Monday, March 18, 2013

"Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.."

Anyone else remember the lyrics to the title I gave this blog? It is a song I learned in Sunday School a long time ago, but is apropos to today's blog- deceptive or misleading images of food and agriculture found on social media.  I have been totally amused looking at internet images these days, some on Facebook but mostly on Twitter. It amazing the kind of response people give to images without considering if they are truthful or accurate. And there are 3 camps - folks who just think this is amusing,  folks who honestly believe the fake images they see, and skeptics posting fake images to push an agenda. Here are some of my recent favorites:

 "Organic" Water?
So what's wrong with this picture? See the USDA Organic seal in the lower right corner? Water cannot legally be labeled organic. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) does not allow water to be certified as organic so the use of the label in this picture is a fraud. If you think about it, things that are literally defined as "organic" must contain carbon. Water has 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen molecule, ... no carbon! If you see water labeled as organic in a store, it is false advertising. If you see it on the internet, its probably a fake.

Red Onion?
What could possibly be wrong with this picture? It's not the picture, its the content of the article that goes with it...It advises that placing cut onions in bowls around the house will result in the onion absorbing viruses and no one will get the flu.The claim is that onions are a magnet for viruses. Then the article accuses onions as being a huge culprit toward food poisoning.  It continues on to say that day old cut onions are poisonous and should not be consumed. Assuming you practice good, general food safety in your kitchen, there is nothing unsafe about using day-old or previously cut onions.

So what's wrong with this picture, I mean if he has to wear a mask, it can't be good right? The problem with this picture is that we have NO idea what it is he is spraying. He could be spraying copper sulfate which is an approved organic fungicide used to treat downy mildew and leaf spot in strawberries AND which requires the use of the respirator.  The copper sulfate label does instruct the applicator on what personal protective equipment (PPE) they must wear regardless of whether the pesticide is organic or synthetic. This label requires the applicator to wear a respirator. Labels are the law. The applicator does not want to breathe this stuff in, even if it is OMRI approved. The risk to the consumer eating the strawberries is negligible as growers follow strict harvest rules. If this is copper sulfate, then harvest can take place after 24 hours. Let's be clear, organic is not pesticide free. There are over 2,500 pesticides approved for use in organic agriculture. Organic pesticides are also toxic, which is why they are pesticides to begin with! Its the dose that makes the poison, not whether something is organic or synthetic.  Regardless of what type of pesticide he is using, he is protecting himself as he should. Bottom line is, we have NO idea what it is he is spraying but we assume the worst of course. When I first saw this image on twitter, it had "#pesticides #gmo" with it. That would lead you to believe that the strawberries are GMO right? Wrong! There are no genetically modified strawberries on the market so again, we're lead to believe something that is entirely unfounded.

KFC Genetically Engineered Chickens?

This is a good one! Why did Kentucky Fried Chicken change their name to KFC? Here is the internet answer! "KFC does not use real chickens. They actually use genetically manipulated organisms. These so called "chickens" are kept alive by tubes inserted into their bodies to pump blood and nutrients throughout their structure. They have no beaks, no feathers, and no feet. Their bone structure is dramatically shrunk to get more meat out of them. This is great for KFC because they do not have to pay so much for their production costs. There is no more plucking of the feathers or the removal of the beaks and feet." Seriously? Wow, someone has too much time on their hands to come up with that explanation! For the record, there are no genetically engineered chickens in our food supply.

On a different website, I found this claim: "“Chicken are GENETICALLY MODIFIED with hormones, carcinogens, GMOs, corn pills, arsenic and drugs so they become LARGER FASTER and as a result they often CRIPPLE under their own weights." Chickens do not become "genetically modified" by eating anything. Genetic modification is a scientific process requiring transfer of specific genes from DNA. It does not happen by eating.  Furthermore, it is illegal to use hormones in poultry production. I'm not even sure what a "corn pill' is. Arsenic has been used in chicken feed as it is an effective treatment for coccidiosis, an intestinal parasitic disease the infects the gut of chickens.  According to the FDA, organic arsenic, the type used in chicken feed is not a carcinogen. The bottomline is, none of this statement is entirely accurate and is very misleading and yet it is shared on social media as "truth" to promote an agenda.

