New Delhi: Along with the democracy ushered in by social media, it has also brought about an onslaught of fake/malicious content which usually spreads like wildfire but whose veracity is difficult to establish. For instance, you must have come across Whatsapp forwards that claim Kurkure contains plastic or the kind that says milk companies are mixing melamine with milk. To fight the barrage of misinformation being spread on social media about food, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has started a campaign.
To stop the spread of misleading content on social media, the government has asked Google and Facebook to take down ‘false and malicious’ content that spreads wrong information about the safety and quality of food in India.
Here are five hoax food warnings you are sure to have come across on Whatsapp.
Melamine in milk?
Several news reports last year had announced that the FSSAI had permitted the use of melamine in milk. The reports had also quoted a WHO advisory that said, “If adulteration of milk and milk products is not checked immediately, 87 per cent of citizens would be suffering from serious diseases like cancer by the year 2025 (in India).”
Fact check: At the time, FSSAI had stepped out to clarify that no such advisory had been issued by the WHO at all. The report seemed to have first appeared in a newspaper, from where it was picked up by other newspapers who did not even bother to contact the FSSAI or WHO for clarifications.
HIV contamination in Frooti pack
This scare message had first started doing the rounds in 2013 and it claimed to have come straight from the Delhi police. It mentioned a worker adding his HIV/AIDS-contaminated blood to a batch of products and warned people to stay away from buying them.
Fact check: The message turned out to be a hoax as the Delhi police had not sent that message. Also, no such incident had been reported. The incident also forced Parle Agro, the company which manufactures Frooti, to issue a clarification.
China-made plastic cabbage?
Heard of this one? Videos aiming to show the contamination in fruits and vegetables showed that the cabbage being consumed by people in India was made of plastic and was being sneaked in from China. The story was picked up by several media houses and had elicited widespread outrage.
Fact check: Research revealed that the cabbage featured in the video was actually a wax food replica used for display outside restaurants in Japan. The video was also at least two years old and had Korean subtitles with a logo of SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) and a dubbed voice-over.
Kurkure contains plastic
This was a hoax that was bought by most people who came across the message because after all, Kurkure is junk food. Videos showed people lighting and burning their Kurkure sticks.
PepsiCo, the company that manufactures Kurkure, had then sought a court order against Facebook, asking the company to censor all posts that linked Kurkure to plastic.
Fact check: You can actually light a Kurkure and burn it. But that is because products like Kurkure are fried at a very high temperature to make them crispy. A compound called acrylamide forms during the process of frying. Due to its presence, the final product burns when lit with a matchstick, also turning black due to the unburnt carbon particles. It does not, however, contain plastic.
There was a time when Facebook and Twitter were replete with speculations about the prevalence of plastic rice in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. While no one ad proof to show that plastic rice existed, YouTube was teeming with videos on how to identify plastic rice.
Fact check: Not only scrutiny of rice in a scientific lab proved that there is no such thing called plastic rice. The Rice Traders Association also came out to clarify that if at all there was plastic rice, it would be more expensive than normal rice.
So, what should you do when you get such a message?
Report them! Register complaints via the app: For this, launch WhatsApp, go to Settings > Help > Contact Us. Once done, tap on next, and your complaint is registered.
You can also complain via email by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.