Youâ€™ve seen the quarantine signs, the netting draped over fruits and vegetables-that-are-really-fruits, such as tomatoes and avocados, and the fans propelling streams of air over some produce displays. What does it all mean?
First of all, there is nothing wrong with the fruit that growers bring into Los Angeles, so donâ€™t stop buying. The problem is the L.A. area itself.Â Late last October, Mediterranean fruit flies turned up in eastern Santa Monica, so the California Department of Food and Agriculture imposed a quarantine from Pacific Palisades to just north of LAX and east to La Cienega. This affects many local markets, including Santa Monica, Culver City, Mar Vista, Playa Vista and Pacific Palisades. (See this map for boundaries.)
The city is not currently aswarm to a biblical degree, but we need to prevent a true infestation, which would be devastating to both commercial and backyard growing. Hence the netting, which keeps the pests from laying eggs in the fruit, and the use of fans on display tables to create enough air turbulence to prevent insects from alighting in the first place. Farmers can use either method to protect pristine crops brought from outside the quarantine area and to prevent potentially carrying infected produce back to the farm. If it were the other way around â€” if there were something wrong with the fruit in situ â€” the farmer wouldnâ€™t be able to bring it to us in the first place.
Even if there are no further sightings, the quarantine will be around at least through summer. Hereâ€™s what you need to do to help manage the situation: When shopping, be sure to replace the netting over the â€œhost materialâ€ (fruits and vegetables). And donâ€™t take purchased or homegrown fruit out of the quarantine area â€” Medfly and other pests can hitch a ride on produce.
This next part is going to be ecologically counter-intuitive: DO NOT compost host material. To dispose, either run it through the garbage disposal or double-bag it (!) before placing in the trash. This is one of those times when we need to weigh the risks, and for now, according to the CDFA and USDA, the quarantine trumps plastic.