Did Poisonous Blue-stained Grapefruits Enter Italy from Israel in the 1980’s?
In 1988, a rumor started spreading in Italy about poisonous grapefruits entering Italy from Israel. The grapefruits were said to have a bluish stain on them. The press reported that, in an act of terrorism, the Israeli grapefruits had been injected with a blue poison. As the story went on, many details were added.
The story began when a Rome newspaper received an anonymous telephone call on April 19, 1988. The caller claimed that a poison had been injected into grapefruits imported into Italy from Israel. The caller told the paper that a group called the Organization of the Metropolitan Proletariat and Oppressed People were responsible for the poisoned fruit and that the group had placed them in a supermarket on the Via Donati. Police later confiscated 12 grapefruits which had indeed been injected with a blue substance.
The Italian health ministry took the claims seriously. They rounded up some of the blue-stained grapefruits and fed them to mice or guinea pigs (reports vary), which died. When the results of the health ministry’s experiment were reported in the newspapers, the stories claimed that several people had also died from eating the grapefruit.
On April 26, 1988, health authorities in Italy ordered that all grapefruits in the Rome area were to be seized from shops and warehouses. Similar actions were taken in other cities. Customs agents were warned to watch incoming grapefruit shipments carefully, and the sale of grapefruits was discouraged throughout the country.
Two days later, Prof. Vincenzo Longo, a senior pharmacologist at the Government’s Health Institute, reported that the grapefruits did not actually contain anything poisonous, although they did indeed contain a turquoise blue colored substance. He stated that the band could be lifted.
It turned out that an Italian radical group had injected the grapefruits with ordinary blue dye, simply to create a scare. Although it is not clear what actually killed the animals which were fed the suspect grapefruit, although both guinea pigs and mice can be sensitive to acidic fruits.