I’ve been wanting to tackle some food and drink conspiracy theories for a while now. With those Chuck E. Cheese’s “recycled pizza” allegations having just hit the headlines, what better time to start uncovering a few bitter-tasting truths about the food industry?
So, let’s start with the juiciest of them all right now.
Is Chuck E. Cheese’s making pizzas out of leftovers?
On 11th February, YouTuber and conspiracy peddler Shane Dawson published a video claiming that Chuck E. Cheese’s is recycling its pizzas by gathering up uneaten slices of pizza left by customers and splicing them together to make a new pizza. Dawson says this is why the slices never seem to match up. They’re just reused, reheated slices from a dozen different pizzas.
This would, of course, violate countless health regulations and Chuck E. Cheese’s has released a statement unequivocally denying that such a practice goes on. It said:
“The claims made in this video about Chuck E. Cheese’s and our pizza are unequivocally false. No conspiracies here—our pizzas are made to order and we prepare our dough fresh in restaurant, which means that they’re not always perfectly uniform in shape, but always delicious.”
The thing is, that doesn’t really address the question of why the slices don’t match up. Surely they should, regardless of where they’re made. I live in the UK (we don’t have Chuck E. Cheese’s over here) and whenever I’ve eaten a pizza, you can see that all the slices fit together to make a perfect circle. Why don’t Chuck E. Cheese’s? From some of the pictures, they certainly do look cobbled together. And it’s not just the shape and size of the slices. The toppings and where they’ve been cut don’t match up either.
It seems extraordinary (and unlikely) that a long-standing pizza restaurant would do something so gross as to serve up other people’s leftover pizza. However, I’m yet to hear a breakdown of their processes which explains this particular mystery.
Does Starbucks deliberately butcher people’s names?
This one made me laugh out loud, basically because it really could be true. I know a bunch of people who’ve been victims of hilarious Starbucks name butchery and what do they always do? Share it on Facebook. There’s a conspiracy theory out there that that’s exactly the point.
It does seem that whatever your name is, Starbucks manage to find a way to get it horribly wrong when they scrawl it on your cup. In one case, “Ingrid” became “Angry”. In another, “Emma”—one the simplest names there is—became “Nemo”. And then there’s poor “Virginia”, who got to walk around with a coffee cup labelled “Vagina”.
Yes, okay, certain names might give baristas pause, but surely not every name.
Thing is—what if they’re doing it on purpose? Conspiracy theorists claim that Starbucks is misspelling people’s names deliberately so that they go on social media and post about it. After all, it’s free advertising. It might even make people go to Starbucks just to see what happens to their name.
Does McDonald’s use seriously dodgy ingredients in its food?
For decades McDonald’s has been accused of using some extremely unsavoury things in its fast food. We’ve all heard the stories about its burger sauce, mayo and milkshakes containing semen. There was even a story about a McDonald’s employee who was arrested after admitting to ejaculating into several hundred batches of the company’s Big Mac sauce.
Snopes investigated these claims and found them to be hoaxes. But there’s a whole load more. It’s been alleged countless times that McDonald’s uses worms in its beef, chicken and fish burgers. Snopes has debunked a few of these claims, but not all.
For instance, several mainstream news outlets reported in 2015 that a husband and wife had found a worm in a Chicken McNugget in a Happy Meal they’d bought for their four-year-old. It certainly looks like a worm from the picture (above) and according to the reports, McDonald’s launched an investigation. Unfortunately it seems no one reported on the outcome of the investigation. We can hope that’s because it wasn’t a worm at all, but who knows?
There’s also the case dubbed “McNoggin” where a woman found a fully intact, deep-fried chicken head in her box of Mighty Wings. People today still don’t know if it was real or not. Reporters were allowed to examine the head and believed it to be real and took pictures of it, pictures that have never been discredited. It’s still debated whether the head was somehow missed by a McDonald’s employee when frying and boxing up the order, or whether the woman planted it herself to win a lawsuit (which she never went through with, in the end).
McDonald’s has also been accused of using cow eyeballs in its burgers and feathers and styrofoam balls in its milkshakes. While many of these stories have been debunked, it does make you wonder why McDonald’s is accused of dodgy food practices SO often.
(Hasn’t put me off just yet, though.)
Was the horrible-tasting New Coke a ploy to drive up sales of Classic Coke?
So this one’s as old as me! But the conspiracy theories still linger. In April 1985, Coca-Cola, after losing market share to rivals like Pepsi, decided to introduce a new formulation of its flagship soft drink. New Coke was launched in the US to considerable backlash. Scores of people resented the change and flooded Coke company headquarters with angry phone calls and letters of complaint.
Just 78 days after New Coke’s introduction, Coca-Cola announced that the original product would return under the name “Coca-Cola Classic”. Six months after the rollout of Coca-Cola Classic, Coke’s sales had increased at more than twice the rate of Pepsi’s.
While most Coke drinkers were overjoyed at the company’s change of heart, others were suspicious. How could a company with the resources, experience and longevity of Coca-Cola make such a huge and obvious blunder? Well, perhaps because they planned it all along. The theory goes that Coke deliberately changed the formula in the hope that people would be upset and demand the return of the original. This would rekindle interest in the drink and cause sales to spike once it was reintroduced.
Coke itself has responded to this conspiracy theory by saying, “We’re not that dumb, and we’re not that smart.” Do we buy it?
Is Cadbury engaged in a pro-Muslim, anti-Christian conspiracy?
In 2017, Brits accused Cadbury of making Halal chocolate to appease Muslims after a photo surfaced on Facebook showing a man holding Cadbury chocolate bars in one hand and Halal certificates in the other.
On Cadbury’s part, this photo originated in Malaysia and was in response to false rumours that circulated there about its chocolate containing pig DNA. The certificates were just to prove that it doesn’t. Cadbury clarified that it has never made changes to its products to make them Halal, just that it was confirming them to be as suitable for those following a Halal diet as bread and water. You know, things that don’t have meat in. Like chocolate.
There’s also yearly accusations (not dissimilar to the War on Christmas theories) that Cadbury is trying to airbrush Christianity out of Easter. There have been claims that Cadbury deliberately removes references to “Easter” on its Easter egg packaging so as not to offend Muslims.
Except that you can find plenty of references to Easter in Cadbury’s marketing materials, on its website and social media accounts, and on several products, including an “Easter Egg Hunt Gift” that says “Happy Easter” on the front. It just doesn’t label every one of its chocolate eggs with “Easter” OR “Egg” because it doesn’t need to. You can tell what it is. Same as it doesn’t label its standard products with “bar”.
There was also fury in 2017 about Cadbury renaming its annual “Easter Egg Trail” the “Great British Egg Hunt”. Prime Minister Theresa May called it “ridiculous” and the archbishop of York said it was “tantamount to spitting on the grave” of the company’s Quaker founder, John Cadbury (the dumbarse not realising that, as a Quaker, John Cadbury didn’t even celebrate Easter).
Of course, this particular conspiracy theory is typically only circulated among far-right Christian Islamophobes with leaky brains and a disability known as Can’t-See-Past-My-Bible. These dickheads need to be reminded that Easter eggs aren’t even anything to do with Christianity in the first place.
Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus instruct his apostles to celebrate his resurrection by gobbling chocolate eggs. In fact, Easter eggs date back way before Christianity existed. Eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility and rebirth and decorated ostrich eggs were being placed in the tombs of the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians 5,000 years ago. Not even the word “Easter” is Christian. It derives from the name of a pagan goddess worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons. The Saxons used to hold feasts in her honour till the Christians came and hijacked it—much like they did with countless Christmas customs.
Frankly, I hope Cadbury continues to do things that piss these people off. It’s fun to watch them squeal.