In 1959, the public were told not to eat cranberries because they might contain a cancer-causing carcinogen.

Ha ha.

Today, we know everything is a cancer-causing carcinogen. Your 100 percent organic Thanksgiving dinner is stuffed full of carcinogens that cause cancer in rats, yet people will eat it anyway.

How did we get to this stage, when anti-science activists are able to say almost anything about food and get mainstream media playing along? It started in 1959, but it didn't start with Environmental Working Group or Union of Concerned Scientists or Greenpeace, it started with the US FDA - though they didn't have much choice, since a brand new law said that any food with an 'additive' that is linked to cancer in rats had to be warned about. 

Think California's Proposition 65, just less wacky.

It was good intentions in 1959, until then only cigarettes and atomic bombs were listed carcinogens, now IARC alone has monographs about hundreds of them, including bacon and coffee and sunshine and air.

Nonetheless, invoking the precautionary principle in 1959 due to a misunderstanding about the difference between hazard and risk set off a cranberry scare and poor Ocean Spray was stuck all alone noting accurately that a human would have to eat a carload full of aminotriazole to get a harmful exposure.

But exposure is irrelevant in scare journalism and environmental fundraising brochures. Caveat Comestor, jokes Michael Tortorello in The New Yorker when he writes about the American Council on Science and Health historical overview of chemophobia called Facts vs. Fears: A Review of the Greatest Unfounded Health Scares of Recent Times, including the cranberry scare of '59.

Read his piece in The Great Cranberry Scare.