Bizarre food-related conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories are great, and the best ones are the ones that make even the staunchest skeptic think, "Hang on a minute…"

There are a ton of them out there, and they range from the bizarre belief the Denver Airport is the headquarters of the New World Order to the truth behind chemtrails (and that one even has a name, the Secret Large-Scale Atmospheric Program, or SLAP). Weird, sure, but we're all about food here on Mashed, and if you've ever wondered if there are some serious food-related conspiracy theories floating around out there, well, the internet does not disappoint.

Should you be thinking twice about what you're eating, what you're putting on your plate, and what restaurant you're choosing? Are you an unwilling pawn in a global conspiracy to commit corporate sabotage? Are you being manipulated into giving corporations free marketing? Maybe. But we will add that one of these conspiracy theories has been found to be absolutely, 100 percent true. You never can tell.

Outback Steakhouse is Illuminati

You can absolutely play along with this one at home, and you can start by mapping out the Outback Steakhouse locations in your city. Are there at least 5? Good, now connect them… with a pentagram! Clearly — say the conspiracy theorists — there's something Satanic going on here, and honestly, if you've ever split a Bloomin' Onion with just one other person, you might be tempted to hop on the bandwagon with this one.

The theory spread across Twitter in 2017, with all kinds of people posting their pentagrams linking their nearby Outback Steakhouses. Because social media can sometimes be an awesome place, the chain was almost immediately linked with the devil, witchcraft, and the Illuminati, with some suggesting your steak had probably been killed as part of a ritual sacrifice. Complex reported Outback chimed in with an epic response — a Bloomin' Onion hovering ominously over a section of map — but is it possible they're just trying to lure us into a false sense of security?

Chipotle and corporate sabotage

You're probably familiar with Chipotle's rash of food poisoning outbreaks. According to Business Insider, they were catapulted into the public eye when separate restaurants had outbreaks of norovirus, salmonella, and E. coli all within a few months during 2015, and when it happened again in 2017, some people thought there was a pattern.

Aaron Allen of the restaurant consultant group Aaron Allen & Associates (via Bloomberg), saw a pattern not just in food poisoning, but in stock activity afterwards. After a scandal, Chipotle stock dropped. That's generally not a good thing, and he suggests they're being sabotaged to make their stock drop and, behind the scenes, make some stock traders a pretty penny.

It's complicated stock market talk, but basically, The Balance says short sellers act when they know a stock is dropping in price. They essentially sell stock they don't have at the high price and buy it when it tanks, so it's a huge gamble. Allen says someone's poisoning Chipotle customers to purposely tank their stock and benefit the short sellers — but how much are we talking here? He says between 2015 and 2017, there's been around $459 million to be made that way.

Starbucks name butchery

It doesn't matter what your name is, it seems like Starbucks will find a way to get it horribly wrong on your cup. Even a "Jennifer" can go in, order a venti caramel macchiato, and be handed a cup that proudly proclaims it's for "Genyfur." All baristas can't possibly be that bad at names, can they? Sure, there's some that might give you reason to pause, but every time?

One YouTube video suggests they're really not that clueless, and they're doing it on purpose. And… well, this one actually makes a lot of sense. What's the first thing you do when you get a hilariously misspelled name on your cup? You post it on social media, don't you? The video argues names are misspelled on purpose, just so you do exactly that. You're giving them free advertising, the theory goes, and let's be honest: have you ever seen an epic misspelling and wanted to go there just to see what they do to your name? Not so far-fetched now, is it?

The devil's drink

This complicated theory says almost everything in the logo, slogan, and packaging of Monster energy drinks is a shout-out to the devil. At the heart of the entire theory is the "M" logo itself. Think it's just supposed to look like the claws of a monster slashing through from the other side? Nay, say the theorists. Those individual claw marks are supposed to be in the shape of the Hebrew letter vav, which stands for 6. There are three in a row, so that's 666. There's also the slogan — Unleash the Beast — the cross in Monster's "o" that goes upside-down when you drink it, and the naughty words.

