Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Analysis of restaurant food eaten by a young woman reveals the presence of semen from seven HIV-positive men.
As widespread a tale as this is, it's most certainly false. Consider this: even if a dread disease had been found in foodstuffs ingested by the anonymous victim, who would have checked it for semen? It's not a typical substance you'd expect a doctor or testing facility to go looking for when presented with suspect food. Also, even if semen were found, how would anyone know it came from seven different guys? A DNA analysis?
Think of it this way: if you were suddenly taken ill and suspected there was something wrong with whatever you'd just eaten, the tests that would be run on you would check for salmonella,
In British versions, the contaminated food is curry or shawarma, takeaway foods that are perceived as unmistakably foreign (and therefore suspect). American tellings of the legend spread the story across the full range of fast food, everything from Chinese to tacos and hamburgers, making it more a "fear of fast food" tale than one of xenophobia.
With few exceptions, the ingester of the semen-enhanced food is female. The innocuous process of eating puts the semen of strange men in her mouth, which is in itself the breaking of a sexual taboo. There's a sense of violation to this legend, of the victim having unwittingly had oral/genital contact with a stranger. Adding to the first "Eww!" factor is the possibility of catching a horrible disease merely through the act of satisfying one's hunger. These days having unprotected sex can kill, and we all know that. Legends like this one play upon our fears that even if we do everything right, a dread disease might get us anyway.
In decades gone by, just the thought that someone had spit into our food was a major gross-out, and the idea that a crazed restaurant worker might have randomly slipped poison into our meal would strike terror in our hearts. Now we're gastronomically terrorized by that bogeyman of the 1990s, infectious diseases (particularly AIDS), and the delivery vehicle of choice (semen) is a constant reminder that the bogeyman's henchmen are sexual deviants as well as killers.
Barbara "minding herpes and queues" Mikkelson
Update: July 2007 saw the spread of a variant of this legend, one which claimed that a girl was diagnosed with "syphilis in her mouth" after she ate at an Olive Garden outlet (in West
A girl I work with and her friend went to Olive Garden this weekend; I believe Thursday or Friday night. Amber’s friend did not get what she ordered correctly so she sent the food back. Sunday she woke up and had red bumps all over inside her mouth. She went to the doctor and after many questions and food allergy tests she brought in what she had ate (she had left over’s at home) the doctor tested it. The food tested positive for three different types of semen, Amber's friend had Syphilis in her mouth from the food at Olive Garden here in WDSM.Olive Garden management and health officials were quick to point out that the rumor was false:
Urban myth e-mail messages can travel quickly and leave businesses in damage-control mode.Last updated: 13 July 2007
A central Iowa restaurant is coping with the fallout of a hoax
The e-mail stated that a customer sent her food back to the kitchen and that two days later, the girl woke up with syphilis in her mouth. A doctor tested the leftover food and found body fluids on it, according to the
The Iowa Department of Public Health said there is no way that the
A manager at the Olive Garden said employees are continuing to reassure concerned customers that the rumor is false.
Health officials said the Olive Garden has a clean record and that there is no cause for concern.
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.