McDonald's Baby Food?

This image would make you think that A) McDonald's is now serving baby food, or B) Gerber is now producing McDonald's flavored baby food. Can anyone say photoshop?

Often times, these images are shared on social media as a joke, a way to get a good laugh out of something ridiculous or silly. But often, I see the messenger promoting these images as "truth", with people or groups tagging and sharing these images who have an agenda to promote.  So when you are looking and sharing pictures on the internet, pause a few minutes and think about what the image is portraying and what, if any, FACTS you know about the image. Apply some common sense. Do a bit of research. See if you can find the original source of the image or story and what kind of validity they may or may not have.

Perpetuating falsehoods does nobody any favors. Making assumptions about stories or images is nothing more than gossip. Harmless fun is one thing. A misleading campaign is another. So be careful little eyes what you see and then share on social media.


  1. Great post Jennie! Labeling water was a new one to me!

    Thanks for sharing your insights and for being such a fantastic 'mythbuster'!

    Cami Ryan

    1. Thanks Cami, I've been "collecting" images for awhile but these really topped the cake for me to highlight what's wrong with the image as its portrayed on social media!

  2. Thanks; so good!
    .Interestingly the red-skinned chicken is real.It is a regular broiler chicken selectively cross breed with a naturally bare neck chicken. But the post with the picture is wrong,as you have said. and it is not a GMO chicken

  3. Thanks Stan, I suspect the featherless chicken research has fizzled. I couldn't find anything current other than a few 2012 repeats of the decade old story. Nothing new about current findings or progress.

  4. Hi from Spain,

    I follow you in Facebook and, from time to time, I read your blog (there are so many interesting things to read but not enough time to do it) and discorvered this entry. It's perfect to give more examples about the mis-use of certain images related to agriculture or food. So I put the link in my latest entry, to give my readers more information about this issue.

    This is the web link (I'm sorry it's written only in spanish )

    Hope you enjoy it and congratulations for your blog.

  5. I know plenty of food crazies, and they won't listen to me at all despite the fact that I am educated about these things. Glad to see there is someone out there stomping on falsities and giving out real information. I also appreciate the one who commented a link to the bald chicken story. The best way not to waste chicken nutrients and have a relatively bald chicken is to get one with hardly any feathers, but enough to keep them thermo-regulated or else it's just animal abuse.

    The part about onions, as I see it, is ridiculous but has some background that is true. It's not a "magnet", as some people claim, because all food gathers microbes, not just onions. The reason cutting them and placing them around the house works, or even planting them in plant pots around your home, is because the vapors released are a potent antimicrobial which has been proven to actually be effective against ear infections and such when heated and allowed to fume into the ear canal. The heat helps, also.

    The reason people get food poisoning so easily in "civilized countries" is not the ingredients, it's because people are TOO CLEAN according to recent research by immunologists, and you can find the research yourself with an intelligent Google search and avoiding the nut-jobs trying to promote their own, unscientific beliefs. By avoiding germs, using antibacterials, and by cooking everything to death, people are weakening their immune systems, which will in turn react violently to normally benign microbes. Salmonella and E.coli? Yeah, they are can be seen by undeveloped countries and their "poor hygiene" being immune to the pathogens because they are completely natural to our physiology. The people of southeast Asia, who eat raw meat (sashimi, anyone?) constantly, as well as other raw foods, don't have the problem that America does with pathogens, and it's because of their exposure to pathogens, not their magical cleaning technique that doesn't exist in reality.

    Back to the topic, I'm glad you are stomping on the GMO crazies, because they are getting really annoying. I am anti-GMO, but THIS is ridiculous. Avoiding GMO is easy if you know which foods are GMO, and very few are. Companies, in fact, are switching away from GMO to appeal to consumers, so it will fade into the past, but we will still have the insane people screaming about it and claiming all processed food is the chicken, which is a hybrid and not a GMO.

    Anyway, good read! Thanks! Sorry for the wall of random text!