Over the last few weeks multiple people in my Facebook feed have been sharing the same viral video about cancer-causing children’s snacks. Initially I ignored it but it kept getting shared over and over again so finally a I watched it and guess what, it’s a video of lies (and typos). Below I break down why.
But first I need to state that I’m not writing this post to justify gorging on Pop Tarts and Cheetos. Instead, I’m writing it to one: Encourage people to critically examine viral videos and memes instead of just believing and reposting them and two: Encourage people to learn basic science and health facts. I’m not saying you need to know all about food dyes (I certainly don’t) but you should know that sugar isn’t a petroleum product.
And on that comment:
OK, so I guess this video is about how you shouldn’t feed your children formaldehyde.
None of those ingredients are petroleum products, they’re sugars, which yes, should only be consumed in moderation (I know, there’s a whole conversation to be had about corn syrups but ultimately, they are sugars and not oil products).
First off, it’s “M&Ms.” These colourful candies do contain the dyes listed but there is no study showing that these dyes cause cancer or tumors in humans. Injecting rats weekly with Blue 1 over two years did result in tumors while feeding red food dyes to mice has been found to damage the DNA in their colons. But unless your children are rodents, I wouldn’t worry about this.
The hyperactivity claims are more complex and there might be something to them, for some children. If you have children with ADHD, you may want to minimize their consumption of food dyes, as well as a few other items like milk, legumes and grapes.
See above for details on food dyes. As for the second slide, I believe it’s referencing the fact that the FDA doesn’t allow Red #3 in cosmetics or drugs (which yes, I’ll give you is unsettling).
Since this video uses “petroleum” on its very first shot, I’m surprised that it’s taken this long for it to mention that synthetic dyes like yellow 6 are often made from petroleum. So yes, this video isn’t all inaccuracies. But then we get to the next shot and yeah… Methyl benzoate is an organic compound (and I’m not even sure if it’s in Cheetos) and ethyl methylphenidate is Ritalin, the ADHD drug. I’m pretty sure that’s not in Cheetos (or maybe it’s been included to balance out the hyperactivity induced by the food dyes).
While it’s frequently misidentified as a form of butane, TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) is actually an organic ingredient. While one study did show that it could damage lung and umbilical cells, there’s no research that shows that eating food containing this product result will result in health problems in humans. However, there are plenty of anecdotes from parents saying that TBHQ does aggravate their children’s ADHD. As with food dyes, if your child is coping with that disorder, you may want to look into minimizing exposure to this product.
I’m including this shot because of its grammar sins. But while its incoherence might bother me, it didn’t bother the many people who listened to its call to action and did share this video. Despite the high level of bullshit in it, it’s very popular and has been viewed over 55 million times. So who’s behind it?
Possibly a rapper out of New Jersey. The video lives on a Facebook page that’s assorted with a musician named Demic. His website is all about his music and there’s no sign of the children’s cancer-snack video. The whole thing is weird but it’s another reminder that before trusting any viral anything, you need to check the source.
Of course, a New Jersey-based rapper could create a highly informative video on children’s snacks; he’d just have to do some research first. That clearly didn’t happen in this case. In fact, pretty much all of the “facts” in this video have been pulled from a “Top Five Potentially Cancer-Causing Snacks” article that’s floating around the internet in various forms. So besides being inaccurate, the video is also plagiarized. Just another reason not to share it.