Sunday, July 24, 2011

Onion myth

I’ve been attached to the internet for 16 years. Still fondly remember the first desktop modem and its dial up sound. Since that first modem I have never received an unsolicited nutrition/food based email that made any sense. I’ve been told that Diet Coke rots the stomach, that I should never eat bread with fruit because it confuses the digestive enzymes and that margarine is a molecule away from plastic, which makes as much sense as wine being a molecule away from that nice steak you are having with it. And now one about onions and the flu.
The onion email hoax
Apparently when the flu epidemic hit the world after the WW1 a doctor asked a farmer why his family didn’t get the flu when many around did. He believed the solution had been an onion placed in a dish in every room. The doctor supposedly placed the onion under a microscope and discovered it had “absorbed the bacteria, therefore, keeping the family healthy.”

Hold up there! The flu is a virus, so what’s this about absorbing bacteria? Virus. Bacteria. Very, very different. And did I read the onion went under a microscope? Well you are only likely to see a virus under a scanning electron microscope and you couldn’t get hold of one of those until 1965. Sadly, many can’t sense a hoax when it smacks them in the face. If you have time to burn then you can read the email on the site

Onion and food poisoning
Some of the onion email hoaxes go on to claim that the onion is one of the highest risk food-poisoning foods around. Why? Because the onion is a bacteria magnet, remember, stopping you getting the flu caused by a virus! They say the onion is not safe even in a zip-lock bag in the fridge. Apparently, cookbook author Zola Gorgon wrote the original story about onions being a common cause of food poisoning. Now, don’t bother looking for cookbooks by Zola Gorgon, just think about her name for a moment. Zola Gorgon.

Raw onions safe
Food safety expert Dr Ben Chapman from North Carolina State University says there haven’t been any recorded food poisoning outbreaks due to raw onions. Not one. He says that onions are not a food that supports pathogenic growth, well, not raw ones.

What does it all mean?
Remember, scary food/nutrient/nutrition emails have a 100% record of being wrong. Just look for the “forward this to everyone you love” at the bottom of the email. It is code for “hoax”.

It is exasperating to educate the public if there are huge sections who lap up a good story, and not for a second ask themselves if the story is plausible. Why don’t we get government programs urging us to leave an onion in a dish as we come into winter? Why isn’t there a Ministry of Onion if it is the best thing for flu avoidance?

What’s the best evidence that someone just made this stuff up for a joke? You probably got it. The cookbook author, Zola Gorgon. Well done. If she existed and was an author she would be listed as Gorgon, Zola. Now you must get it. All a bit cheesey and on the nose. Why don’t you make up a ridiculous food story and send it around and see how quick you get onto And don’t forget to give yourself a silly name.

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