Oreos vs. Hydrox
Oreos are the world’s most popular cookie, racking up $1.5 billion in revenue per year according to Nabisco. With that kind of success, one is bound to attract a host of imitators. Perhaps the most established of these cookie counterfeiters was the Hydrox cookie, manufactured by Sunshine, a subsidiary of Kellogg. Except things are really the other way around—Oreo is actually the rip-off brand.Hydrox (a word combining the words “hydrogen” and “oxygen”) were introduced in 1908, while Oreos didn’t appear until 1912. Compared to Oreos, Hydrox have been called “tangy” and “less sweet,” with a cookie less absorbent to a dunking in milk. Oreo dominated the market share for decades, until Kellogg finally pulled the plug on Hydrox in 2003. There was an uproar from a small but vocal fan base, and the Hydrox reemerged briefly for its 100th anniversary before fading back into obscurity.
Mrs. Fields And The $250 Cookie Recipe
Like Famous Amos, Mrs. Fields is another real person. Debbi Fields started out as a ball girl for the Oakland Athletics in the late ’60s and used the proceeds of her job to bake cookies. In 1977, she and her husband opened their first store and met rapid success. Around this time, they became the victims of an ugly urban legend that had previously attached itself to other businesses. At its most basic, the story goes that a customer is so enamored by eating a cookie that she asks for the recipe. The clerk responds that the recipe can’t be given away, but is for sale at “two-fifty.” The customer is delighted to spend $2.50 on the secret, but when the credit card bill comes, it is for $250.00. Outraged, the customer publishes it for all to see.This legend has been circulating for decades, and had been connected to Woolworth’s, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and others. By 1987, the story had taken on such a life of its own that Fields put up a notice in her stores debunking the tale. More recently, the story has been linked to Neiman Marcus. In response, the store—which hadn’t previously even sold the snacks—began offering chocolate chip cookies and posted the recipe on their website.
The Fortune Cookie Lottery Miracle
The March 30, 2005 United States Powerball drawing was quite the shocker. One ticket snagged the $13.8 million jackpot, which was par for the course. Typically, the $100,000 second prize was won by four or five tickets, but in this instance, an astonishing 110 tickets were redeemed. Fraud was initially suspected, but an investigation revealed an even more bizarre reality: The winners made their selections based on the “lucky numbers” they’d gotten from fortune cookies manufactured by Wonton Food Inc. of Long Island City, New York.None of Wonton’s employees held tickets—the drawing was merely a coincidence. The numbers were: 22, 28, 32, 33, 39, and 40. Satisfied, the lottery commission paid out $19.4 million to the winners. Eerily, the fortune that went along with the lucky numbers was “All the preparation you’ve done will finally be paying off.”
Toll House E. Coli Outbreak
There are few more delightful earthly pleasures than licking the excess brownie batter off the spoon or stealing a pinch of cookie dough while Mom’s back is turned. The warnings that the dough contained raw eggs and might make you sick ostensibly rang hollow. Unfortunately, dough can indeed make you ill; under the right circumstances, it can kill you.In 2009, prepackaged Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough found to contain the bacterium E. coli 0157:H7 sickened 66 people in 28 states. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 25 of those people were sick enough to require hospitalization, and seven went into kidney failure. Luckily, no one died. The following year, Nestle discovered salmonella in their chocolate chips. Luckily, these were caught before going out to market.
Girl Scout Cookies
You might have noticed that it’s been quite some time since a Girl Scout knocked on your door peddling Thin Mints. The trend has been toward public sales, in front of supermarkets and the like. Unfortunately, the world is not a safe place for little girls with handfuls of cash. They are often robbed or duped by fraudulent orders.Perhaps the most tragic case occurred in February 1975, when 9-year-old Marcia Trinble vanished while delivering cookies in her Nashville, Tennessee neighborhood. Her body was found over a month later on Easter Sunday, showing signs of sexual assault. A 15-year-old boy named Jeffrey Womack was arrested but later released. Many would consider him a suspect until 2007, when an inmate in Davidson County, Tennessee admitted to the killing. Jerome Barrett’s DNA matched samples taken from the crime scene, and in 2009, the 62-year-old was sentenced to 44 years in prison.