By Constance Pith
In coordinated raids targeting grocery stores in the Philadelphia area, federal and feral authorities on Tuesday arrested 2.6 million apples for possessing and containing dangerous pesticide residues. The Safe Fruit Bureau (SFB) in conjunction with undercover feral enforcement cats conducted the raids in some of the city’s most frequented produce aisles, which had been under surveillance for the past 8 months.
Shoppers looked on in amazement as heavily armed cats escorted hundreds of hand-cuffed and hooded apples from stores. In some instances, bystanders proved helpful in alerting authorities to bad apples attempting to slip away wearing stolen orange peels or watermelon rinds. Two apples outside an east-side grocery mart wriggled free of their handcuffs by eating away the flesh around them. It’s not clear whether the apples ate their own flesh or whether each ate the other’s. In any case, the pair fled to a nearby fruit stand where they were later discovered hiding in hollowed-out cantaloupes.
“There’s got to be an apple free of questionable substances somewhere in this city, but we couldn’t find it,” said Marvin Guavaman, chief of the SFB’s alcohol and narcotics division. “We won’t rest until children can buy and eat clean apples in Philadelphia. I’m talking about apples without paraquat in them. Apples without organophosphates (OPs) in them and no carbamates or pyrethroids or chlorpyrifos either. Yes, these synthetic chemicals are apparently good for the profits of commercial growers and sellers, but what about the kids (some of them human) who chew and swallow the apples? Our boys and girls shouldn’t be treated like test tubes.”
Two-thirds of the apples taken into custody provided juice samples for testing, and pesticides showed up in all of them. “It wasn’t just a single type of pesticide either,” said Barbara Grapeskin, director of the SFBs forensics laboratory in Washington, DC. “The apples had anywhere from 35 to 45 different kinds of pesticides in them, some legal and dangerous, others illegal and dangerous. Sadly, our laws and regulations can’t be relied upon to save us from tainted fruit.”
In connection with the arrests, prosecutors have charged 16 human-led corporations with 109 counts of pesticide trafficking and 81 counts of applying false and misleading labels to immature fruit. Each count carries a minimum prison sentence of 1,750 years for the corporation itself and 945 years for each of the firm’s executives and board members.
A feral judge has ordered jury selection to begin in early May. The jury will consist of 12 bananas.