The Ministry of Public Health has scotched rumours in the social media about HIV-tainted bananas. The Ministry, in a clarification issued yesterday, stated that the rumours have been around for two years.
The widely circulated messages claim that people are injecting HIV-infected blood into bananas and are warning people to avoid eating bananas that contain a red colour inside. In one recent version, which is presented as a ‘breaking news’ report from CNN, it claims that some bananas have been tested positive for HIV.
The post included a photo featuring a red-streaked banana. The screenshot is made to resemble a breaking news alert from the CNN, though the website is not the real CNN.
“Specialists have made it clear that the colour changes may appear in bananas as a result of certain fungal infections or due to lack of some minerals,” the Ministry said in the statement issued yesterday.
According to experts, there are a variety of plant diseases that can cause bananas to take a red discolouration. This includes Nigrospora, a fungal disease that causes the centre of the banana to turn dark red, and mokillo, a bacterial disease that can also cause red discolouration in bananas. However, these diseases are not a threat to human health, according to experts.
The Ministry also stressed that it has not been proven that AIDS can be spread through food.
“These are absurd hoaxes with no basis in fact. The HIV cannot survive outside the human body, so it’s not possible for the virus to live in any food items, let alone bananas. This is just an updated version of equally bogus messages that circulated in the media,” a health expert said.
The story is part of a long-running “infection of fake news about disease-laden food items”. Earlier, food items like Pepsi, shawarma and fruits like watermelon and orange,had similar “infections.”
The Ministry has urged social media users to investigate the accuracy of these any messages or warnings before forwarding them to others. The public have also been advised to seek information from the Ministry on issues concerning health, food and safety instead of causing unnecessary panic.