Breast milk cheese and other things that are difficult to believe

I'm beginning to think that old adage you can't believe everything you read should be changed to, you can't believe anything you read.

Earlier this week, The Chicago Tribune had a posting on their blog about cheese made of human breast milk. To the writer's credit, she right away said she had a feeling that this story was a hoax. Then thankfully she told us all about the web site, because, boy, what a story if it were true. However, it's almost certainly not. It can't be. But if you ever want to check out the French web site, in English since Google has a translation for it, Le Petit Singly, you can read all about their human breast milk cheese.

The web site suggests that you enjoy their cheese with red wine, or perhaps grilled on toast or as fondue.

According to Le Petit Singly, the company that makes this cheese has been around since 1947, and the breast milk comes from human donors between the ages of 25 and 45, and they donate when they're coming to the end of breastfeeding their babies. If you're a pregnant mother reading this and are interested in donating -- well, you can go to the web site and apparently email the owners about it.

I did some digging on the Internet and some web sites suggest it's a joke web site, like the Museum of Hoaxes, but Snopes, the most famous and well-respected for digging up information on urban legends -- they don't seem to have debunked it yet, though it has been discussed on their forum.

This reminds me, though, of a web site that Snopes has debunked. A few weeks ago, it suckered in a fellow writer colleague of mine. She had the unfortunate luck to stumble on and wondered if it could possibly be true: The site claims to match orphan children to men and women who are suffering from an illness and need an organ transplant. The idea is that the kid will be able to give away a kidney (you only need one) or some other "non-essential" organ.

As MedicalAdoption's home page argues, "Finding high-quality organs in a timely fashion can often be a problem. You can't buy them for any price legally, and attempts to do so often end in the disasters only afforded by the underground, black market of illicit organs."

The web site certainly looks authentic with photos of young children and testimonials from people who have adopted kids, to get tissue samples from them so they can grow back a spleen; and in return, the kids are rewarded with a home and loving parents. Yes, it's sick -- no pun intended -- and again, completely a spoof, according to Snopes.

Who would pull a cyber-prank like this? Who knows? But it is getting difficult to tell what's real and what's not. Earlier this month, for instance, even a respected newspaper fell for one of these spoofs. The Boston Herald ran a story written by well-known comedian Andy Borowitz, who has made a career out of spoofing politics by writing fake newspaper articles. But in Borowitz's defense, he never tries to pretend that they're anything but comedic essays. Still, The Boston Herald put the Associated Press byline with the article and ran one of Borowitz's columns about Hillary Clinton and Dick Cheney.

In the "newspaper article" that Borowitz penned, he asserted that...

...appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Vice President Dick Cheney said that a hunting contest between him and the New York senator was "the only way" to determine if Sen. Clinton's tales of her gun prowess were for real."

"To be frank, Hillary Clinton's stories about her adventures with guns don't exactly pass the smell test," the vice president told host Tim Russert. "If she really wants to show that she knows how to handle a rifle, there's an easy way to do that: meet me in the woods."

As one can imagine, the editors at The Boston Herald were pretty chagrined when it was found out that they stumbled into publishing some satire as straight news. But as I said, you just can't tell what's fake anymore. It's like nothing is sacred. Next thing you know, they'll be telling us that professional wrestling isn't real and that the water in bottled water doesn't actually come from pure and natural springs in the middle of the breathtaking and scenic Canadian rockies.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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