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Killer Cucumbers!

Posted on 2nd June 2011 in Interesting Stuff
Written by: Nick Clancy

Vlad the Impaler, Dr Crippen, the Wolfman, Cat-in-a-wheelie-bin-woman Mary Bale…the cucumber.

If evil has a scale, then the previously harmless green fruit is keeping some esteemed company at its summit right about now.

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of the masses like a silent killer, and in enterohaemorrhagic E.coli (EHEC), we have our man.

So far seventeen people have died from consuming the infected cucumbers – 16 of them in Germany and one in Sweden – yet this hasn’t stopped the UK media getting all frothy at the thought of more salad-related deaths closer to home.

Today’s Sun reports of “’Killer cucumber’ cases in the UK” while the Mail goes for “Wash your salads British families are told as seven in UK are struck down by killer E.coli outbreak” A traditionally pragmatic and measured response is offered up by Sky News warning that “Deadly E.coli Found In UK Is ‘Mutant’ Strain”.

While there are reports of 6 people in the UK being infected, no one has died, yet some quarters would have you believe that we are at pandemic level.

A trip to any supermarket in the land only serves to crystalise the power that a media brewhaha can wield over our choices as consumers. There you will witness the sad sight of piles upon piles of unwanted cucumbers, discarded and disenfranchised, as if someone has accidentally put out a pile of still-warm uranium rods instead of our favourite salad accompaniment.

Not that I bought one of course.

The wisdom of crowds always wins in these situations – It’s one thing to be smug about overzealous media coverage, quite another to be dead.

When you’re learning your chops at a top PR agency, one thing you discover quite quickly is how to manage a crisis should, in the worst case scenario, one occur. So it is with some sympathy that you look upon the person or persons in charge of PR at the UK Cucumber Grower’s Association.

They say crisis often brings out the best in us, however – surely they will have reverted to the battle plan and issued some sort of statement appealing for calm? Some sage words of comfort for the already hard-pushed UK farmers losing revenue hand-over-fist?

One look at the top item on the Association’s news page reveals all: “Facts you always wanted to know about cucumbers – but were afraid to ask!”

Crisis averted.