The Story

Before the actual scenario is described, students have traditionally been welcomed to the School of Public Health by the Chair of the Department of Environmental Health at Boston University . Dr. White talks about the scenario students are about to participate in as an exercise modeled on what real public health professionals go through.

The scenario itself begins with a summer picnic. BAHEC students are asked to imagine a picnic at which they are eating a lot of great food. A power point presentation is given with the different foods served at the picnic (i.e., chicken salad, potato salad, fried chicken, burgers, barbequed chicken, fruit salad, chicken/meat kabobs, chicken burgers). They get the picture, a lot of chicken.

The following day they read an article in the local, very reputable paper

Widespread chicken contamination

(By Associated Press)

DURHAM- What appears to be a mass poisoning has affected poultry farms across the states of Alabama , Georgia and North Carolina , with an estimated loss of over 100,000 chickens. According to a grower who requested anonymity, the chickens acted very strangely for the last several days and “wouldn’t go near their feed.” Fred Pucker, CEO of PuckerUp Poultry Inc., which hires out the farms where the poisoning occurred, refused to be interviewed. The Alabama and North Carolina State Departments of Public Health are investigating the outbreak to determine the risk this poisoning may pose to human health. Poultry is a major industry in the South.

Students have a moment to think this over and share responses among themselves.
Then, they are presented with another news article,


Two-Headed Chickens in Alabama !

Last week’s mass chicken poisoning resulted in over 100,000 mutated chickens, some with two heads, five legs, and one with three wings. When PuckerUp Poultry, Inc. discovered these reproductive abnormalities, the company immediately killed all chickens on their farms in the states of Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina. PuckerUp employees are concerned that the same thing will happen to their children. PuckerUp Poultry, Inc. bought its chicken feed, believed to be contaminated with the carcinogen, dioxin, from the PuckerUp exclusive contractor, Feed The World, Inc. located in Mobile, Alabama. PuckerUp is the largest poultry producer in the US, with over $7 billion in sales in 2000. They ship their poultry across the US where it is sold at nearly every major supermarket chain in the country. It is also exported to several European and South American countries.


The students are asked to consider, Is this a reliable news source?

When they see articles in this type of publication, don’t they take everything they read with a grain of salt? Is there some truth to this? When students are asked to switch roles. They are no longer BAHEC students, but they are working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and you have to make a decision:

Question: Is it safe to eat PuckerUp Poultry?

Should the poultry on the shelves in stores across Massachusetts stay there, or should it be re-called and taken away?

The second article refers to Dioxin. As public health officials they are given a brief explanation of chemical structure of Dioxin, and its sources on power point slides

What is Dioxin?


  • Formed by burning things, especially plastics made with oil and chlorine.
  • Pollution in the environment comes from waste incinerators and paper mills which use chlorine to bleach paper.

Students are introduced to the people they will interview during their investigation. They characters are introduced first by their professional name and actual affiliation, and then by the character they will be playing.

The characters are:

  • Fred Pucker, CEO, PuckerUp Poultry
  • Alabama Department of Public Health
  • US Food & Drug Administration
  • Concerned Resident of Massachusetts
  • Dioxin Scientist

Students split into groups which have their own table (a group of 10 students). Their mandate is to answer the question, “Is Pucker Up Poultry Safe?” and proporse recommendations or additional questions regarding the safety and security of the State’s food supply. They have 7 minutes to interview each person.

After approximately 35 minutes, when students have interviewed all the characters, each table reports their decision.



Boston University Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Environmental Exposures and Health