But, there's not really anything to it, and The Daily Dot has debunked the entire thing with one simple bit of information. If you want to spell out "666" in Hebrew, it's not literally "vav, vav, vav." In Hebrew, it's written as "six hundred and sixty-six," which is represented by the letters "samech resh tav vav." That hasn't stopped the theory from being repeated on forums across the internet since around 2007. Truth, or free advertising?

Poison fluoride

This one's an oldie but a goodie, and in 2017, Mic took a look into a group of people who still believe we're being poisoned by the fluoride in our water. It's not just regular, boring old poison, either, they believe fluoride also lowers a person's IQ, contributes to infertility, causes the early onset of puberty, calcifies some organs, and can even be used to control minds. Alex Jones, InfoWars mouthpiece and most devoted conspiracy theorist of all, even claims fluoride can make a person spontaneously become gay. In the 1950s, fluoride was considered a Communist plot, and some believe it destroys the pinal gland (which is further claimed to be a person's third eye).

Fluoride has been added to much of the US drinking water since 1945, and the numbers say it's reduced tooth decay by up to 40 percent. But doubt set in right from the beginning, and the Science History Institute says it was even there during an early experiment in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Claims of peeling tooth enamel and sore gums circulated even then, and once people started throwing around terms like "bad science" and "powerful politics," the fluoride conspiracy theories were up and running.

Obesity and fat food

This is one of those conspiracy theories that really makes you think, and it goes back to 1972 and the book Pure, White, and Deadly: How Sugar is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It. It was written by John Yudkin, a British nutritional professor who had his career and reputation destroyed after the book was released. Other nutritionists partnered with the food industry to condemn his work when he argued that sugar is so bad for us that if its effects were seen in any other additive, it would be banned. The Guardian says it was a dangerous stance to take.

Fast forward to 2016, and Gary Taubes's The Case Against Sugar (via GQ). He argues for a conspiracy designed to keep people from realizing the hard truth: it's sugar that's making us fat, not fat. The Big Think goes further, suggesting the government is working with the sugar industry and Big Pharma to benefit all of them and none of us. Big Sugar sells more, the population gets more and more unhealthy, and Big Pharma reaps the profits of a population more and more dependent on various medications. Legit, or no?

The fondue conspiracy

There's a super-weird conspiracy theory that the demand for fondue wasn't a naturally evolving food trend and instead, it was engineered by a sort of Swiss cheese mafia to increase their profits. Crazy, right?

It's 100 percent true.

Switzerland has a long tradition of cheese-making, back to ancient Rome. By World War I, Think Growth says there were around 1,000 types of cheese being made in Switzerland and major shortages threatened the whole industry. It's a complicated story, but essentially, the Swiss Cheese Union (technically, the Genossenschaft schweizerischer Kasexportfirmen) was formed, and they took over everything from quality control to cheese exports. What developed was a complicated system of cheese making and money, and this is when all those cheeses were whittled down to three: Emmental, Sbrinz, and Gruyere. In the 1930s, fondue was invented in the Alps, and it was the perfect way for the union to promote their cheesy products. It called for a cheese sauce that was half Gruyere and half Emmental, which weren't just a convenient way to celebrate a multinational heritage, but they were two of the cheeses the union was trying to push. That same union got its fingers into global advertising, and the fondue craze was born.

Warren Buffet's diet

Everyone wants to be at least a little bit like Warren Buffet, even if that little bit is just his money. It's not surprising people want to know how they can be like him, and Business Insider's Bob Bryan gave some of it a shot. He tried eating like Buffet, and says he not only felt like he was going to die a week in, but he also stumbled on a weird conspiracy theory.

