Example: [Collected via e-mail, May 2006]
!!! BREAD IS DANGEROUS !!!
Research on bread indicates that:
1. More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users.
2. Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests.
3. In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than
4. More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within
5. Bread is made from a substance called "dough." It has been proven that as little as one pound of dough can be used to suffocate a mouse. The average American eats more bread than that in one month!
6. Primitive tribal societies that have no bread exhibit a low incidence of cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and osteoporosis.
7. Bread has been proven to be addictive. Subjects deprived of bread and given only water to eat begged for bread after as little as two days.
8. Bread is often a "gateway" food item, leading the user to "harder" items such as butter, jelly, peanut butter, and even cold cuts.
9. Bread has been proven to absorb water. Since the human body is more than
10. Newborn babies can choke on bread.
11. Bread is baked at temperatures as high as
12. Most American bread eaters are utterly unable to distinguish between significant scientific fact and meaningless statistical babbling.
In light of these frightening statistics, it has been proposed that the following bread restrictions be made:
1. No sale of bread to minors.
2. A nationwide "Just Say No To Toast" campaign, complete celebrity TV spots and bumper stickers.
3. A 300 percent federal tax on all bread to pay for all the societal ills we might associate with bread.
4. No animal or human images, nor any primary colors (which may appeal to children) may be used to promote bread usage.
5. The establishment of "Bread-free" zones around schools.
Origins: This tongue in cheek warning heralding the dangers of bread has been part of the online world since at least 1998. It proves via example how easily wholly factual statements can be made to appear sinister and thus be used to further a variety of causes, some praiseworthy, some not. For instance, the list's second item, "Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests," sounds ringingly ominous until the reader pauses to consider that on any given test, half the takers will score above the median and half below it.* Yet, by the way the statement is worded, one could easily be tricked into thinking the staff of life is at least somewhat to blame for poor academic performance.
The key to the humor piece is contained in its 12th item:
In "Pickle and Humbug," a list of similarly startling discoveries linked pickles to any number of societal ills. It reported that about 99.9% of cancer victims had eaten pickles some time in their lives, as had 100% of all soldiers, 96.8% of Communist sympathizers, and 99.7% of those involved in car and air accidents. It was also pointed out that those born in 1839 who ate pickles have suffered a 100% mortality rate, and rats force-fed
While such lists as those linking pickles and bread via dubious statistics to various bad outcomes are clearly works of humor, there is one surprising actual negative connection associated with bread: the baking of it contributes to the formation of ozone.
When yeast ferments, it produces carbon dioxide and ethanol (alcohol). During bread's baking process, much of this alcohol is vaporized, producing the enthralling aroma that is loved so deeply by so many. When that scent goes into the air and mixes with nitrogen, if the sun, humidity, temperature, and wind are right, ground-level ozone, an ingredient in smog, is created.
Bakeries that emit too much ethanol have had to install devices on their smokestacks to capture the pollutants.
Barbara "beware the yeast wind" Mikkelson
* Yes, we know the original text says "average" and not "median," but the latter concept is what the anonymous writer really meant.
Last updated: 11 May 2006
Goldstein, David. "Smell of Baked Bread May Be Health Hazard." The Cincinnati Enquirer. 16 August 1998 (p. A7).