Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, is an essential public institution. Its 12,000 employees work all over the United States and 120 other countries, preventing outbreaks of infectious diseases and informing the public on the latest available medical science and public health developments. They’re basically all that stands between us and an apocalyptic zombie invasion, so let’s all thank our lucky stars that the CDC exists to save our sorry, mortal posteriors. That being said, we need to talk about the CDC’s bizarre new campaign to make us hate eating all food.
Last Friday, the CDC’s main Twitter account tweeted a disturbing image of a poppy seed muffin crawling with ticks. In a demented effort to teach us about the varied sizes of tick species, the Tweet asked social media users to find five ticks of almost imperceptible size scattered about the muffin, like some kind of sick game that the puppet from Saw invented. Understandably, muffin-lovers the world over responded in inconsolable dismay.
Oh nooooooooo pic.twitter.com/12IqFAUgWd— Kelly (@Iamabookaddict) May 5, 2018
Why would you do this— 𝙹𝚞𝚕𝚒𝚎 (@resisterhood) May 4, 2018
Please don’t ever do this again— Salena (@Salencita) May 4, 2018
That muffin was fine before the ticks and you ruined it— Mike Bivins (@itsmikebivins) May 5, 2018
Others imagined other food items that could work as a stand-in for muffins, which drove home something a lot of us were asking ourselves: Would we ever be able to think of poppyseeds the same way again?
The CDC's new cookbook: "Key Lyme Pie and Other Favorites" is available for pre-order on Amazon pic.twitter.com/cbvrwkxs4f— Matt McDaniel (@GovMatt) May 5, 2018
Can you spot the ticks?? They’re the same size as a poppy seed & look nearly identical! Working on this eye-opening story for @boston25. And I’ll be posting where 1 of those ticks are in just a bit. pic.twitter.com/2d5VSGx6Cw— Stephanie Coueignoux (@StephanieCNews) May 7, 2018
The CDC, normally a faceless government entity devoid of humor or personality, later apologized for their failed attempt at whimsy in a follow-up tweet. But because the apology was delivered in the form of a pun (“Sorry we ticked some of you off!”) I consider it effectively a non-apology.
The bug-infested muffin is just the latest chapter in a persistent, if unwitting, attempt on the part of the CDC to demolish our appetites and strike terror in our tummies. Just before the muffin debacle, there was April’s all-out assault on romaine lettuce. After dozens of people got sick from ingesting E. coli-ridden romaine lettuce originating in the vicinity of Yuma, Arizona, the CDC vacillated for a week about how much of the nation’s precious supply of leafy greens was contaminated.
At one point, Americans were advised not to eat any chopped romaine lettuce from any store, throwing salad aficionados and lettuce fetishists into existential turmoil. Days later, the CDC narrowed the scope of their warning to include only romaine lettuce grown around Yuma — with the frustrating caveat that unless you are able to explicitly confirm the origin of your lettuce, you shouldn't be eating any of it. By that point, the damage was done: Emilie Friedlander, a noteworthy salad eater and the editor of this article, said she now quivers in fear as she digs into salads of uncertain portent.
Of course, it’s the CDC’s role to warn Americans about outbreaks of foodborne illnesses like last month’s romaine lettuce contamination. It’s also the responsibility of the CDC to educate the public about diseases transmitted by insects, instances of which happen to be on the rise around the world. But the needless disparagement of poppy seed muffins is befuddling — until you peruse the rest of the CDC’s 59 Twitter accounts for several hours like I did.
Like sprouts on your salads and sandwiches? Better think twice. Want to can your own food? Sure, if you want #botulism. Having some friends over for a Cinco de Mayo party? Don’t kill them with your germs! Maybe we can just bake some cookies? You’ll burn your house down! How about just a friggin’ glass of water? NOTHING IS SAFE.
If you spend you enough lurking the strange world of CDC Twitter, you’ll be left with the feeling that danger looms behind every paltry morsel of consumable vittles. They’re not wrong, of course: anything we put in our bodies has the potential to do us harm. But for the love of all that is delicious, can we just not put disease-ridden bugs on perfectly scrumptious muffins?