Buffet claims his diet — no alcohol, no vegetables, five cans of Coca-Cola a day, and endless salt and candy — was based on the diet of a 6-year-old, since 6-year-olds have the lowest death rate. Sounds… logical? There were also things like McDonald's, Dairy Queen, and plenty of other fast food meals, leading Bryan to feeling horrible and the conspiracy. Does Buffet only promote this diet — which is conveniently filled with products he has a stake in — in the public eye, to get more people to buy them? Is he snacking on kale chips and vegan everything behind closed doors, while we're manipulated into running out to buy Coke, Dairy Queen, and McDonald's? Food for thought.

Kosher Certification is a Jewish conspiracy

Snopes took this one on in 2002, but it's been making the rounds for years. Basically, it's the idea that the "u" and "K" labels you see on some foods are labels put on products to signify the corporation has paid the required amount of protection tax on them. Paid to who, you ask? The Rabbinical Councils set up across the world to collect millions and millions of dollars on various products, money that is then collected and sent back to pro-Israel forces. And why would they pay? Because, the theory goes, companies are being threatened by a "Kosher Nostra" racket that starts when a Rabbi promises to start a product boycott if the tax isn't paid. That cost is then passed on to the consumer, of course… yes, seriously. It's not true.

The markings are simply conformation that the product has been certified kosher ("K"), was prepared under the supervision of a Rabbi ("u"), or is parve, which is meat- and dairy-free. Snopes also says the rules of these designations are insanely complicated, but as far as there being a massive conspiracy theory behind the labels? Not so much.

GMOs have been weaponized

GMOs are hugely controversial (a controversy we took a look at in this article). Widespread claims include the idea that GMOs are unsafe or carcinogenic, but there's an even weirder one out there. According to Cornell's Alliance for Science, the conspiracy theory started on Mike Adams's pseudo-health site Natural News. Essentially, he claims GMOs are very specifically engineered to be weaponized in a "concerted, organized, and longstanding effort to eliminate African-Americans from the gene pool, and Africans in general."

That's absolutely a direct quote, and in the same piece, he also claims GMOs are being weaponized in the same way vaccines already have been. He gets technical, too, saying that the development of RNAi technology is sort of a sneaky way of controlling the population when, according to Cornell, it's put in place to protect plants from diseases and pests without the need to use pesticides and insecticides. Those are two very, very different things, but that's never stopped conspiracy theorists before.

China is selling fake vegetables

Buzzfeed picked up this one, and it basically says China is selling fake vegetables. The whole conspiracy theory got a major boost when publications in the Philippines started warning people they might be buying fake cabbage from China, and it wasn't long before it spread across social media and the world.

It's actually a case of cultural misunderstanding. The video that started it all does, indeed, show a person making wax food, but he's doing it for a very good reason. For decades, restaurants in Japan have advertised their food not in menu form, but in the form of fake food models. You can see what you're getting before you order it, and not only is that pretty brilliant, some of these pieces are works of art (they're making them in this photo). The conspiracy theory is just what happens when people jump to conclusions.

QZ says it's not just vegetables said to be faked, but seaweed, too. A viral video claiming one company was making plastic seaweed devastated the industry, and adds that among the fake videos are some real ones, meaning that really, no one knows what the heck's going on.

Cadbury Creme Eggs are Illuminati

John Oliver of Last Week Tonight takes on all kinds of issues, and he makes the news entertaining for people who hate to watch the news. In 2016, he dropped a bombshell: Cadbury Eggs were the work of the Illuminati. Describing it as "a terrible candy that tastes like mermaid placenta covered in candle wax," he says the only imaginable reason we look forward to them every year is we're being manipulated.

The theory is incredibly, wonderfully complicated, hitting Freemasonry, Germany, the UK, and Miracle on 34th Street. But the biggest giveaway? Cut a Creme Egg in half, and what does it look like?

"The Illuminati eye!" Case closed.

(Sure, this is John Oliver having fun with both conspiracy theories and Cadbury Creme Eggs, but it's no weirder than any of these other theories. And, just in case the Illuminati are monitoring this, Cadbury Creme Eggs are delicious, and anyone who says otherwise is a heathen.)