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image China's food industry, already reeling from reports of toxins in pet food originating in China, took another blow when Beijing TV recently reported that snack vendors in eastern Beijing were selling "steamed dumplings stuffed with cardboard soaked in caustic soda and seasoned with pork flavoring." Yuck! In this case, however, the accusation appears to have been unwarranted. CNN reports that:
Beijing authorities said investigations had found that an employee surnamed Zi had fabricated the report to garner "higher audience ratings", the China Daily said on Thursday. "Zi had provided all the cardboard and asked the vendor to soak it. It's all cheating," the paper quoted a government notice as saying.
So this appears to belong to the genre of the "gross things found in food" hoax. Assuming, that is, that the Beijing authorities are telling the truth, and that the cardboard buns were actually the invention of a rogue reporter. I wouldn't put it past the Beijing authorities to cry hoax to cover up a real problem.

Also, it's worth noting that even if Beijing vendors aren't supplementing their buns with cardboard, reports of Chinese manufacturers using human hair to make soy sauce continue to appear to be true. So I wouldn't put much past the Chinese food industry. (Thanks Cranky and Joe)
Categories: Food, Journalism
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 20, 2007
Comments (3)
Takeru Kobayashi, six-time world record hot dog eater, is claiming to have a jaw injury which may hamper his competition today at Nathan's Famous in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. Some think the champ is faking, playing head games with Joey Chestnut, who beat Kobayashi's record of 59 1/2 franks and buns two weeks ago. The two are the favorites in this year's event at Nathan's.

Would Kobayashi really pull such a stunt, potentially tarnishing the great sport of competitive eating?

As an aside, this article I'm linking to refers to the governing body as the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE). I thought I had read that they changed their name to Major League Eating recently. I'll have to check.

Scandal in professional gluttony?

Okay, I checked. From Wikipedia:

The IFOCE, which first established eating as a sport in the 1990s, has recently launched Major League Eating to serve as an umbrella for competitive eating worldwide while also providing a recognized brand for licensing of t-shirts and other products. The Major League Eating website,, is considered the most dynamic website in this sport. It features videos of contests and eaters and offers a complete online community similar to MySpace, for eating fans.

UPDATE: Sore jaw or not, Kobayashi lost to Joey Chestnut, meaning the Mustard Yellow Belt has returned to American, where it belongs, damn it! NO ONE outeats us. USA! USA!

Categories: Food, Gross, Miscellaneous
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Wed Jul 04, 2007
Comments (9)
image Here's something to add to my list of Gross Things Found in Food. Philadelphia resident Earl Hartman was sitting down at home to enjoy some green beans and chicken, when he noticed something unusual in his beans.
"When I sat down, I noticed something didn’t look right. It didn't look like a green bean," he said.
It wasn't a green bean. It was a snake head.

This seems to be a legitimate case of something odd that found its way into a can of green beans. Seneca Foods, the company that cans the beans, admits that a snake head could have found its way into the beans. Earl Hartman says:
"The company said that they have an automated sorting and sometimes things like this happen. I asked about the rest of the body and he told me that it was probably kicked out by the sorter, but they're not sure," he said.
Hartman isn't suing, which also adds to the probability that the snake head is a legitimate find.

While visiting Sedona, Arizona I once tried rattlesnake. It was okay. But I wouldn't want to find a rattlesnake head in my canned veggies. (via Art of the Prank)
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 18, 2007
Comments (6)
Rumor has it that Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, could include, among his many other accomplishments, inventing macaroni and cheese (one of my favorite foods). The wikipedia entry for mac and cheese mentions this rumor:
According to more than one urban legend, macaroni and cheese was invented by Thomas Jefferson, who, in the variant told by Alton Brown of Good Eats, upon failing to receive an Italian pasta-making machine, designed his own machine, made the macaroni, and had the cook put liberal quantities of York cheddar and bake it as a casserole.
I don't know how old this rumor is. I found references to it in newspapers from the 1990s, but not earlier. But needless to say, the rumor is incorrect. Jefferson does appear to have served macaroni and cheese at the White House, however he definitely didn't invent the dish.

