In July 2021, an image supposedly showing a bag of carrots that were grown in Chernobyl, the site of a nuclear disaster in 1986, was widely circulated on social media:
I can’t believe they are selling carrots from Chernobyl Check the bottom off the package
This is not a genuine photograph of a bag of carrots that were grown at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. This image has been digitally altered.
This image has been circulating since at least 2020. It appears to have started circulating in the wake of a December 2020 controversy in which Tesco was criticized for selling a product labeled “British Carrots” that had been “grown in Spain.” One of the earliest postings (and possibly the original version of this image) came from Twitter user Mike Neaverson, the CEO of the soil management company Neaverson Growers Ltd.
In Tesco’s this evening pic.twitter.com/obNbyS5mD1
— Mike Neaverson (@MikeNeaverson) December 21, 2020
Neaverson followed this tweet with a thread explaining that this image was fake and that the real photograph, which showed a “British Carrots” product labeled as “grown in Spain” had been a simple mistake. The thread read in part:
Just to be clear as I fear this has now gone a bit too far from the agricultural community who appreciate the in-joke. I can confirm that Tesco’s are not selling badly photoshopped radioactive carrots.
There’s also a much wider point here about who labels the food we eat. You may have seen today a picture of a bag of carrots displaying a Union Jack but also ‘grown in Spain’.
The fresh produce industry is doing a remarkable job with huge unprecedented Christmas demand and massive staffing issues caused by Covid. All that’s happened here is some poor bugger has accidentally pressed the wrong button on the label printer. There’s no grand conspiracy.
Tesco would also issue an apology and explain that the “grown in Spain” label had been an accident. A Tesco spokesperson said:
A small number of bags of our British carrots were incorrectly labelled as having been grown in Spain.
We are sorry for the confusion caused and would like to reassure our customers that all of our carrots described as British are grown in the UK.
While the fake Chernobyl-grown carrots photo was created as a joke to mock the incorrectly labeled “grown in Spain” bags, it appears that this doctored image used a correctly labeled “Grown in UK” bag of carrots as its base. If you look closely at the Chernobyl picture, you can see a bit of digital white out covering the letters “UK.” Notice, too, how straight the word “Chernobyl” is compared to the other words that were truly printed on this plastic bag.