Hysteria and the Villejuif Leaflet

The Villejuif Leaflet, which was sent out far and wide in Europe, was a list. On the list was a bunch of substances one commonly finds in food. These substances were listed as carcinogens. In defense of whoever made the list, many of them were potentially harmful. However, citric acid was on the list, and it is decidedly safe.

The Villejuif Leaflet was named thus because it was reportedly sent out by a hospital in Villejuif, France, but this turned out to be false. Nonetheless, the leaflet's origins were most certainly in France, though the precise location and distributor have never been discovered. It first appeared in 1976 as one page that was put together on a typewriter.

What is bizarre about the Villejuif Leaflet is not that it contained misinformation. This is common. What is bizarre is that it made enough rounds to reach roughly 7 million people, many of whom became very scared. It caused mass hysteria that lasted for years.