Have you heard the latest in e-mail scares? One current story concerns the processing of baby carrots. The false report states that baby carrots are dipped in a solution of water and chlorine (the same chlorine used in swimming pools) in order to preserve them. It continues, if you keep these carrots in your refrigerator for a few days, a white covering will form on the carrots. This is the chlorine resurfacing. The only truth here is that the carrots are rinsed in chlorine and water to kill bacteria but they are also very well rinsed. The story about the white covering being chlorine is not true it's actually moisture seeping out of the peeled carrot.
Another story, that bananas imported from Costa Rica are contaminated with bacteria that can devour human flesh is also untrue.
An oldie but goodie is the story that the artificial sweetener aspartame is toxic to humans in a hundred different ways and causes "aspartame disease" this is also untrue.
An often repeated myth focuses on canola oil. The oil is supposed to be the one that is lowest in "bad" fats, but the claim is made that canola is a genetically engineered plant developed in Canada from the rapeseed plant and oil from the rapeseed plant is poisonous to living things and is also an excellent insect repellent. Again, this is untrue.
Most deceptive e-mails contain phrases such as: "This is not a joke," and "Please forward this to as many people that you care about as possible." They are written in such a way that they sound extremely plausible.
The Internet is a great resource, but it is also a public forum, where anyone can make a claim or an assertion. We must be able to find trustworthy sources for our information.
Every television and print news source has a Web site. To some extent, you can rely on the most trusted news sources, but you should not rely on them exclusively. After all, network and cable news stations are involved in entertainment. Think of them as a stepping stone to more reliable sources.
If information is linked to an organization, try to determine the reliability of the sponsoring organization. One tip is the url ending. If the site name ends with .edu, it is most likely an educational institution, like NDSU. The Web site: (www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu) is a reliable source of information. The site: (www.usa.gov) lists all government Web sites. Government sites are usually good sources for objective reports. Check out the Centers for Disease Control site at: (www.cdc.gov), especially for reliable information on swine flu.
The sites: (urbanlegends.about.com) and (www.snopes.com) are both considered reliable sites to visit if you hear a claim (food-related or otherwise) you're not sure about. The sites are known for debunking false claims, including the one about baby carrots and chlorine.
Take advantage of the Internet. It can be a great source of information. But as always be on the lookout for poor information or outright lies. For more information contact your county Extension office or check our Web site at: (www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu).
Gail Slinde is a food safety and youth development agent for the NDSU Extension service in Ward County.