One big reason restaurants in China are getting away with illegal, addictive ingredients.

Next to pizza, there is perhaps no food more universally celebrated in the U.S. than Chinese.

GIF via "Jersey Shore."

Orange beef, kung pao chicken, GENERAL TSO'S, Y'ALL... Chinese food (or, at least, what many of us consider Chinese food) is some of the most diverse, tasty, and addictive stuff on the planet, and I'd argue that it's well on its way to replacing the hot dog as our national food in America.


In China, though, there's a specific reason behind the habit-forming quality of the food: poppy seeds.

Photo by Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images.

Those little black things that you're used to enjoying on a bagel actually come from the opium poppy plant, and they can contain traces of highly addictive alkaloids found in morphine, codeine, and cocaine. Because of this, the sale of poppy seeds has been banned in several countries around the world, from Taiwan to Saudi Arabia.

Chefs at dozens of restaurants in China have been adding poppy capsules to their heavily flavored foods.

The New York Times reported last week that 36 restaurants and snack bars in China were busted for using poppy capsules in their food, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "addictively delicious." They were putting poppies in dishes like hot pot and fried chicken, and even mixing them into their sauces.

It's one of the dirtiest secrets of the Chinese food industry.

Photo illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The seeming complete lack of concern for customer safety displayed by the owners of these restaurants is pretty upsetting. "It's quite effective," one poppy seller told Xinhaunet. "Many small-scale hotpot restaurants frequently buy from me. It keeps the customers coming back for more."

The worst part, though, is that poppy capsule consumption can have terrible long-term effects on health. According to Zhao Lan, a doctor with the Third People's Hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan, consuming large amounts of poppy capsules can lead to ill effects from chronic intoxication to long-term nervous system damage.


Well put, Mr. Situation. Well put. GIF via "Jersey Shore."

This rampant problem goes back to one key issue facing China's food system: lack of governmental regulation.

While the penalty for using poppy capsules in food may not seem that significant (up to 15 days in prison and a fine of up to $455), this drama is a sterling example of why government regulation matters everywhere.

Here in the U.S., it's a sad truth that we know very little about the foods we put into our bodies on a daily basis (just ask Michael Pollan about that). Instead, we trust that the businesses selling them would never do anything to intentionally harm us.

But imagine if a major fast food chain could sell us whatever they considered to be "burgers," or imagine if nutrition labels suddenly became a thing of the past! It would be salmonella-infested chaos.

Government regulations do actually protect us, the little people, from being exploited by the businesses we place our trust (and cash) in.

We tend to look at political issues like regulation as black and white, but the reality of regulatory systems is far more complex. Yes, our government may be frustratingly inefficient and wasteful at times, but it can also serve as a reassuring presence in the face of injustices — you know, like it was created to do. To put it in "Game of Thrones" terms, government is basically our Castle Black, protecting us from the horrors that lie beyond The Wall.

So that Five Guys burger you had for lunch that didn't make you sick? The Chipotle burrito that didn't give you E. coli? You can thank government regulation (and the efforts of the CDC) for those. Ain't that right, Pauly D?


GIF via, you guessed it, "Jersey Shore."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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