A video accompanied by a post is being widely shared on social media claiming that recent bananas from Somalia contain a worm called Helicobacter. The post even claims that 12 hours after consumption of the banana, the person will die from brain death. Let us fact-check the claim made in the post.
Claim: Video of Somalia bananas having a worm called Helicobacter which will cause brain death 12 hours after its consumption.
Fact: Helicobacter is a type of bacteria and not a type of worm. When the same video went viral in Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority had said the video was incorrect and contains false and misleading information. Hence, the claim made in the post is FALSE.
When reverse image search is done on the screenshots of the video, a Persian article having the same video was found. According to the article, this viral video was released in Iranian cyberspace, where it was being claimed that the bananas were imported from Somalia to Iran. Dr. Haji Mohammadi, a Ph.D. in Food Toxicology, says that ‘Helicobacter’ is the name of a bacterium and not a worm. The article could not verify the authenticity of the video; if the worms are assumed to be true, they are anyhow not pathogenic to humans.
The video went viral in different parts of West Asia, with the same claim. The authorities from Abu Dhabi had debunked the viral video and confirmed that the message contains ‘false and misleading information’. The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority issued a statement saying the viral video was incorrect. “Worms are not known to complete their life cycle inside fruits when it is as big as shown in the video.”
Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria and not a worm. Infections with Helicobacter are quite common, apparently two-thirds of the world have it in their bodies. For some people, the bacteria may cause stomach ulcers or cancer, where the symptoms are seen after many years. But for most people, the bacteria – which can enter and live in your digestive tract – doesn’t cause any symptoms. With good health habits, access to clean drinking water and sanitation, one can protect oneself from the bacteria.
The worm-like species taken out from inside the banana in the video, are most likely maggots, though we cannot confirm conclusively. Fruit flies at the ‘larvae’ stage are generally called maggots. Maggots feed inside the fruit and they are introduced when the female fly lays its eggs. “The larval stage is the most likely stage that you would recognise the presence of fruit fly in your fruit if you cut it open.”
Bananas are one of the most consumed and cheapest fruits worldwide: they are the most traded fruit and the fifth most traded agricultural product. India ranks first in global production of bananas, around 31.75 million MT in 2018-19 (approx. 32% of global production). India is also one of the largest consumers. In 2018, India with 25% was the largest banana market based on physical terms. According to reports, India exported bananas worth 619 Cr during 2020-21.
Further, there is no data to prove that 500 tons of Bananas were imported into India from Somalia. The official data from the Commerce Ministry shows that India did not import Banana from Somalia at all.
To sum it up, this video with a claim that Somalia bananas have a worm called Helicobacter which will cause brain death in 12 hours, is not true.