A story about “exploding” Chinese watermelons spread like wildfire in mid-May, fueled by e-mails and Internet links.
While the story provided a moment of levity to many readers, the National Watermelon Promotion Board became concerned about the perception it could send to consumers heading into the high-demand summer months.
In mid-May the Internet began lighting up with stories of watermelons bursting in China.
The culprit? A plant growth stimulant called forchlorfenuron, which was applied too early in the growing cycle.
Watermelons planted on 115 acres near the city of Danyang split open after heavy rains.
While almost everyone else chuckles, the Orlando, Fla.-based National Watermelon Promotion Board is taking it seriously, reassuring consumers that watermelons sold in the U.S. are in no danger of going boom.
Since the news broke, promotion board staff members have spoken with several growers, handlers and importers, said Mark Arney, the board’s executive director.
“Everyone we have talked to has stated that no one is using or importing watermelons that have been treated with growth regulators,” Arney said. “And there are no Chinese watermelons being imported to the U.S.”
It’s common knowledge in the U.S. watermelon industry, Arney said, that growth regulators can cause internal or external damage and burst open. Regulators also are expensive, he said.