Retail giants like Coca-Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken may be pros when it comes to keeping their secrets for soda and drumsticks under lock and key, but even they aren’t too big to escape the wrath of the rumor mill.
These days, all it takes are a couple of well-timed tweets to set off a web-driven PR nightmare, with rumors of defective products or pending lawsuits spreading like wildfire faster than companies can fan the flames.
The Street took a look at the craziest viral rumors to hit some of the most well-known brands over the years.
Coca-Cola: Bug-based Brew
Coca-Cola has even had to include a section on its Web site to push back against the many falsehoods it has been targeted with over the years.
Among the denials: Coke does not contain a bug-based dye, alcohol or pork; no one has ever died from drinking Diet Coke while eating Mentos; at no point in its history was the beverage green; and adding MSG to Coke is not an aphrodisiac.
The company is not tied to the Mormon religion, nor has it funded campaigns against Palestinians and Muslims.
As for those pro-Israel, anti-Palestine rumors, according to the company: “We believe the origins of this rumor date back to 1967, when the Arab League pronounced a boycott against companies for conducting business in Israel, following the tensions in the Middle East. The Coca-Cola Co. and its bottling partners were present in many Arab and Muslim countries before Coca-Cola was introduced in Israel and came back to the Arab countries as soon as the boycott was lifted.”
Do its aluminum cans contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease? Not likely, the company says. Soft drinks canned in aluminum actually contain only trace amounts of the metal because the inner surface of the can is lacquered, minimizing the chance of aluminum from the can dissolving into the beverage, it says, suggesting that “an individual would have to drink about 5,000 12-ounce cans to get the same amount of aluminum as from one typical aluminum hydroxide-based antacid tablet.”
It also cites the Alzheimer’s Association: “There is no proof that aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease.”
KFC: Fake Birds
In 1991, Kentucky Fried Chicken began marketing itself as KFC.
The move, intended to broaden he perception of its menu and purge the negative health associations of the word “fried,” had the unintended — and somewhat delayed — consequence of heating up the rumor mill.
An email widely circulated years after the name change offers a horrific — and false — explanation for what’s filing all those buckets. It reads, in part:
“The reason why they call it KFC is because they cannot use the word chicken anymore. Why? KFC does not use real chickens. They actually use genetically manipulated organisms. These so called ‘chickens’ are kept alive by tubes inserted into their bodies to pump blood and nutrients throughout their structure. They have no beaks, no feathers and no feet. Their bone structure is dramatically shrunk to get more meat out of them. This is great for KFC because they do not have to pay so much for their production costs. There is no more plucking of the feathers or the removal of the beaks and feet.”
The name change, the message says, was necessitated by these freakish farm animals.
“The government has told them to change all of their menus so they do not say chicken anywhere,” it says.
The email claims to back up its claim with research by the University of New Hampshire (the school is firm in its denial of ever making any such claim).
A variation of the creepy chicken claim sounds more like a joke that was taken seriously — that KFC has bred a six-legged chicken to up the meat production per bird.
McDonald’s: That’s Not Milk In Your Shake
McDonald’s is another frequent target of false claims that keep re-emerging.
So, no, the apple pies are not actually made from pears, the milkshakes do contain milk and not “Styrofoam balls added for texture” or cow eyeballs as a thickener. The McFlurry does not contain bird feathers, and burgers, despite what junior high kids may whisper, do not include worm meat.
- Companies That Put Tons Of Money Into R&D Aren’t More Innovative Than Those That Don’t
- How McDonald’s Monopoly Game Became So Ridiculously Successful
- The Top Small Companies To Work For