4 Common Myths About Food

The surprising truth about Twinkies, expiration dates, throwing rice at weddings, and fortune cookies

January 2023

Script

Many of our most common beliefs about food … aren’t actually true.

For example, there’s a widespread notion that Twinkies never go bad.

In fact, there’s a school in Maine that’s held on to one for over 40 years as a science experiment.i But … they probably shouldn’t eat it. In reality, Twinkies are only fresh for about 45 days.ii

Ironically, another commonly held myth is that you shouldn’t eat food past its expiration date.

But, actually, most expiration dates don’t tell us anything about food safety.iii Most of the labels are designed to indicate when food will be freshest, not when it becomes unsafe.

As a result, Americans throw away about $115 billion worth of perfectly fine food every year.iv

Speaking of tossing food: There’s no problem with people throwing rice at your wedding.

There’s a common belief that if birds eat the rice it’ll expand in their stomachs and cause them to explode. Connecticut even once considered making rice-throwing at weddings illegal.v But they didn’t have to ... because the rice is harmless to birds.vi

One more food myth: Fortune cookies … aren’t Chinese at all.

The after-dinner treat actually emerged from Japanese immigrants on the West Coast.vii The reason the fortune cookie came to be associated with Chinese food is because many of those Japanese immigrants actually started Chinese restaurants.

(Because Americans didn’t want to eat the raw fish in Japanese cuisine).

Ironically, even once the fortune cookie was introduced in China … it never became a popular dessert.viii

Just wait until they hear about the Twinkie.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  1. Expiration dates aren’t a reliable indicator of when food is unsafe to eat.
  2. Throwing rice at weddings doesn’t pose any danger to birds.
  3. The fortune cookie is not a Chinese invention — and is actually unpopular in China.

Sources

  1. 43-Year-old Twinkie Still Intact at Maine School   CBS Boston
  2. "The Science Of Twinkies: How Do They Last So Darned Long?" (Maria Godoy) — NPR
  3. "How To Tell Whether Expired Food Is Safe To Eat" (Lea Ceasrine) Consumer Reports
  4. "SAVE Money by Knowing When Food Is Safe" (A. K. Magoulas, CiCi Williamson) — U.S. Department of Agriculture
  5. "Bill Would Ban Rice At Weddings" (Judd Everhart) — Associated Press
  6. Fact or Fiction: Uncooked Rice Is Bad for Birds —  American Chemical Society
  7. "The Surprising Origins of the Fortune Cookie" (Michael Lee) History.com
  8. "Meet the Guy Who Writes the Fortune in Your Fortune Cookie" (Michelle Kim) — CNN 

Shownotes

SOUND: "Dixie Gypsy" (Sergey Ignatov) 

FOOTAGE: Franki Chamaki (Unsplash) // Slaven Vlasic / Stringer (Getty) // CITED SOURCES AND NEWS OUTLETS ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH AND HAVE NOT ENDORSED OR SPONSORED ANY PORTION OF THIS PRODUCTION.

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