Jack MacLaughlin sheds some light on Jefferson's relationship to Macaroni in his book Jefferson and Monticello: the biography of a Builder:
Macaroni was a highly fashionable food in late eighteenth-century Paris, and Jefferson not only enjoyed the dish but also commissioned William Short to purchase a machine for making it. The machine was later shipped to America. Jefferson also investigated the manufacture of macaroni during his trip to northern Italy and drew a sketch with detailed notes on the extrusion process. When Short was in Italy, he sampled the local product and concluded that the cooks of Paris made better pasta than he could get at Naples. Apparently, the macaroni machine that Short bought was either not durable or unsatisfactory, for in later years Jefferson imported macaroni and Parmesan cheese from Marseilles for his use at Monticello. While in France, he also copied a recipe for making macaroni ("Nouilly a maccaroni") without a machine. This recipe makes clear that what was eaten as macaroni was what Americans today would term spaghetti — the dough was rolled thin and cut into strips, and each strip was then rolled with the hands into a noodle shape.
So it seems that Jefferson may have served pasta and cheese, but when he did the recipe was already in wide use in Europe. Marlena Spieler, author of Macaroni and Cheese, writes that:
The first written recipe [for macaroni and cheese] seems to be from The Experienced English Housekeeper, by a Mrs. Elizabeth Raffald. Published in 1769, it appears to be the forerunner of our own American classic: bechamel sauce with Cheddar, mixed with macaroni, sprinkled with Parmesan, then baked until bubbly and golden. Another recipe, macaroni a la reine ("Macaroni in the style of the queen"), made from a similar mixture of pasta, cream, and melty cheese (often Gruyere), appeared frequently in British cookery books until relatively recent times.
So there you have it. No one knows exactly who invented mac and cheese, but it wasn't Jefferson, though he seems to have been a fan of it.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 13, 2007
Comments (8)
I've heard of renting wedding dresses, but I'd never heard of renting the wedding cake. But apparently renting fake wedding cakes is becoming increasingly popular. Here's how it works:
The idea is to have an elegant, multitiered pretend cake for show while serving guests slices from a real, tasty and inexpensive sheet cake. The inside of a faux wedding cake crafted by Fun Cakes in Grandville contains mostly plastic foam, with a secret spot reserved for a slice of real cake to be shared by the bride and groom. Everything is covered by gum paste and fondant, a frosting-like confection made from sugar and water often used in cakes and pastries. After a bride and groom take the traditional first slice of their real wedding cake, it's often wheeled away from guests, out of their sight, to be cut up and served on plates. Do the same thing using a fake cake and a sheet cake, and guests will be none the wiser.
It seems like a sensible idea to me. Though, of course, another option would be simply not to have such an expensive wedding if you can't afford it. I'm constantly amazed at the obscene amounts of money some people spend on their weddings. My wife and I had a very simple, low-key wedding, though we did splurge on an Elvis-shaped groom's cake (real, not fake).
Categories: Food, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 13, 2007
Comments (9)
image Le Petit Singly (it's a French-language website, but here's a translated version) claims to be a French farm that specializes in producing cheese out of "the mother's milk of woman." According to the blurb on their site, they've been doing this since 1947. They say that the breast-milk cheese has a caramel color and has a hint of hazelnut taste.

Of course, I think it would be technically possible to make cheese out of breast milk. (Although this woman in Indonesia reports that she tried to use her own breast milk to make some cheese and failed. Link via The Stranger. But she was doing it on her stove top. I think if a commercial producer really put their mind to it, they would have better success.)

I actually briefly discussed this question in Hippo Eats Dwarf, in the context of debunking a site that claimed to produce cheese from lactating rats. I wrote that, "The problem is that the cheese's flavor is influenced by whatever the milk producer eats. So you would want vegetarian milk donors, unless you like cheese that tastes like rotting milk."

The Le Petit Singly site mentions nothing, that I can find, about the diet of the female milk donors. This is one sign that it's a hoax. Another sign is the ads they have on their site, and the fact that it's hosted on a lycos account. A real company would presumably at least shell out the $20 to get their own domain name. (via Why Travel To France)

Update: Looks like Le Petit Singly does discuss the diet of the milk donors. (Thanks, penny!) But I still think it's a hoax.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Food
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 09, 2007
Comments (21)
Back in 2000 an email rumor was going around here in the U.S. warning of bananas infected by a flesh-eating bacteria. The rumor read, in part, that:
Several shipments of bananas from Costa Rica have been infected with necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating bacteria... It is advised not to purchase bananas for the next three weeks.
Because of this rumor, the Centers for Disease Control had to issue a warning assuring everyone that no shipments of killer bananas had ever arrived from Costa Rica, or anywhere else in the world.

It now looks like a variant of the killer-banana rumor has popped up in China. The BBC reports that:
A rumour spread by text message has badly hit the price of bananas from China's Hainan island, state media say. The messages claim the fruit contains viruses similar to Sars, the severe respiratory illness which has killed hundreds of people worldwide.
The Chinese Health Ministry has issued a statement, assuring everyone that there is no truth to the banana rumor and noting that, "There has not been a case in the world in which humans have contracted a plant virus, and there is not any scientific evidence."
Categories: Food, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu May 31, 2007
Comments (8)
I came across an interesting question asked to a reporter in the Charlotte Observer. Actually, I initially thought it was a really stupid question, but part of the answer surprised me. The question was:
Q. Is the name of the carnival game Whac-a-Mole derived from the word "guacamole"?
Like I said, I thought it was a stupid question. Just because the two words end in "mole," that doesn't mean they have anything to do with each other. And sure enough, the reporter, Jeff Elder, confirmed that the name "Whac-a-mole" is not, in any way, derived from the word guacamole. He called up Michael Lane, chief financial officer of Bob's Space Racers of Daytona Beach, Fla., makers of Whac-a-Mole. Lane said, "The name origin in English is a short way to describe the action of play."

