The Great Cranberry Scare Of 1959


On November 26, 1959, Mamie Eisenhower didn't serve cranberry sauce with Thanksgiving dinner. The problem wasn’t the berries, which remained palatable under the usual mountain of sugar. When scientists found traces of a carcinogen in a batch of cranberries, the government issued a food warning. Across the nation, people panicked, and even though the contamination was limited, the cranberry industry ground to a halt. Overnight, a $50 million-a-year business collapsed. November sales of fresh cranberries dropped 63% from the year before and canned sales were down 79%. It didn't help that the White House, for its Thanksgiving dinner that year, replaced cranberry sauce with applesauce. Needless to say, the cranberry business survived. In fact, it went on to thrive. Today, Ocean Spray — the leading grower — earns approximately $2 billion annually.