The Imaginary Crimes of Margit Hamosh | Revisionist History podcast with Malcolm Gladwell E8/S3

The Imaginary Crimes of Margit Hamosh

Episode 8| Season 3| Revisionist History
Length: 36 mins | Released: July 5, 2018

MG: In early summer of 1999, there was a strange incident in Belgium.

MR: Products had been taken back from the market when it happened, but, obviously, it was already a bit too late.

MG: It began at a secondary school in a little town called Bornem, just outside Antwerp. A group of students got sickÔøΩ abdominal distress, headaches, nausea, trembling, dizziness. Dozens of kids in the first wave all ended up in the hospital.

BN: And the only commonality was that they had been eating together but each had eaten their own sandwiches, so there was no possibility of a food-borne problem.

MG: That's Benoit Nemery, he's a medical toxicologist at the University of Louisville. He was part of the group that investigated the outbreak among the students.

BN: The only thing that they had in common is that they had drunk Coca-Cola from bottles from a crate and, allegedly, there was a strange odor in the Coke. And then the school teachers went in the different classrooms asking is anybody feeling unwell and drank Coca-Cola, which, of course, made sense at the time, but that led a few more children to report sick, to be taken to hospital.

MG: The story went national. The Evening News was a montage of ambulances and worried parents. The next day, four more schools reported outbreaks.

BN: I mean, it was really a state of panic.

MG: Every single Coca-Cola product in Belgium was pulled from the shelves and destroyed. 30 million cans and bottles; the largest recall in Coca-Cola history. The company was in crisis. The stock price plummeted. I was transfixed by the Belgian Coke crisis, not because I had any special interest in Coca-Cola or Belgium but because the whole affair reminded me of another panic, something I'd lived through years before that left me baffled and frustrated.

MG: My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You're listening to Revisionist History, my podcast about things forgotten and misunderstood. The next two episodes are about a panic that swept the United States a quarter-century ago, an outbreak of insanity. I was in the middle of it, covered it as a young reporter for The Washington Post. But it took the Belgian Coke crisis, a few years later, for me to understand why it happened because you know what poisoned all those Belgians? Nothing.

MG: The best explanation Coca-Cola could come up with was that some of the carbon dioxide at their local bottling plant had been contaminated with sulfur compounds, enough to cause a slight odor, but trace amounts, orders of magnitude below what is necessary to cause illness.

BN: No major toxins detected, nothing that would suggest true poisoning. And so epidemiologically, it made no sense that there was poisoning by a single same agent.

To see the full transcript, go here.

Transcripts for the entire Season 1ÔøΩ ÔøΩ3 podcasts of Revisionist History are available here.

Simon Says is an automated transcription service. We assist people and companies, such as those in the media, to swiftly transcribe audio and video files so they can find that meaningful dialogue. We are not associated with Revisionist History or Panoply Media; we are just big fans. And we highly recommend you listen to the podcast if you can. We have provided the transcript below as a supplement. Enjoy!

Get Started with Simon Says
Transcribe & caption  like a pro.
Learn more

Related Posts