Saturday, May 3, 2014

Taking The Internet With a Grain Of Salt

As a trained scientist (of sorts) and someone who spends a great deal of time reading and writing about food, I get frustrated when I see things on Facebook and other social media that are half-truths, junk science, and just generally bad information.  People are so quick to forward stuff on when they see something they haven't heard of before that sounds reasonable that they forget to stop and ask themselves, "Does this really make sense?  Maybe I should look this up to see if it's true before I forward it on to my friends?"

The thing about the Internet is that it's more or less a completely open publishing platform.  Anyone with a computer, tablet, or smartphone and an Internet connection can set-up a free blog and zoom!  You have yourself a web page.  After all, that's how I got started.  I think most people have the best of intentions...they really believe the information they're putting out there.  However, they sometimes leave scientific backing in the dust at the expense of spreading their beliefs.

Recently, I happened upon a web page with a video bearing an accusatory headline such as, "Look what happens when you mix Coke with milk!  You'll never drink Coke Again!"  The embedded video depicted a guy pouring a little milk into a fresh bottle of Coca Cola soda.  He let it sit for a period of time and when he came back, the milk and most of the brown color had settled to the bottom and solidified, leaving a clear brownish liquid on top.  It wasn't said, but the implication was obviously, "Ewww...look what this stuff does to milk.  Imagine what it's probably doing to your body."

Folks, this is what I like to call, "Appealing to the Ick Factor."  There's absolutely no scientific background to support that conclusion, but the creator of the web page dumped that video on there, added a few carefully worded sentences to lead you where they wanted you to go, and let you take it the rest of the way.

To prove my point, let me show you a video I found on Youtube.

Around the 1:50 mark, you'll notice he adds vinegar to the milk and the milk solids begin to separate out from the whey.  Those milk solids become the ricotta cheese.  Sound familiar?  That's because it is.

It's no secret that Coca Cola is extremely acidic.  When you mix milk and soda, the same thing happens as with cheesemaking.  The milk solids separate from the liquid and float to the bottom of the bottle.  Because Coke also contains lots of caramel coloring and other ingredients, those too mix with the solids, making the cheese at the bottom brown and leaving the whey brownish as well (and probably incredibly sweet from all the sugar that's also there).  That's right.  The demo showed a guy making "Coke Cheese."  It's probably not very tasty.

Now I'm not saying soda is exactly a health food.  It's certainly not and we can talk at length about empty calories and limiting sugar and sodium intake and High-Fructose Corn Syrup and a whole host of other health concerns when it comes to soda consumption.  But mixing two liquids together and getting a chemical reaction doesn't allow us to draw the conclusion that either of the two liquids is inherently poisonous.  If you believe that, then put down that mozzarella stick right now!

What I'm saying is think before you share.  There are a lot of reputable sources on the internet that are only a Google search away.  There are even entire sites dedicated to proving and disproving common myths and forwarded internet claims like and

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