Local News

Mystery Of Glowing Chicken Bones Resolved

Posted June 30, 2001

— The mystery of the glowing chicken bones has been solved. In March, WRAL reported that a Fayetteville family had eaten a chicken dinner, and a day later when they gave their dog the bones, the bones gave off a powerful greenish glow.

"I saw it first but I couldn't move. You understand? It's-wait-a-minute-time when you see something like that, a light coming out of the dog dish, you follow what I'm saying? It's wait a minute time when you see something like that," says John Fairley, who first saw the bones glow.

Now the USDA, which investigated the bones for about four months, and even used a geiger counter, has released its findings, and the findings shed even more light.

The bones were not radioactive. The glow was caused by a normal, run-of-the-mill bacteria called Pseudemonas Fluorecens. It is a very common bacteria in meats.

"I know it's something that happens to everybody. I just happened to be that old, poor schmuck that noticed it, how about that?" says Fairley.

MaryAnne Drake is a microbiologist at NC State. She says the bacteria glowing is like fireflies lighting.

"That glow in the dark flash that you see in the evening, it's the same analogous type of thing that this organism produces. It's nothing toxic or dangerous, it's just what this organism does as part of its growth cycle," says food microbiologist MaryAnne Drake.

So the glowing chicken bones mystery is solved, and yet John Fairley is still a little plucked.

"I bet you I've had over 500 phone calls, people asking me about it and guess what? Nobody has ever come to me and said, 'John Fairley, I have witnessed this phenomena,' how about that? That's pretty good, huh? But all of a sudden now when it's faced with scrutiny, and hell, it don't mean nothing."

Fairley was once a foreign trade supervisor who inspected poultry, so he knows when chicken's not right. John and his family got sick after eating the chicken in question, but food scientists say this particular bacteria should not cause illness. So that part of the story remains a mystery.


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