The Great Michigan Pizza Funeral

In January 1973, employees at the United Canning Company of East Palestine, Ohio, noticed that a number of cans of mushrooms were swelling, an indication of contamination. The plant had recently switched to an automated can-filling line, which was less sterile than the previous method of hand-filling the cans. United Canning notified the FDA, who took samples for testing. Sure enough, the presence of botulism was confirmed and United Canning was instructed to recall their products. Owner Mario Fabbrini estimated that 30,000 pizzas were involved, with a cost to him of $30,000 and a retail value of around $60,000. As a means of creating publicity and a demonstration of his accountability, Fabbrini organized a public disposal of the recalled pizzas on March 5, 1973. He themed the occasion as a funeral, and it was later referred to as the “Great Michigan Pizza Funeral.” Several hundred people attended the event to watch as the pizzas were tipped into an 18-foot-deep hole from 4 dump trucks. They were still enclosed in their cellophane wrappers. After the burial, Fabbrini laid a wreath of red gladiolas and white carnations on the grave, which represented the colors of pizza sauce and cheese. The event was attended by Michigan governor William Milliken, who gave a homily on the subject of courage in the face of tragedy. Milliken was afterwards presented with a frozen pizza by Fabbrini, who also cooked pizzas on site to feed the attendees. When one attendee questioned the safety of eating the food offered, Fabbrini retorted, "Gov. Milliken ate a piece and he's still alive”.