Question of the Week
I recently got an email that claims that eating cut onions causes many cases of food poisoning. Is this true?
-- Z. S., Samtse
Dear Z. S.,
The Internet is packed with these types of scary stories, rumors, misinformation and "urban legends". Such emails, which appear to be written by some “expert” and usually forwarded to you by someone you know, often look believable: they are backed up by a convincing story and detailed "facts". However, most of them are completely bogus. My dear mother is an especially enthusiastic forwarder of such emails, which are forwarded from her friends (who received them from their friends, and so on).
Here's how to find out if the information is true or an “urban legend”: There is a highly-recommended and trustworthy website called Snopes.com which collects many of these stories of unknown origin, and either verifies their validity or - as is often the case - exposes the falseness of their claims. Whenever I get a forwarded email of a dubious source, I log on to Snopes.com to check it out. There's a search bar on the top of the Snopes.com homepage. To check out the horror onion story, I just searched for "cut onions" and clicked on the first search result, which proved this scary claim to be - surprise! - totally FALSE.
Avoiding sliced onions never harmed anyone, but following the advice in some of these “urban legend” emails can sometimes be downright life-threatening: A few days ago I received an email that started to circulate in Bhutan after the recent earthquake. That email contained earthquake survival "tips" and other claims by a self-proclaimed "renowned rescue expert" who allegedly manages the "world's most experienced rescue team", and who promotes an earthquake survival method called "triangle of life". The email looked suspicious to me, so I quickly searched Snopes.com and found out that not only is the information in this email disputed by disaster experts, but also that the expert mentioned in the email is under investigation for fraud in the United States. Apparently, this guy has a history of exaggeration and self-promotion with very little evidence of real rescue work. Blindly following the advice in this email can be downright fatal.
If you've got a few online minutes to kill and are looking for amusement, get off Facebook and check out some of the items collected by Snopes.com. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!
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