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The Puzzling Case of an Orange That Turned Purple Overnight

Australian food scientists are scratching their heads about an orange that turned bright purple just hours after being sliced open. The bizarrely-colored fruit has been collected as forensic evidence but so far no one can explain what caused the coloring.

The mysterious orange was purchased last week by Neti Moffitt, a resident of Brisbane, from a fruit and vegetable market. She planned to use it as a snack for her two-year-old son and claims that the fruit looked and smelled normal. It was only after leaving a piece of it out overnight that she noticed the bright purple coloring spreading on the orange pulp. After searching online for answers, Moffitt stumbled on a 2015 article that mentioned a similar case, where someone had bought an orange from a fruit market only to see it turn purple hours after being cut.

Photo: Neti Moffitt

“It looks like someone’s dipped it on an ink pad, which I guarantee you we haven’t,” Neti Moffitt told ABC.net.au. “I went rifling through the rubbish bin for the three bits eaten by my son, and sure enough they were more-so purple than the ones left out on the bench. My first thought was I hope it has had no ill effect on my child. But he’s fine, absolutely not a drama.”

After reading about the case of the purple orange that left food scientists baffled in 2015, the Brisbane mother called health authorities about her own purple fruit, and sure enough, scientists showed up at her house to collect the orange pieces as well as any items that came into contact with them, hoping to finally crack the mystery.

“The gentleman who came to collect it was very, very excited,” Moffitt said. “He was aware of the case three years ago, and he’d spoken to the chemist who tested the orange three years ago and said ‘look, I think we’ve got another one’.”

That first case of an orange turning purple left scientists with no answers. Their tests for artificial food dyes came back negative, as did those of iodine. Samples were also sent to a lab specialized in molecular biology, but their analysis didn’t yield any answers either. There was speculation that the purple coloring was caused by some sort of contamination in the home of the person who had purchased the oranges, rather than the fruit itself, but that was never confirmed.

Photo: Neti Moffitt

This time, scientists were careful to take everything into consideration, hoping to crack the puzzle.

The orange also leaked some purple onto the vine of a lemon I had cut open in the fruit vine. So they took that also,” Muffitt said. They were really curious with fruit trees we have in our garden. I also have a bunch of roses besides the fruit bowl, so they took that into consideration. But they’re baffled, they’re absolutely stumped. No-one knows what caused it.”

A Queensland Health spokeswoman confirmed that the samples had been collected and that they are currently being analyzed. So far, no explanation for the unexplained ink-like coloring has been released.

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