Urban legends can be fun distractions, but to know that the foods you love could be hiding scary secrets isn’t very appetizing. The Internet is flush with mutant chickens and cockroach eggs in plastic straws, but don’t lose your lunch yet because here’s the truth about the Top 10 Scariest Food Urban Legends.
10. Trick Or Treat?
Whenever kids put on their favorite scary costumes on Halloween – like Darth Vader and Dracula – to go knocking on doors in search of candy, they might have a scary urban legend in the back of their minds. You were always told to be careful, to avoid going to certain neighborhoods, and to watch what’s being put in your bag because you might bring home some poisoned candy. While this has never actually happened to anyone – at least, not at the hands of complete strangers – the fear is still very much alive. This particularly scary story has even led many parents to rethink the whole idea of letting their children go out trick or treating in the first place. Why would you send your kid off, knowing there could be someone out there waiting to give them candy filled with poison? If they stayed off the streets, the costumed kids wouldn’t be at risk of getting tainted candy. Parents should breathe easy, however, because the truth about this scary urban legend has a happy ending. There has never been a documented case of a trick-or-treater getting sick from eating poisoned Halloween candy received from strangers. It shouldn’t be that surprising that a holiday like Halloween would spawn scary stories like this. So, there’s no need to deny the little ones the joy of trick or treating because this well-known tale is simply a phantom menace made up to keep you on your toes and be safe.
9. Straw Roach Motel
Cockroaches are here to stay. We’re often told they will continue to flourish long after we are gone, but in the meantime, the question is – are these indestructible, disgusting bugs really laying their eggs in plastic straws? This scary urban legend started when an email containing an ominous link began circulating. There was a warning to readers about someone finding thousands of cockroach eggs in one of the common plastic straws we all use at restaurants. If this urban legend turned out to be true, then it would mean people have been sucking down an awful lot of gross insect eggs with their burgers and fries without knowing it. The woman who circulated the mysterious email explained that she was minding her own business drinking a cup of Sprite with a straw at an unnamed fast-food establishment. She said that at some point during her meal, she noticed the soda had a strange taste. After she investigated further, she made the scary discovery in her straw. The lack of details in the email made many people suspicious of her story, and it turned out that this was the right reaction to have because no evidence of cockroach egg-infested straws was ever found. This case points out the awesome power of the Internet to spread information quickly – regardless of whether the information is true or just a scary urban legend.
8. What’s Up, Doc?
Many of us grew up watching Bugs Bunny chomp carrots between wisecracks even if we didn’t want to eat the carrots our mom put on our plate. We all know that carrots are a healthy food containing vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A. It’s this particular vitamin in the form of beta carotene that is behind the urban legend that carrots can give you super-vision and even allow you to see in the dark. While it’s true that Vitamin A is good for eye health and might improve your vision a bit, it won’t be like night-vision goggles. Carrots became the subject of an urban legend at the height of Germany’s aerial campaign known as the Blitz against Britain during World War II. There was also an intense propaganda war being waged at the same time. The British military wanted to keep its new top-secret weapon, radar, a secret from the Germans. So, the British decided to put out an alternative explanation for their pilots’ success battling the German Air Force at night – the mighty carrot. They hoped a clever lie about the vegetable’s superpowers would protect their secret use of radar, but there is little direct evidence of whether the Germans believed the urban legend or not. However, some historians are convinced this piece of carrot propaganda did keep the Germans from discovering Britain’s secret until it was too late. Even though carrots won’t really give you super-vision, it’s still worth making them a healthy part of your diet.
7. The 7 Year Chew
This food urban legend might be more revolting than scary because the idea of a piece of food fermenting in your stomach for years and years is certainly less than appetizing. According to the story, your stomach is like the desert dwelling creature known as the Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi. This fearsome creature digests its unlucky prey over a period of many years. Yes, it’s true that you can’t digest gum, but it doesn’t just sit in your digestive tract, taking up space for years. Like pretty much everything else you eat, the gum passes through your digestive system and is eventually expelled from your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, there have been cases of children consuming excessive amounts of gum and then suffering from constipation. This condition temporarily blocks up their intestines and can eventually lead to serious health consequences. A Yale University study found that children who chronically swallow gum can end up with blockages in their intestines and esophagus. This behavior is potentially unhealthy and should be avoided. So, even though this scary urban legend isn’t true, some kids still need to learn to take it easy with those big globs of Hubby Bubba. Gum blockage does sound a little scary, but you don’t have to worry about swallowing the occasional stick of Juicy Fruit.
6. Gummy Worms
Welch’s has long been known for its grape jelly and grape juice, but they have also branched out into little packages of fruit-flavored snacks. The company started receiving a lot of negative attention in 2018 when a graphic Facebook post described how part of a tapeworm was found in a package of Welch’s Fruit Snacks. Of course, a post that described a tapeworm in a bag of food quickly went viral. The bad publicity generated by the viral post immediately cooled kids’ and parents’ craving for the fruity snack. The woman who insisted there was a tapeworm in her candy said she had the package tested, and it was found to have a dehydrated tapeworm in it. However, she didn’t post any of the results, so some people began to question whether this was just a scary made-up story. Welch’s used its Facebook account to dispute the woman’s claims and fight back against the bad publicity. This case remains controversial, with accusations flying in both directions. Even if we assume that there never was a tapeworm; it doesn’t mean you should go ahead and eat these so-called fruit snacks. Welch’s was sued by a plaintive accusing the company of selling fruit snacks that contain a lot of artificial sweeteners but very little fruit. So, it turns out the snacks themselves might be the real hoax.
