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Top 8 Culinary Scandals of the Past Decade

Oh, Paula Deen. Just stop talking and eat some butter.
Oh, Paula Deen. Just stop talking and eat some butter.

It seems every day someone new is coming out of the woodwork to claim he or she was wronged by Paula Deen. The once-beloved host of Paula's Home Cooking on the Food Network has been accused of racial and sexual discrimination by a number of former employees and was quoted using the "N-word" and saying she wanted to have a "true Southern plantation-style theme" for her brother's wedding, complete with black male servers. The fat, white, Southern belle of cooking is racist. Shocking.

This all came after a previous scandal in which Deen revealed she has diabetes and knew about her diabetes even while continuing to push overly sweet and fatty foods on her TV show. Then she went on to become a paid spokesperson for the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, which exports insulin. Deen's longtime rival Anthony Bourdain joked that he was going to start breaking legs to sell crutches, since that's essentially what Deen is doing. Oh, the hypocrisy!

Because we're actually kind of tired of hearing about Deen, we've compiled a list featuring the best of the rest of the past decade's culinary scandals. Also, someone needs to take the heat off of Deen. Poor old lady can't handle it!

You're welcome, Paula.

8. Mad Cow Disease

It's kind of pretty under a microscope...
It's kind of pretty under a microscope...
Photo from the CDC

Mad Cow Disease or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) has been in the news since the 1980s, but the first confirmed case of an American cow with Mad Cow Disease occurred in 2003. The cow, who was raised in Washington state, set off alarm bells all over the country. Previously, Mad Cow Disease seemed to have been confined to England and Canada, but its appearance in the United States was crippling to the beef industry. Within hours of the announcement in December 2003, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore all banned the import of U.S. beef. Japan was the top importer of U.S. beef in 2003, buying 240,000 tons that year, valued at $1.4 billion. Three other cases of Mad Cow Disease have been confirmed in this country since 2003, the most recent being in 2012. Though more than 100 people have died in England since the '90s as a result of infected cows, no one in the United States has died. Relations with Japan's meat importing bigwigs are still not great though, and Japan and other nations have banned U.S. beef several times since 2003.

7. Martha Stewart's Insider Trading

I'll be the first to admit that I'm kind of obsessed with Martha Stewart. I love the woman. She can do no wrong. Oh, except for that time in 2004 when she went to prison for five months for securities fraud stemming from sales of ImClone Systems stock after her broker provided her with insider trading tips. Martha took her prison sentence in stride and emerged better than ever. Many thought that prison would be the downfall of the domestic goddess, but she emerged with a new drive to take over the homemaking business. In a special issue about scandals, People Magazine said, "Some expected America's goddess of domestic perfection to fall into terminal despair. Instead, with the drive that would make her a billionaire, Stewart took her lemon of a sentence and made lemonade. Heck, she made a lemon soufflé." And that is why Martha is still my hero and why I sometimes still read People.

 

6. Pink Slime

Top 8 Culinary Scandals of the Past Decade
Photo from the USDA

In March 2012, ABC ran an investigative piece that claimed that "pink slime," or "lean finely textured beef (LFTB)" is present in up to 70 percent of ground beef sold in the United States Um, gross. Pink slime is made by processing trimmings like cartilage and heating these trimmings in a centrifuge to separate the lean meat from the fat. Then the lean meat is treated with some delicious ammonia, packaged and sent off to manufacturers to mix with legit meat. Some people don't mind the presence of pink slime in their food because they claim such things are already present in hot dogs and hamburgers. Others are concerned about the safety of eating ammonia-treated meat. As a result of the controversy, many fast food restaurants and school food companies have vowed not to use the product. But they probably still use tons of other nasty stuff that we don't even know about, so there's that.

5. Melamine Milk in China

Empty milk shelves in China where milk products were recalled.
Empty milk shelves in China where milk products were recalled.

