UK pupils have discovered dropping orange juice on a lateral flow test yields a positive result. This new trick comes from videos circulating on TikTok demonstrating the acidity of certain foods and drinks such as ketchup and Coca-Cola and how this affects a Covid-19 lateral flow test to generate a “fake” positive test result.
Many were worried it was the fruit juice which actually contained coronavirus. However, an experiment conducted by The Guardian confirmed this is not the case and it is purely the acidity influencing the reliability of the test.
Whilst TikTok have banned the uploading of such videos, in addition to blocking the hashtags #fakecovidtest and #fakecovidtests, some videos which have millions of views are still live. An analysis conducted by the ‘i’ newspaper found clips under those hashtags were viewed more than 6.5 million times. TikTok commented: “This trend violates our community guidelines and we are removing this content.”
One parent told ‘i’ last week their son was made to self-isolate after a friend faked her positive result through this TikTok method. “We are sure this involves a very small minority of pupils, and that for the most part these tests are used correctly,” Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, informed ‘i’. “However, we would urge parents to ensure that tests are not being misused, and we would suggest to pupils who are interested in chemical reactions that the best place to learn about them is in chemistry lessons in school.”
Although the Government and NHS encourages anyone who has received a positive lateral flow test result to take a PCR lab test to confirm the infection, parents have argued there is no way for the schools to compel students to do so. As of last week, around 300,000 pupils were self-isolating at home after potentially coming into contact with pupils who have tested positive. One UK science teacher noted: “They [pupils] say it’s a great way to get two weeks off school.”
Education leaders stated attempts to concoct positive results were “massively unhelpful”, due to education already being heavily disrupted by the pandemic. Jon Deeks, a Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Birmingham, criticised the practice. “False positives affect not just that child but their family and their bubble at school, so [it is a] pretty selfish thing to do. There are less harmful ways to fake a day off school.” Mark Lorch, a Professor of Science Communication and Chemistry at the University of Hull, commented in The Conversation it was possible to spot a “faked” positive test by washing it with a buffer solution which restores the correct pH to the device. Following this process, the “positive” line in a faked test disappears, revealing the negative result.