, this one’s too good to be true — you’re going to have to find something else to stock your underground bunker with, because those Twinkies aren’t going to be very delicious after about 45 days. “Believe it or not, Twinkies have an expiration date.” You might be surprised to learn that among the lengthy list of Twinkie ingredients, only one ingredient is actually a proper preservative — sorbic acid, which prevents the formation of mold. Otherwise, there is real flour, sugar, and even a small amount of egg in those spongy yellow cakes, and all those things do indeed spoil.
Red Bull’s secret ingredient
Red Bull might give you energy, but some folks online think it also gives you a healthy dose of… bull semen? Yes, Red Bull does contain taurine, a naturally occurring amino acid. And yes, bulls produce taurine, but so do humans and other animals — in fact, the human body contains 70 times more than a can of Red Bull. So how did we get to bull semen? Because in Latin, “taur” means “bull” and “ine” means “something derived from,” leading some people to conclude that taurine is a substance derived from bull testicles. In reality, the taurine used in Red Bull is a — quote — “purely synthetic substance produced by pharmaceutical companies and is not derived from animals or animal materials.” Now that makes a bit more sense, doesn’t it?
Never-rotting McDonald’s burgers
There’s a persistent myth out there that McDonald’s hamburgers are so full of chemicals and preservatives that they can’t rot, and look perfectly pristine more than a decade after purchase. Sorry fast food haters — under the right conditions, a McDonald’s burger will rot just like any other food. Food scientist Dr. Keith Warriner explains on the Mickey D’s website that the microbes that cause rot need warmth, water, nutrients, and time to grow. If you take any of these away, the microbes can’t grow. Because a McDonald’s hamburger is pretty dry after the cooking process, it’s not surprising that it would continue to dehydrate if left out in a cool, dry place. If you really want your Happy Meal to grow some mold, seal it up in a bag and put it in the sun.
Soo, who’s hungry now? Enjoy!