Cartoons: Darios Banegas, La Prensa, Honduras
I was hoping to have a definitive update on the Honduran melon situation but apparently we won't hear the results of the testing until next week.
Dole and Chiquita, who are both customers of Montelibano, have voluntarily recalled all melons sold by their companies in the U.S. and Canada. The Honduran melon ban apparently has been lifted against other Honduran melon exporters but remains in place for Montelibano. FDA inspectors performed 149 tests of melons of the Honduran company Del Sol and has approved those melons for entry into the U.S.
FDA Inspectors have arrived in Honduras to evaluate the production process of Montelibano. U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Charles Ford stated that this is a technical and scientific mission and that the results won't be announced until the tests are completed and analyzed. What they could expect to find 10 days after the fact, I'm not sure. Maybe their purpose is ensure that the melons currently being harvested and packed do not contain salmonella in order to be able to lift the ban, rather than to prove that salmonella existed previously.
Both company and Honduran government officials continue to vehemently deny that the melons were contaminated. While claiming that they have received no scientific proof from the FDA that the salmonella outbreaks came from Honduras, President Mel Zelaya ceremoniously ate some melon for a press conference which "proved without a doubt" that the fruit had been contaminated in the U.S. That is the kind of show that is "eaten up" by the Honduran public, though who knows where that particular melon came from or what sanitizing process it went through before he cut into and ate some of it.
Many Hondurans believe that this whole situation is a plot against Honduras by the U.S. government to punish them for President Zelaya's friendliness with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, propaganda that has been promoted by government officials and some of their allies in the media, as well as, of course, Hugo Chavez, who has offered to buy the rejected melons. I wonder how Venezuelans feel about that.
I'm not sure how those who believe the conspiracy theory can explain the thousands of other product and food recalls against other foreign companies as well as U.S. companies. Ambassador Ford pointed out that the U.S. provides Honduras with U.S. $100 million in agricultural support each year and has no desire to damage the economy of this country.
As hard as it is to imagine, the powers that be seem to have convinced the majority of Honduran public that this is an evil-empire plot of the U.S. It is really kind of scary how easy it is to manipulate the Honduran public.
Update, April 5, 2008: More melon controversy