Exploding Watermelons

China has had a rough year when it comes to food safety. Whether it’s cadmium in the rice, melamine in the milk, arsenic in soy sauce, or borax in the pork, it seems like we have settled into a cycle of ‘food-safety-scandal-of-the-week.”

This week’s scandal is exploding watermelons.  Apparantly some farmers in the south have been spraying their watermelons with florchlorfenuron, a chemical thought to speed up the ripening process.

It speeds it up all right — to the point of causing the watermelons to explode.  Right there in the fields.  Lots of western media outlets are starting to pick up this story (none can resist), but I like this one in The Guardian:

The flying pips, shattered shells and wet shrapnel still haunt farmer Liu Mingsuo after an effort to chemically boost his fruit crop went spectacularly wrong. Fields of watermelons exploded when he and other agricultural workers in eastern China mistakenly applied forchlorfenuron, a growth accelerator….The report said the farmers sprayed the fruit too late in the season and during wet conditions, which caused the melons to explode like “landmines”. After losing three hectares (eight acres), Liu said he was unable to sleep because he could not shake the image of the fruit bursting. “On 7 May, I came out and counted 80 [burst watermelons] but by the afternoon it was 100,” he said. “Two days later I didn’t bother to count any more.” About 20 farmers and 45 hectares around Danyang were affected. The fruit could not be sold and was instead fed to fish and pigs.

(AP photograph)

The next time I see a pile of watermelons for sale on the sidewalk, perhaps I should cross the street and walk on the other side.