Michigan Held A Funeral For 29,000 Pizzas
It's pizza week at Cracked. We were very hungry when thinking up this week's theme.
When the FDA orders a recall, we recoil in disgust at those germs swimming in our canned peaches. But spare a thought for the vendor, possibly blameless in this fiasco, and for all those uneaten food items, doomed for an ignominious end.
In 1973, the FDA detected traces of botulism in an Ohio plant that canned mushrooms. Possibly, the fault originated with the Solbern Corporation, who made the mushrooms, but the tainted shrooms passed from them to the United Canning Company, then to the Tolona Pizza Products Corporation, and then to Fabbrini Family Foods, a maker of frozen pizza. Mario Fabbrini leaned that he must buy back 29,000 pizzas from retailers and destroy them.
He gave the pizzas a worthy sendoff. On March 5, he borrowed some land from a famer in his town of Ossineke and invited the town to the Great Michigan Pizza Funeral. He dug an 18-foot grave in the ground and dropped the tens of thousands of pizzas into it using four dump trucks. Hundreds of people showed up, including the mayor. The idea was to tell everyone, yes, you've probably heard about that botulism scare, but look, here's me getting rid of all those bad pizzas. There's nothing to fear going forward—in fact, look, here's the mayor eating some untainted Fabbrini pizza in front of you all.
As a defense campaign, Great Michigan Pizza Funeral failed. Fabbrini lost some money on the original pizzas of course (the pizzas should have retailed at $60,000), and business stayed bad afterward too. People, still suspicious, didn't want to buy his mushroom pizza, and he substituted other varieties to make up for it, including some more expensive ones, but people didn't go for that either. He estimated his losses at around $350,000. It's possible—and we're just speculating here—that even people who hadn't heard about the recall heard about this brand burying thousands of infected pies, and this left them more wary of eating the stuff, not less.
Mario Fabbrini had come from Fiume, a city originally part of Italy and today part of Croatia. He spoke of having suffered under Communism, Nazism, and Fascism, and said he was thankful for the success he'd enjoyed in America ... the success he'd enjoyed until the recall.
He shouldn't have had to pay for the botulism scare, but maybe someone else did. He took the United Canning Company and the Solbern Corporation to court, and when the case was finally decided in 1979, he won a settlement. Not enough to cover all his losses, but he got $211,000.
However, maybe he should have really directed his anger at the FDA. He recalled his pizzas not just because his supplier had some dirty mushrooms in their plant but because the FDA tested his pizzas directly by feeding a sample to mice, and they reported that the mice died. But it later turned out that mice hadn't died of botulism at all but of something totally unrelated. His pizzas might have been perfectly safe to eat all along.