July 7 - 1959: Stockholder sues Cranberry Association

A couple months before the Cranberry Scare
Every year in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, cranberry makes a comeback

Four months before the cranberry scare which came two weeks before Thanksgiving

Charges association made moves without proper shareholder approval

On this day, the local cranberry growers got the first of two seismic jolts their industry would suffer in 1959.

The story on right wasn't the worse news for the groups, the bottom literally fell out of the fresh cranberry market in a cancer scare in the first week of November by the furor caused by the announcement from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare that some cranberries grown in Washington State and Oregon had been contaminated by a weed-killer involved one of America's oldest cash crops.

The Cranberry Scare of 1959

On November 9, 1959, Arthur S. Flemming, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare announced t7-08-068-cranberry-suit_728hat some cranberries grown in Oregon and Washington State had been found to have been contaminated with aminotriazole, a weed killer that had been found to cause cancer in rats. When questioned, he said that if a housewife is unable to determine the origin of fresh or canned cranberries, "to be on the safe side, she doesn't buy." Cranberries were pulled from grocery shelves and sales dropped precipitously. Coming shortly before Thanksgiving, this caused a crisis in the industry.

After testing it was found that very few shipments of cranberries were contaminated. It was also doubtful that aminotriazole, in the amounts likely to be ingested by a human being eating cranberries, presented a real health risk. Both Flemming and Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson made a point of announcing that they would have cranberries with their Thanksgiving dinners.

By Christmas, large quantities of cranberries were available bearing labels saying that they had either been tested by the Food and Drug Administration or otherwise certified safe. However, the "cranberry scare of 1959" caused damage that it took the cranberry industry many years to recover from.

Every year in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, cranberry makes a comeback

Ever since cranberry growers have sought to persuade Americans to consume processed cranberries - in juice, muffins, even mousse. Every year in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the fresh cranberry makes a comeback in homemade sauces, relishes and even, in a small but steadfast market, strung with popcorn on Christmas trees.

Try not to remember

Alistair Cooke's cranberry quote: “It has been an unchallengeable American doctrine that cranberry sauce, a pink goo with overtones of sugared tomatoes, is a delectable necessity of the Thanksgiving board and that turkey is uneatable without it.”


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