ROME (Apr. 21)
Italian authorities are taking seriously anonymous warnings that grapefruit imported from Israel has been poisoned.
The Health Ministry’s director-general for hygiene and nutrition has telegraphed advisories to local health authorities and customs officials, warning that poisoned grapefruit “may have been sent all over Italy in order to achieve a boycott of Israeli products.”
Customs officials were alerted “to adopt specific and scrupulous measures of vigilance and control to be carried out in collaboration with the competent health authorities.”
The text of the communique was published in the news media, thereby alerting the public. The newspaper La Repubblica reported Tuesday that it received an anonymous telephone call from a person who, in an agitated voice, claimed there were poisoned grapefruit on sale at a Rome supermarket.
“We are sabotaging Israel,” the called said, before slamming down the receiver. La Repubblica reported.
The same newspaper reported Wednesday that Israeli grapefrun were confiscated Monday at Civitavecchia the port city of Rome. Health Ministry doctors, accompanied by police, visited fruit and vegetable stands and ordered suspension of the sale of grapefruit, La Repubblica said.
This was followed by a public warning broadcast on the local television and radio stations. Health authorities also checked out fruit stands in Bollate, near Milan in northern Italy.
There have been no reports to date that any of the Israeli fruit has been found to be tainted. During the late 1970s, Jaffa oranges reaching markets in northwestern Europe were found to contain mercury. But there have been no other reports of fruit sabotage until now.