Fact Check

Semen Found in Fast Food

Analysis of restaurant food eaten by a young woman reveals the presence of semen from HIV- or STD-positive men.

Published Dec 1, 1998


Claim:   Analysis of restaurant food eaten by a young woman reveals the presence of semen from HIV- or STD-positive men.



[Collected on the Internet, May 2014]

A Michigan woman was in disgust last week when she ate at a local McDonald's. Lisa McDowell, 31, was having lunch with her friends when she decided to order a McChicken sandwich. She was halfway through with her sandwich when she noticed an extra clump of mayonnaise on the side of the bun. She licked it off, tasted it and immediately realized things were not right. "I'm not gonna lie," McDowell said. "On Birthdays and holidays I give my man a little something extra in the bedroom, you know? So when I licked the mayo off of the bun, the texture was familiar."

McDowell immediately called over the manager who denied the allegations, so she contacted the local health department. They sent the "mayo" remains off for testing and the results were positive for 2 different types of semen. To make matters worse, in the following days, McDowell woke with a giant red rash on the corner of her mouth. The rash spread and developed into severe blisters. The doctor was able to verify that she had contracted the herpes virus, which she claims was a result of her tainted McChicken.
The manager confirmed that two employees were fired as a result of her allegations and the positive semen test results. The manager of the McDonald’s also added, "We can't always keep an eye on our employee's conduct. We can only hope, during the interview process, that we are able to hire employees that meet our companies standards."

[Collected on the Internet, 1993]

Here's a true story that happened in Holland:

After a night out a couple went to eat some shoarma (roasted lamb-meat in a Pita roll, preferably with lots of garlic-sauce. Shoarma restaurants are the only ones still open after, say, 2.00 a.m., so after a lot of drinking, if still hungry, it's the only place.) Typically in these places you get served by mediterranean (Turkish or Moroccan) types hardly able to speak dutch, and in the middle of the night every guest eating there is drunk and noisy.

So anyway, these youngsters ate their weekend portion of half raw meat, but only the guy didn't take the garlic sauce. Later that night the girl got very sick, and went to first aid to get her stomach pumped. After analysis of her stomach contents, it was found that the garlic sauce she had eaten contained ten(!) different Quacks of semen, later to be traced to the owner and nine employees of the shoarma joint.

This Sperm-O-Rama was later closed on police order.

[Collected on the Internet, 1997]

Heard a story about a friend of a friend who one day decided to eat Chinese food for lunch. A few days later she developed sores on her mouth. She went to the doctor, who determined that she had a malicious form of herpes. She was perplexed by this diagnosis because she was faithful to her husband. After she confronted her husband the doctor's diagnosis, he assured her that he didn't commit any infidelity and would submit to a test to prove it. He took the test and was found clean. All this, taking the span of three days or so, the perplexed couple looked everywhere for an answer. They took a sample of the leftover chinese food into the lab, where semen was found in it - this semen being the source of the herpes.

[Collected on the Internet, 1993]

There is a street in South Shields in Newcastle, UK, that is supposed to have a record amount of Indian restaurants in it. There was a story circulating recently about some lads who ordered a take away late at night, rather the worse (or better) for wear after a night on the town. They all went home that night and devoured their curries, except one guy who fell asleep. The next day he awoke and decided to have curry for breakfast, but upon opening his decided that something looked dubious about it. He got a friend who was a medical student to examine it, and discovered it contained FIVE different semen samples.


  • Semen is said to have turned up in Chinese food, pizza, shawarma sandwiches, Indian curries, gravies, donuts, tacos, and fast food hamburger chains' "secret sauce."
  • In "contaminated semen" versions, one of the following infectious agents is discovered in the food: herpes, HIV, or hepatitis.
  • If no vile disease is discovered in the semen, the number of men who jerked off into the food is specified, with seven being the most common figure given.
  • The victim of the semen-laced food is nearly always a woman.
  • In some tellings the victim merely has her upset stomach pumped, but in other versions she contracts whatever vile (and often fatal) disease was in the semen.
  • The presence of the semen is detected through an analysis of the leftover food or of the victim's stomach contents.
  • This story has been told in Canada, England, the United States, Sweden, and Norway, always as a local and recent occurrence.

Origins:   This legend about HIV-infected food has been with us since at least 1989. It's a favorite of high school and college students and says a lot about how we feel about fast food and what we fear might be in it. Upon hearing the tale, one doesn't know which to be more disgusted by: the presence of semen in food (someone jerked off into our lunch!), or the presence of a horrible disease (we run the risk of contamination every time we buy our lunch instead of bringing it from


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, e.coli, or other typical food poisoning culprits. You wouldn't expect anyone to go looking for HIV or herpes (at least until you manifested symptoms of them), much less semen. (Also, many infectious agents, such as HIV, wouldn't survive for long outside a human host, especially after having been put through a cooking process.)

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 Des Moines, Iowa), and her food "tested positive for three different types of semen":

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.

A central Iowa restaurant is coping with the fallout of a hoax e-mail. Recent e-mails mention the the Olive Garden in West Des Moines, which often has a waiting list. But lately, calls to the restaurant have not been about seating.

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 e-mail.

The Iowa Department of Public Health said there is no way that the e-mail is true.

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.

Last updated:   20 May 2014


    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good to Be True.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (pp. 199-200).

    de Vos, Gail.   Tales, Rumors and Gossip.

    Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, 1996.   ISBN 1-56308-190-3   (pp. 241-242).

    Internet Broadcasting.   "Olive Garden Syphilis E-Mail Is Urban Legend."

    13 July 2007.