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Deadly Rat Urine on Soda Cans?

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Netlore Archive: Forwarded email claims people have died after coming into contact with dried rat urine on unwashed soda pop cans.

Description: Viral alert / Urban legend
Circulating since: Oct. 1998
Status: Unsubstantiated (see details below)

See also: Person Catches Leptospirosis from Unwashed Coke Can?

Example #1:
Email contributed by Bill W., Nov. 8, 1998:

Subj: Subject: Rat's Urine...Be aware of it!!!! Not joke.....

Be careful!

Whenever you buy a can of coke or whatever, please make sure that you wash the top with running water and soap or, if not available, drink with a straw. A family friend's friend (Katrina/Sophie: It's Auntie Bet's friend) died after drinking a can of soda! Apparently, she didn't clean the top before drinking from the can. The top was encrusted with dried rat's urine which is toxic and obviously lethal!!!!! Canned drinks and other foodstuff are stored in warehouses and containers that are usually infested with rodents and then get transported to the retail outlets without being properly cleaned.

So you know what to do from now on folks...........


Example #2:
Email contributed by Brian J., Nov. 16, 1998:

Whenever you buy a can of coke or whatever, please make sure that you wash the top with running water and soap or if not available drink out of a straw. A family friend died after drinking a can of soda! Apparently, she didn't clean the top before drinking from the can of soda! The top was encrusted with dried rat's urine which is toxic and obviously lethal!!! Canned drinks and other foodstuff are stored in warehouses and containers that are usually infested with rodents and then get transported to the retail outlets without being properly cleaned. So you know what to do from now on...


Example #3:
Email contributed anonymously, Nov. 20, 1998:

Whenever you buy a can of coke or whatever, please make sure that you wash the top with running water and soap or, if not available, drink with a straw. A woman died after drinking a can of soda! apparently, she didn't clean the top before drinking from the can. The top was encrusted with dried rat's urine which is toxic and obviously lethal!!!!! Canned drinks and other foodstuff are stored in warehouses and containers that are usually infested with rodents and then get transported to the retail outlets without being properly cleaned.
So you know what to do from now on folks........... tell someone!


Analysis: One reason people share stories like these is to pass along information which seems, at least on the face of it, critically important to everyone's health and well-being.

Another reason they do it is to scare each other, and to that end some folks aren't above fudging the facts. It's one reason rumors and legends change over time (note the passages highlighted in bold in the examples above), a defining feature of urban legends.

That a report contains errors or inconsistencies doesn't mean we have to dismiss it as entirely false, however. For example, it's plausible that someone could have died in the manner described above, even if the precise details given us are questionable. It's plainly false that rat urine is inherently "toxic and obviously lethal" as claimed, but rats do sometimes carry diseases deadly to humans, in which cases their urine and/or feces pose a real epidemiological threat.

It goes without saying that crates of canned soft drinks could be exposed to rodent traffic during transport and storage, but we needn't conclude that urine contamination is extremely common. Such products are usually boxed and/or shrink-wrapped for transportation and storage until they're put on display for sale.

If the very idea of drinking from a dirty soda can makes you nervous, by all means do wash the lid before use. A timeless adage that pairs well with any cautionary tale is the old saying, "'Tis better to be safe than sorry."

'Tis true!

See also:
Person Catches Leptospirosis from Unwashed Coke Can?
Lethal Rat Droppings on Soda Cans?


Urban Legends, September 2002


Last updated: 08/05/10

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