Some of these food scandals are kind of humorous, but the 2008 Chinese milk scandal was pure tragedy. Melamine is a type of plastic that is sometimes illegally added to food to increase its apparent protein content. In China, manufacturers of powdered milk and baby formula were adding melamine to their products, which ultimately sickened an estimated 300,000 people, 54,000 of which were babies. Six children died from kidney damages caused by the ingestion of melamine. The toxic additive has since been found in other food products like eggs and baking powder. In 2012, Jiang Weisuo, the man who first blew the whistle on melamine contamination, was murdered in China.

 

4. Juan-Carlos Cruz

Juan-Carlos Cruz had a lot going for him in 2010. He was a celebrity chef and host of cooking and weight loss shows on the Food Network. He lost 43 pounds on a Discovery Channel show and changed his lifestyle to be healthier. He published two successful cookbooks. Then he tried to hire three random homeless guys to kill his wife. Two of the homeless fellas went to the police, who were then able to catch Cruz on video planning the details of the murder. Cruz was arrested during the sting and pled guilty to soliciting murder. He was sentenced to nine years in a California prison where he is no doubt teaching his fellow inmates a thing or two about eating healthy behind bars.

3. Horse Meat

Yeah, no thanks.
Yeah, no thanks.
Photo by Sarah Yeomans

In January 2013, some tests confirmed that horse DNA was discovered in frozen burgers sold at a few British and Irish supermarkets. In Ireland, 27 beef burger products were tested and 37 percent of those were positive for horse DNA. While eating horse isn't illegal, it's, you know, frowned upon in many countries. Horses are kind of like pets. It's against the Jewish religion to eat horses as well, so it's kind of an issue when horse meat mysteriously shows up in your burgers. One of the biggest scandals to come out of the horse meat fiasco is the revelation that furniture maker/restaurant Ikea was selling horse meat-tainted meatballs in a number of European stores. Taco Bell and Burger King also found horse meat in some of their supposed beef products.

  2. Yelp

God, what else is there to say about Yelp? Restaurateurs hate it (unless people are being nice to them) and eaters love it because it gives everyone the power to feel like a food critic. If you got bad service somewhere, you can trash the place on Yelp and oddly enough, some people might actually listen. Earlier this year there was the scandal involving Gordon Ramsay and Amy's Baking Company in Arizona. The couple behind ABC were on Ramsay's show Kitchen Nightmares, and it's clear they are complete lunatics. As a result of seeing the couple and their restaurant on TV, many took it upon themselves to go to Yelp and publicly trash the place, even though most had never actually eaten a meal at ABC. OK, this place probably deserved it, but many other places get bad reviews from people who are just butt hurt about something the server said or the fact that they had to wait ten minutes for their dinner. It's a polarizing topic, and the debate is far from over. 1. Chick-fil-A Same-Sex Marriage Controversy

National Same Sex Kiss Day in front of Chick-fil-A.
National Same Sex Kiss Day in front of Chick-fil-A.
Photo by Elvert Barnes

On June 16, 2012, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy really put his foot in his mouth. While appearing on a radio talk show, Cathy spoke about Chick-fil-A's support of anti-LGBT organizations saying, "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage'. I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about." It's a free country, and people are certainly allowed to have their own opinions. However, when you're in charge of a large fast food chain that serves gay and straight people alike, it's maybe not a good idea to alienate a sector of your customers. Cathy's comment pissed off a lot of people, from the mayor of Boston who said he wouldn't allow any Chick-fil-A franchises in the city unless they changed their policies to publisher HarperCollins who pulled Berenstein Bear titles from inclusion in Chick-fil-A kid's meals. The fast food chain was boycotted by some and praised by others. Eventually, Chick-fil-A stopped supporting discriminatory organizations, but Cathy hasn't learned. In June he tweeted about his sadness regarding the ruling of the Supreme Court about gay marriage. Dude, Cathy, just stop talking and make some chicken.


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