ON THE FOURTH of July, 1985, as the sun shone and the temperatures rose, people celebrated by eating watermelon. Then they got sick — becoming part of one of the nation’s largest episodes of foodborne illness caused by a pesticide. The outbreak began with a few upset stomachs in Oregon on July 3; by the next day, more than a dozen people in California were also doubling over with nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain. A few suffered seizures.
All told, the CDC estimated that more than 1,000 individuals from Oregon, California, Arizona and other states, along with two Canadian provinces, became ill from eating melons, picked from a field in California, contaminated with a breakdown product of aldicarb — one of the most toxic pesticides on the market. There were the usual calls for the pesticide to be banned. While it was eventually scheduled to be phased out, now the chemical is back — albeit with more restrictions on its use.
Banning a pesticide is tricky business once it’s made its way onto the market and into fields and orchards. Consider the Environmental Protection Agency’s flip-flopping on a ban on the insecticide chlorpyrifos…read the rest at Undark.