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President Of Honduras
Stands Up For Grower

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, March 28, 2008

When the history of this cantaloupe/salmonella/FDA alert situation is written, one of the true heroes will turn out to be the president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya.

Under normal circumstances, the FDA would simply crush Agropecuaria Montelibano, the Honduran grower and packer implicated in this matter. In fact the more Agropecuaria Montelibano objected and proclaimed its innocence, the tougher FDA would get.

Its only hope as a private company would be, and may still windup being to announce, as the spinach industry did, a ridiculous “re-start” in which everything was being “sanitized” — the only purpose of which was to give cover to FDA so it could justify its allowing the industry to ship again.

President Zelaya, though, aside from adding political heft to the pleas of the company, is the only politician willing to state the obvious: Whatever was once true, the fruit today is as safe as any other fruit.

In fact, he grabbed some media exposure by eating some of the implicated cantaloupe :

HONDURAN PRESIDENT DEFENDS MELONS BY EATING ONE

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (CNN) — He’s no Julia Child, but Honduran President Manuel Zelaya showed Tuesday he can attack a cantaloupe and U.S. government claims in a single motion.

It’s not in our fruit,” he said about last week’s report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that some Honduran cantaloupes may be contaminated with salmonella. “It’s not true what they are saying. Logically, we believe it is an error.”

Then, the 55-year-old father of four asked the viewers of CNN en Español to indulge him as he engaged in a show-and-tell demonstration. “Permit me a second,” he said as he stretched his left arm across the tabletop and outside the view of the camera, then pulled into view a box of fruit.

“Here I have the box of melons that we are exporting to the United States; here are the protective bags,” he said.

Zelaya lifted a cantaloupe from the box, placed it in front of him, then grabbed a knife and a fork.

“Permit me to make a demonstration,” he said, then cut open the fruit, sliced off a chunk, put it in his mouth and chewed vigorously.

“I eat this fruit without any fear,” he said with his mouth full. “It’s a delicious fruit. Nothing happens to me!”

Although the demonstration doesn’t prove anything, since salmonella doesn’t affect one instantaneously. It demonstrated political support at a crucial moment.

You can see the video, which is in Spanish, right here.

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