Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: The mayonnaise oozing from a chicken sandwich turned out to be pus from a tumor in the chicken.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1997]
Unlike most contaminated food stories, this one couldn't have happened. Fast food chicken sandwiches are made of chopped, processed meat — chicken is ground then reformed into breast-shaped patties. Even those sandwiches fabricated from whole chicken breast couldn't possibly come through the preparation process with a pus-filled abscess intact — the meat has to be pounded to spread it out to fit the bun, and to stop it from curving up in the middle the way an unmanipulated chicken breast would (which would make piling on the fixings that much harder). And then there's frying process — no pus-filled anything is going to survive that.
Not only is this a legend about what yucky things might be lurking in our fast food, it's also a tale that dredges up the spectre of cancer. (In the vast majority of tellings a tumor is discovered in the chicken sandwich, not an abscess or a cyst. This, by the way, also eliminates any remaining credibility the story might have, for tumors are hard masses of cancerous flesh without pus.)
The apocryphal discovery of a tumorous chicken breast in a fast food sandwich is a way of expressing distrust about the nature of food in this advanced age. Are chickens being forcefed chemicals to make them grow faster and so reach our dinner plates sooner? Are we happy about that? The moral of this legend is that you get out what you put in — feed a chicken chemicals and end up with tumorous meat.
Barbara "making a clean (chicken) breast of it" Mikkelson
Last updated: 28 January 2007
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