But the weird part of the answer is that Guaca-mole is a trademarked name for the game in Spain, Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking countries. "The reason for this name, Lane says, is that pronunciation in Spanish is very similar for Whac-a-Mole and Guaca-Mole." So the two words are linked, in a roundabout way.

I say Whac-a-mole with three syllables and Guacamole with four syllables (pronouncing the "e" on the end), but I'm guessing Spanish speakers must pronounce Whac-a-mole with four syllables. And if you say it in this way, it can sound a lot like Guacamole.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Fri May 25, 2007
Comments (16)
A Dutch company called Energique claims to have developed a type of dog food that has the pleasant side effect of drastically reducing what comes out the other end. Basically, the company claims that if you feed your dog this stuff, your dog will barely poop at all:
Energique has also been working on the many complaints about dog excrement. With the body absorbing almost 90% of the food intake, only 10% is excreted. On the entire dog population, that saves 55 million kilograms of dog excrement in the Netherlands alone.
An Ananova article gives some more details: "They claim remaining 10% comes out the other end as a smell-free dry pellet that can be picked up by hand in a tissue. According to research by the University of Utrecht, a dog will normally need to go three times a day, but with Energique it only needs to go once a week."

This strikes me as a very odd claim. If true, could it possibly be healthy for the dog? I would imagine that the total surface area of a food has a lot to do with how much of it can get digested. For instance, a powder would probably get digested more fully than a chunk of meat. But is the one necessarily healthier than the other, just because more of it is getting digested?

The amount of poop a dog produces would almost seem to be a function of how much it eats. Surely if you feed your dog tons of this Energique food, it's still going to excrete most of it.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Sun Apr 15, 2007
Comments (17)
Fake Gucci Advertisemant Fools Newspaper
A man in Switzerland phoned a national newspaper and managed to get them to run a two-page advertisement showing himself posing beside a bottle of Gucci perfume. He told the newspaper he was a representative for the company, and told them to send the 60,000 Swiss Frank bill to Gucci.
Forum thread here.
(Thanks, Carlotta.)

Shark with ‘Webbed Feet’ Caught
A Malaysian fisherman recently caught what appeared to be a shark with webbed feet. The 1.7kg shark was given to a worker at the Malaysian Fisheries Development Board in Penang. When she noticed the feet, she gave it back to the fisherman, who threw it back into the sea.
(Thanks, Richard.)

Homer Simpson Appears on Pizza
With a hopeful-sounding minimum bid of $100, the seller from Kentucky has yet to garner a single taker for his piece of half-eaten pizza with the image of Homer Simpson on it.
(Thanks, Andy.)
Categories: Advertising, Animals, eBay, Food, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Flora on Sat Mar 24, 2007
Comments (13)

Toilet doubles as goldfish aquarium
Link submitted by Big Gary (the deputy curator in charge of fish) who notes, "Yet another way to torture goldfish ..."

Man cooks eggs on floor
"experts are investigating but have still not discovered why the floor of his home is so hot." Just a thought, but they might want to check if everything is okay in the apartment below him.

Banana tree predicts Lotto numbers
"They rub a mixture of powder and water on the tree's trunk, then wait to see what number the solution resembles as it dries." Probably works as well as any method of picking numbers.

Giant banana to fly over Texas
"A Montreal artist is planning to float a gigantic yellow banana in geostationary orbit above Texas next year." All hail the Flying Banana Monster.

Bride's joke ends wedding ceremony
"a bride in Austria jokingly answered "no" instead of "yes"... the official performing the civil wedding promptly broke off the ceremony." I guess wedding ceremonies are like going through security at the airport -- no joking allowed.
Categories: Animals, Food, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 12, 2007
Comments (12)
imageAccording to the BBC, an association of cheesemakers from Somerset have come up with a new and innovative marketing campaign for the die-hard cheese lovers amongst us.

The new cheddarvision webcam is set up so that customers can watch their cheese maturing over the course of a year. The feed was reportedly started on the first day of 2007, but the site had been running for several days before that, and the counter has now reached 10 days.

So, is it legitimate? Difficult to say. The West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers does seem to be a real organisation, and yes, they produce cheese. As to the webcam, that's more difficult to say. Cheese isn't the most mobile of subject matter, and it's nigh impossible to tell whether it is a current web feed or just looped footage. Or, indeed, a photograph.
(Thanks, Dave.)

UPDATE 2/4/07: It is clear now that this is a real web feed. Here is a time lapse video of months 0-3.
(Thanks, Beasjt.)
Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by Flora on Mon Jan 01, 2007
Comments (39)
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