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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Rat Urine on Soda Can Kills Store Clerk

by Ken Newquist / October 8, 2003

In 1999/2000, an e-mail hoax surfaced claiming that a man in Hawaii died after being exposed to rat urine in the back room of a supermarket. Although it offered good advice -- always wipe off your soda can before drinking from it -- the content's were false.

The hoax has gained a few paragraphs since it first appeared, but it's no more true than the day it surfaced.

Date Captured: March 13, 2000
A stock clerk was sent to clean up a storeroom at their Maui, Hawaii location. When he got back, he was complaining that the storeroom was really filthy, and that he had noticed dried mouse or rat droppings in some areas.

A couple of days later, he started feeling like he was coming down with stomach flu, achy joints, headache, and he started throwing up. He went to bed and never really got up. Within two days he was so ill and weak, his blood sugar count was down to 66 and his face and eyeballs were yellow. He was rushed to the emergency at Pali Momi, where they said he was suffering from massive organ failure! He died shortly before midnight.

None of us would have ever made the connection between his job and his death, but the doctors specifically asked if he had been in a warehouse or exposed to dried rat or mouse droppings at any time. They said there is a virus (much like Hanta virus) that lives in dried rat and mouse droppings. Once dried, these droppings are like dust, and can easily be ingested if a person is not careful to wash their hands and face thoroughly, or wear protective gear.

An autopsy was conducted to verify the doctors' suspicions. This is why it is extremely important to ALWAYS carefully rinse off the tops of any canned sodas or foods, and wipe off pasta packaging, cereal boxes, etc. Almost everything you buy in a supermarket was stored in a warehouse at one time or another, and stores themselves often have rodents. Most of us remember to wash vegetables and fruit but never think of boxes and cans. The ugly truth is even the most modern, upper-class, super store has rats and mice.

And their warehouse most assuredly does! Whenever you buy any canned soft drink, please make sure that you wash the top with running water and soap, or if not available, drink with a straw.

A brief investigation by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta of soda cans discovered that the top of soda cans can be encrusted with dried rat's urine which is toxic and lethal! Canned drinks and other foodstuffs are stored in warehouses and containers that are usually infested with rodents and then get transported to the retail outlets without being properly cleaned.

Please forward this message to the people you care about.

Here's a newer version of the hoax. It's more elaborate, but most of the content's the same -- it's just been jazzed up a bit to assure rich people that even upscale stores are suceptable to the deadly rat urine plague.

Date Captured: October 6, 2003


A stock clerk was sent to clean up a Store room in Maui, Hawaii. When he got back, he was complaining that the Storeroom was really filthy and that he had noticed dried mouse or rat droppings in some areas.

A couple of days later, he started to feel like he was coming down with stomach


flu, complained of sore joints and headaches, and began to vomit. He went to bed and never really got up again. Within two days he was severely ill and weak. His blood sugar count was down to 66, and his face and eyeballs were yellow. He was rushed to the emergency at Pali-Momi, where he was diagnosed to be suffering from massive organ failure. He died shortly before midnight.

No one would have made the connection between his job and his death, had it not been for a doctor who specifically asked if he had been in a warehouse or exposed to dried rat or mouse droppings at any time. They said there is a virus (much like the Hanta virus) that lives in dried rat and mouse droppings. Once dried, these droppings are like dust and can easily be breathed in or ingested if a person does not wear protective gear or fails to wash face and hands thoroughly.

An autopsy was performed on the clerk to verify the doctor's suspicions.

This is why it is extremely important to ALWAYS carefully rinse off the tops of canned sodas or foods, and to wipe off pasta packaging, cereal boxes, and so on. Almost everything you buy in a supermarket was stored in a warehouse at one time or another, and stores themselves often have rodents.

Most of us remember to wash vegetables and fruits but never think of boxes and cans.

The ugly truth is, even the most modern, upper-class, super store has rats and mice. And their warehouse most assuredly does!

Whenever you buy any canned soft drink, please make sure that you wash the top with running water and soap or, if that is not available, drink with a straw.

The investigation of soda cans by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta discovered that the tops of soda cans can be encrusted with dried rat's urine, which is so toxic it can be lethal. Canned drinks and other foodstuffs are stored in warehouses and containers that are usually infested with Rodents, and then they get transported to retail outlets without being properly cleaned. Please forward this message to the people you care about. (I JUST DID!)

This e-mail pulls out all the stops in trying to scare people. It specifies geographic locations, gives gory details about symptoms, and, of course, quotes the Centers for Disease Control.

After much research, I've found that while rodents can certainly carry diseases, most don't. The chances of catching something from a soda can appear to be very, very slight ... but not impossible. Any number of nasty substances could find their way onto your soda can and so wiping it off before taking a sip is good advice. So is not chewing used bubble gum you find on the sidewalk.

Unfortunately, the hoax doesn't give us very many specific to run with. No date is given, and even the month and year are dropped in the newer incarnation.

it gives a geographic location (Maui) it doesn't tell us what the man's name was, what supermarket he worked for, or who the cornorer was who did the autopsy (or even the county/city the coroner worked for).

That said, we have a few facts we can check ... but none of them check out.

  • Where's the news? I know a lack of news does not mean that a think didn't happen ... but a man dying from rat urine would be all over the news, if not nationally, then definitely locally. However, The Honolulu Advertiser, a daily newspaper, makes no mention of the incident. They didn't three years ago either.
  • Hospitals in Pali-Momi: Kapi`olani Medical Center in Pali Momi carries no mention of the death in its health news section.
  • The Centers for Disease Control: The e-mail says that the CDC investigated the death. This is not true -- indeed, the CDC debunks this hoax on their Web site. They state that "The e-mail report is untrue. CDC could not substantiate this report of a hantavirus infection, nor has CDC been asked to participate in an investigation of the incident described in the e-mail." It goes on to say that hantavirus can be spread through contact with rat urine, droppings or saliva ... but this case didn't happen.

The following sites also have debunkings of this hoax: