The hoax claims the bananas came from neighboring country KwaZulu-Natal, and that the bananas will infect people with necrotising fasciitis
, a flesh-eating bacteria which destroys the skin, tissue and fat covering the muscles.
reported the rumors of the flesh-eating bananas resulted in a "plummet" in the sales of fruit since the hoax surfaced, and the country's health minister had to reassure people of the fruit's safety after determining it was a hoax.
An official press release
was issued that said, "The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is aware of the email circulating claiming that bananas from KwaZulu-Natal can infect people with a flesh eating bacteria.
"The information received from the Department of Health reports that the email is a hoax, and any claims regarding poor food safety will be investigated. The department said in its report that at this stage they don't see any need to do so as they deem this claim to be a hoax."
The circulating hoax also warns of likely amputation and possible death, so it dangerously suggests those who cannot seek immediate medical attention should burn the skin surrounding the [supposed] infection.
Horacio Simbine, a banana supplier, said he has been "unable to move bananas out of his warehouse because of the rumor," reports Zimbabwean
According to Snopes
, this hoax is a recycled one. Its origins date back to 1999 when an email circulated that flesh-eating bananas were being shipped from Costa Rica to the U.S. and people should avoid purchasing bananas for three weeks, which is exactly what the current hoax indicates.
Here is the email text Snopes has collected and posted that details the recent 2011 incarnation of the hoax:
"Please don't eat bananas for the next 3 weeks
Several deliveries of bananas from Uvongo Kwa-Zulu Natal South Africa have been infected with necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh eating bacteria. Recently this disease has decimated the monkey population in the south coast. We are now just learning that the disease has been able to graft itself to the skin of fruits in the region, most notably the banana which is one of south africa's largest exports. Until this finding scientists were not sure how the infection was being transmitted. It is advised not to purchase bananas for the next three weeks!!! If you have eaten a banana in the last 2-3 days and come down with a fever followed by a skin infection seek MEDICAL ATTENTION!!!
The skin infection from necrotizing fasciitis is very painful and eats two to three centimeters of flesh per hour. Amputation is likely, death is possible.. If you are more than an hour from a medical center burning the flesh ahead of the infected area is advised to help slow the spread of the infection. The FDA has been reluctant to issue a country wide warning because of fear of a nationwide panic. They have secretly admitted that they feel upwards of 15,000 South Africans will be affected by this but that these are" Acceptable numbers". Please forward this to as many of people you care about as possible as we do not feel 15,000 people is an acceptable number."