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HIV Infected Blood in the Ketchup Hoax

Email claims that HIV infected blood has been placed in the ketchup dispensers of fast food outlets (Full commentary below.)


Example:(Submitted online October, 2004)

This is something you may want to take note of: ONLY USE KETCHUP FROM THE PACKET IN FAST FOOD OUTLETS!!

A man was caught placing blood in the ketchup dispenser at a fast food outlet (to remain unnamed) within the last month. It is believed that he is HIV+.

So be sure to let your friends/family know...only use items that come in a closed packet.

Like many other hoax messages, this email forward warns of a sickening and unusual danger lurking among the commonplace items and places of our daily lives. In this case, the supposed danger is HIV infected blood mixed with ketchup in a fast food outlet.

As is often the case with such bogus warnings, the details in the email are extremely vague. The alleged perpetrator is identified only as "a man", and the type and location of the fast food outlet is omitted completely. The message does not indicate if the person has actually been apprehended or is still apt to be lurking around the condiments in your local burger joint, with deadly blood specimens at the ready. Thus, there is no way of verifying the information contained in the email, which, I dare say, was how the creator of the hoax intended it.

There does not appear to be any mention of such a case in the mainstream media. If it were true, such a story would be eminently newsworthy. It is highly unlikely that such a juicy little tale would be left to spread via email alone if there were any truth in it whatsoever. Legitimate news outlets would have been quick to cover the story. By asking recipients to send the message to "as many people as possible" the email implies that adding HIV infected blood to ketchup dispensers might be a frequent occurrence. If this were really the case, health authority containment strategies would almost certainly have been implemented to protect consumers and, again, the case would have attracted extensive publicity.

It also should be noted that the chances of a person contacting HIV by ingesting infected blood mixed with ketchup are extremely remote. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), "Scientists and medical authorities agree that HIV does not survive well outside the body, making the possibility of environmental transmission remote." The article explains that the virus cannot reproduce outside a living host except under laboratory conditions. Thus, even if infected blood was added to ketchup, the virus would not survive for long, nor would it reproduce itself. This hoax is by no means the first to claim that innocent victims are at risk of being infected by HIV via the malicious placement of infected material. The long-lived, and widespread, HIV needle hoax falsely warns that HIV infected needles are being deliberately left on theatre seats, petrol (gas) pump handles and phone-booth coin returns.

Like other hoaxes, such as the roach eggs hoax, this infected blood in the ketchup hoax relies for effect on the revulsion factor. The thought of consuming HIV infected human blood would be enough to put even the most ardent fast food lover off his or her burger and fries. So perhaps this ridiculous piece of email nonsense has just a smidgin of value. Perhaps, after receiving this email, some will forgo their usual deep-fried artery-clogger and opt for a garden salad instead. Mind you, do you really know what's in that salad dressing?

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen