Fake turkey story goes viral before U.S. Thanksgiving

Satire can sometimes be confusing. The good stuff sounds so plausible that a reader or viewer has to pay attention. That’s what makes the Onion so great.

Headlines are often flashier (and click- and retweet-worthy) than the actual article; something that can lead to headaches for the food industry.P1040537-001

According to International Business Times, a satirical story on a recall due to avian influenza-in-turkey from National Report has gone, uh, viral as they say.

The story was posted on National Report, a satirical website well known for publishing fake stories with sensational headlines.

The bogus report read: “The CDC has confirmed that millions of turkeys have been recalled due to safety concerns over an avian virus that the birds may be harboring. The virus is related to human influenza virus but was thought to lack the ability to infect humans. However, it appears that the virus has recently developed the ability to move from bird hosts to humans. The results could be disastrous.

The article also carried a made up quote from Bob Marcer, a CDC epidemiologist, as saying: “We are in a very hazardous situation here. From our sampling efforts, we know that millions of turkeys that have been sold in the last weeks are harboring this virus. The handling, preparation, and eating of these turkeys could infect millions of people during the Thanksgiving holiday. Follow that with the large crowds of Black Friday shopping and the Christmas shopping season in general, and millions more could be infected through casual contact. We are looking at a holiday season epidemic.”

Although it’s likely seen by many in the food industry as a waste of time, stuff like this exemplifies why it’s important to have folks monitoring social media and engaging with folks. Using the viral-ness of a fake story is not a bad introduction to tell folks about how the turkey industry really manages zoonoses and human pathogens.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.