Shmenge revolt: formaldehyde-tainted cabbages in China

Never been a fan of the cabbage, but did tell Amy yesterday on the way back from the shops, where cabbage was abundant and cheap, that Mrs. Smolarz, mother to a hockey-playing friend and university roommate for years 1 and 2, made authentically yummy cabbage rolls.

Mrs. Smolarz would be shocked to learn vegetable sellers in China have been caught spraying cabbages with a formaldehyde solution to keep them fresh in transit, the state news agency Xinhua has reported.

Xinhua said the practice had been common in eastern China for years.

The agency said it was being done because most farmers cannot afford refrigerated trucks for cabbages.

Formaldehyde is a toxic cancer-causing compound often used as a disinfectant and for embalming.

Yosh and Stan Shmenge – The Shmenge Brothers – would also be shocked. Here they are from the 1980s on Letterman, promoting their farewell concert, The Band-inspired Last Polka, with their smash hit, the Cabbage Rolls and Coffee Polka.

Can Mountain Dew dissolve a mouse carcass? Would a mouse survive in a beer bottle? Free beers, eh

I was pushing a cart full of groceries to the end of the parking lot before loading up the bike trailer when a wheel suddenly locked and I stopped.

A bemused shopping cart gatherer said, “You can’t take shopping carts off the property.”

“I’m not, just loading my trailer. How did the wheel automatically lock as I left the property, some kind of invisible dog fence?”

“It’s all satellite–controlled. Shopping cart theft is a major expense.”

So while Bubbles on the Trailer-Park Boys would be thwarted in his selling-refurbished-stolen-shopping-carts-back-to-supermarkets business by the high-tech gadgetry, he’d come up with another scam.

Like Bob and Doug MacKenzie of Second City fame trying to get a free case of beer by claiming to find a dead mouse in a beer bottle (the key is to stuff a baby mouse into an empty bottle, and then feed it for a month, then fill the bottle with beer and cap it).

Or a mouse in a Mountain Dew.

Scientific American reports PepsiCo, the soft drink’s parent company, defended itself against a man who claimed he found a dead mouse in a can of the citrus soda. Experts called in by PepsiCo’s lawyers offered a stomach-churning explanation for why it couldn’t be true: the Mountain Dew would have dissolved the mouse, turning it into a "jelly-like substance," had it been in the can of fluid from the time of its bottling until the day the plaintiff opened it, 15 months later.

Forget legal disputes over canned vermin. The new question has become: Is Mountain Dew really so corrosive that it can dissolve a mouse carcass? And if so, what does it do to your teeth and intestines? Is Mountain Dew’s classic slogan — "It’ll tickle yore innards" — the world’s most sickening understatement?

Key to Pepsi’s legal argument is that there’s no chance a mouse’s corpse could survive, intact, for 15 months swimming in Mountain Dew. While published studies have not been conducted on how rapidly Mountain Dew would dissolve a mouse, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the neon green soda can eat away teeth and bones in a matter of months, and would likely do quite a number on a rodent.

"I think it is plausible that it could dissolve a mouse in a few months," said Yan-Fang Ren of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, who has studied the effects of citric acid on bones and teeth. "But dissolving [the mouse] does not mean it will disappear, because you’ll still have the collagen and the soft tissue part. It will be like rubber."

According to Ren, Mountain Dew contains citric acid, a substance naturally found in citrus fruits that exists as a powder in its purified, industrialized form. Most citrus sodas mix in the stuff to give drinks their tangy bite, while most colas, such as Coca Cola and Pepsi, incorporate phosphoric acid for the same effect. Consequently, these drinks have a low pH value around 3 (very acidic). Coca Cola, with its dark coloring and non-fruity flavor, may be the soft drink most often compared to battery acid, but in 2004, a well-known study led by dentist J. Anthony von Fraunhofer found that citrus sodas like Mountain Dew and Sprite erode tooth enamel around six times faster than colas.

Defenders of Mountain Dew sometimes argue that orange juice contains as much or more citric acid as the neon green soda. "It’s basically true," Ren said. "The pH of orange juice is between 3.5 and 3.8 — also very acidic. From what our experience is, yes, the rate of decay would be the same."

However, juice presents a small tradeoff: It erodes teeth, but it also provides vitamin C. "Orange juice has a healthy aspect, so people should continue to drink it," Ren said. He suggested minimizing the contact between the juice and your teeth by taking large gulps rather than small, frequent sips, then washing your mouth out with water. Or, you could use a straw.