The Coca-Cola or Coke brand of cola has been around since 1885, and there has been a long-running urban legend that the popular drink contains cocaine. The brand name “Coca-Cola” was picked because it described two of the soft drink’s original ingredients: Kola nuts and an extract from Coca leaves that is used to make cocaine. Although this scary urban legend was true back in the day, a can of coke at the time contained only small amounts of the drug. As the 19th century drew to a close, people started to become concerned about what they used to call the “cocaine habit.” The makers of Coca-Cola responded by reducing the amount of cocaine in their drink to the smallest trace. By 1902 the amount of cocaine was as small as 1/400th of a grain of cocaine per single ounce of soda syrup. At one point, the Coca-Cola company believed it had to have some cocaine in the formula to protect the trademarked name. When the company decided that protecting the name was no longer an issue, it decided to move on from the coca leaves. The formula was changed in 1929, and Coca-Cola became cocaine-free once and for all. There was never enough cocaine in the soft drink to give you a buzz, but this scary urban legend will likely continue to fascinate Coca-Cola drinkers.
4. Getting the Finger
There have been a number of scary urban legends over the years regarding various body parts being found in food. The Wendy’s Chili incident probably received the most attention, and for good reason. In 2005, a woman named Anna Ayala claimed she actually started to bite into a severed human finger that was in her bowl of Wendy’s Chili. Mrs. Ayala announced she intended to sue the fast-food restaurant over this traumatic event. Most people would agree, it would be traumatic indeed, had the incident really happened. The scary allegations set off an international feeding frenzy of negative media attention and led to investigations by the county medical examiner’s office and the local police department. The investigations eventually determined that Mrs. Ayala’s husband had actually gotten the severed finger from a coworker who had been the victim of a serious workplace accident. Mrs. Ayala and her husband decided to plead guilty and received prison sentences for committing fraud. Mrs. Ayala was released from prison after serving four years of her sentence. She has also been banned from Wendy’s restaurants for life. This scary urban legend turned out to be a real crime and an expensive one for Wendy’s. The fast-food company estimates it lost as much as $21 million in revenues because of all the bad publicity aimed at its chili.
3. I’m Not A Prune!
“I’m a Pepper! Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?” These are some of the lyrics from the classic 1970’s Dr. Pepper television commercial. Dr. Pepper has been a popular soda in the United States since an enterprising pharmacist named Charles Alderton started selling the carbonated beverage in Texas in 1885. Many soft drink lovers enjoy the blend of 23 ingredients that gives the beverage its unique taste. Although the list of ingredients is officially a secret, the recipe supposedly includes flavors such as almonds, black licorice, lemon, molasses, and rum. According to some people, prunes are on the list as well. However, there are others who doubt whether Mr. Adlerton would have really put prunes in his beloved soft drink. This myth has been around since the 1930s and has stubbornly hung around despite efforts to squelch it. The soft drink company decided it needed to publish a brochure to reassure its customers there is no truth to the story. The people at Dr. Pepper would not confirm any of the 23 secret ingredients, but for what it’s worth, they did go out of their way to tell its customers there were definitely no prunes on the list. Feel free to disregard this false urban legend and be confident that if you drink Dr. Pepper, you might be a Pepper, but you won’t be a prune.
2. Robot Chicken
Colonel Sanders made his Kentucky Fried Chicken into an iconic brand loved by millions, but this doesn’t mean the fast-food chain hasn’t had its share of bad publicity. When the popular chicken chain changed its name to KFC in 1991, a scary urban legend started making the rounds. Some people started spinning the theory that the company was forced to change the name because it was using chemically altered mutant chickens. As unappealing as it sounds, these modified chickens were described as having no beaks and extra legs. According to the legend, they couldn’t legally use the word “chicken” in the name since the science experiments they were supposedly using couldn’t be classified as chickens. Obviously, the newly renamed fast-food chain didn’t want this kind of publicity associated with its name change, and it turned out that all that talk was for nothing. The truth seems to be that Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC to steer attention away from the word “fried” and put more emphasis on “chicken.” The fast-food chain wanted to try to appeal to more health-conscious customers who would likely be turned off by a restaurant boasting about its deep-fried food. The company’s official story is that the name was changed simply to make it shorter and snappier. The Colonel’s original fried chicken recipe with its 11 herbs and spices is still in play, but the original name proved to be too scary to keep.
1. The LIFE and Death of Mikey
The combination of Pop Rocks and soda has an explosive reputation that’s grown into a scary urban legend. The product that became known as Pop Rocks started out as a failed attempt at making a sparkling Kool-Aid drink. The experimental drink never took off, but eventually, the sweet little candy crystals were marketed as a new fizzing sensation. The origins of this urban legend are murky, but somewhere along the way, this popular candy became part of an infamous pairing with soda. If you eat the fizzy candy and wash it down with some carbonated soda, it could spell your doom. Some people believed it was a killer combination that could make your stomach explode. This scary urban legend grew to the point that it eventually pulled in John Gilchrist, the actor who played little Mikey in the classic LIFE Cereal commercials. After Mr. Gilchrist receded from the public eye, a rumor started to spread about what had become of him. You will be happy to know that Gilchrist didn’t die from an exploding stomach. He worked his way up in the television industry and became a media executive. The former actor is aware of the scary urban legend that his stomach exploded after he indulged in too many Pop Rocks and soda. He also said that he doesn’t eat the controversial Pop Rocks candy, but apparently, he does still enjoy an occasional bowl of LIFE Cereal.