The claim: Oscar Mayer is selling black licorice hot dogs called ‘Hallowieners’
On the weekend leading up to Halloween 2021, social media users alternately expressed disgust and fascination at a viral image seeming to show an unconventional new Oscar Mayer product: black-licorice-flavored hot dogs called “Hallowieners.”
“Hard no from me,” one user captioned his Oct. 29 post in a Facebook group with over 52,000 people. Over 350 people shared the post in less than a week.
Held out by the photographer in front of an aisle of groceries, the black-and-orange package in the photo says the franks are “made with chicken, pork, beef and black licorice” and contain 20 grams of sugar per serving. (That would be 20 times the amount in the company’s classic wieners.)
The photo appeared in dozens of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts between Oct. 29 and Oct. 31.
The idea of ”black licorice sausage” isn’t as far out as it might seem. Anise is used as flavoring for black licorice, and anise seed is a common ingredient in Italian sausage. “Anise…interesting,” a commenter replied to one Facebook post. “Could do something cool with this.”
However, it’s yet another fake seasonal Oscar Mayer product, following a years-old photo of “pumpkin spice bologna” that continues to circulate.
Fact-check:Photo purporting to show Oscar Mayer’s pumpkin spice bologna is altered
USA TODAY reached out to several users who shared the post for comment. Television writer and producer Steve Marmel posted a reply to his viral tweet of the image saying, “I don’t care if it’s fake. Let it be a warning.”
‘Hallowiener’ photo from Instagram account that posts fake products
Unfortunately for adventurous foodies, Oscar Mayer does not produce black licorice hot dogs, a spokesperson for the brand said.
“This is not a real product,” Stephanie Peterson, head of US communications at Kraft Heinz, wrote USA TODAY in an email.
The photo is an example of what could be called stolen satire, in which made-up claims published and labeled as satire are captured via screenshot and reposted in a way that makes them appear to be legitimate news. As a result, readers of the second-generation post are misled, as was the case here.
The image originated on the Instagram account @boxofchowder. It is listed among fake products in the account’s profile highlights, and the @boxofchowder administrator told USA TODAY he created the photo.
The page regularly posts digital images of outlandish products such as birthday-cake-flavored mayonnaise and “Monster Mash” energy-drink-infused mashed potatoes.
The “Hallowieners” concept took off after the satire/parody account @worst.buy posted the photo on Instagram that day, @boxofchowder told USA TODAY. Over 19,000 users liked the post.
But the satirical nature was missed by some after that point, as it spread among family, friends and followers.
“My Dad sent me this and claims it’s actually a real thing,” Twitter user Kris Howard (@web_goddess) wrote in an Oct. 29 tweet. “HALLOWIENERS. Someone please buy these and try them. (I 100% would.)”
she later replied to her original tweet: “Okay, it seems possible that perhaps my dad fell for a photoshopped image.”
Our rating: Altered
We rate ALTERED a picture claiming to show Oscar Mayer is selling black licorice hot dogs called “Hallowieners,” based on our research. The claim is based on a digitally manipulated image. A spokesperson for Oscar Mayer told USA TODAY that “Hallowieners” is not a real product.
Our fact-check sources:
- @boxofchowder, Oct. 31, correspondence with USA TODAY over Instagram messenger
- @boxofchowder, Oct 29, “Fake Products” Highlight – Halloween
- @boxofchowder, Oct 28, Instagram post
- @boxofchowder, Oct 23, Instagram post
- @boxofchowder, Oct 29, Instagram post
- Effing SC (unofficial Facebook page), Oct. 29, Facebook post
- Lo Yla V’lez, Oct. 29, Facebook post
- Adam Kaiser, Oct. 29, Facebook comment
- Kris Howard (@web_goddess), Oct. 29, Tweet
- Kris Howard (@web_goddess), Oct. 29, Tweet
- Mark Hamill, Oct. 30, Tweet (archived here)
- Snopes, Oct. 29, Are These “Hallowieners” a Genuine Product?
- Spiceography, accessed Nov. 4, Anise Seed: More Than A Flavoring For Italian Sausage
- Stephanie Peterson, Oct. 31, email correspondence with USA TODAY
- Steven Marmel, Oct. 29, Tweet (archived)
- USA TODAY, Nov. 3, Photo purporting to show Oscar-Mayer pumpkin spice bologna is altered
- @worst.buy, Oct 28, Instagram post
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