Hoaxes & Rumors

Debunked: HIV Oranges and Bananas

Debunked: HIV Oranges and Bananas
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A photo circulating online allegedly shows oranges from Libya which were said to be injected with HIV-positive blood. Another image set shows bananas which supposedly shows “blood spots” in them.

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Unsubstantiated

The rumor that HIV-tainted oranges from Libya first circulated in February 2015 on Facebook and Twitter. The story went viral after the photo below saw heavy sharing with the claim that the alleged oranges were found in Algeria. One caption read, “The immigration services of Algeria recovered a large quantity of these oranges coming from Libya. These oranges were injected with positive tested Hiv & AIDS blood. Please share this msg & warn pelpe of d dangers involved.”

The origin of this image remains unknown, although it can be traced back to appearances online as early as late 2014. The allegation regarding HIV-laced oranges has been circulatd with no sources or corroborating evidence. No major news sources have reported such a story.

HIV oranges

HIV Transmission

The CDC notes that HIV does not survive long outside of the human body. It specifically addresses the question as to whether or not HIV can be spread via food.

Can I get HIV from food?

Except for rare cases in which children consumed food that was pre-chewed by an HIV-infected caregiver, HIV has not been spread through food. The virus does not live long outside the body. You cannot get it from consuming food handled by an HIV-infected person; even if the food contained small amounts of HIV-infected blood or semen, exposure to the air, heat from cooking, and stomach acid would destroy the virus.

Version 2: HIV Bananas

A variant of the story above has also circulated with claims that bananas have been injected with HIV positive blood. This originated with a Facebook post that garnered over 50,000 shares in only about two months. The post includes images of two bananas with red spots, and a caption which read, “Someone is injected blood into bananas. The hospital tested the banana and it is indeed blood. After researching on the Internet apparently someone is injected HIV positive blood into bananas and oranges.”

After the original banana photos went viral in November 2015, the pictures were later removed removed, although the post itself is still online as of this writing. Additional banana photos began to circulate.

The graphic below is one of several which have circulated on social media, showing bananas with a red interior.

hiv banana hoax

The graphic begins with the following text, with grammar corrected by our OCD editors.

So a lady from Alberta, Canada bought some bananas from Sobeys and as she cut it in half for her kids she noticed something red in the middle and she quickly came to the realization that if she hadn’t cut it in half, her kids would have contracted HIV/AIDS. There have been a lot of these incidents happening all over the US and some parts of Canada. There have been reports of bananas being injected with the disease. The reason I’m posting this is to protect my local Canadians and hopefully this will reach people in the United States and other parts of the world. I suggest you stop buying bananas just to be safe, but if you do, make sure to check it for unusual colors, most likely red…

As pointed out by writer Caitlin Dewey, Del Monte has confirmed that discoloration such as this can be caused by a natural process called mokillo. This occurs when bacteria is present in the fruit.

Another possible explanation is that of a fungus called Nigrospora. This infection is sometimes referred to as Squirter’s in bananas, because it can cause pulp to squirt out of the skin. Food safety expert Carol Schlitt wrote for All Experts about this fungus in 2010. It was recommended not to consume the dark areas of bananas, but the remaining flesh can still be eaten. Squirter’s develops in bananas when bunches are cut into single fruits and are infected with the fungus.

Bottom Line

Despite having been debunked months earlier, the same warning and photo were seen with renewed interest in December 2015.

The rumor regarding HIV-injected oranges or bananas from Libya is unfounded. Further, the CDC has already established that HIV is not spread via food and does not live long outside of the human body.

Updated February 13, 2016
Originally published February 2015

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