A Michigan town once held a funeral for 30,000 pizzas.
On March 5, 1973, several hundred people gathered at a farm in tiny Ossineke, Michigan, to witness a burial they would remember for the rest of their lives. One local grocery store closed its doors so employees could attend; even Michigan Governor William G. Milliken dropped by to pay his respects. Was this a funeral for a native son who made good, or perhaps a beloved civic leader? No, it was a ceremony to bid arrivederci to some 30,000 frozen pizzas that may have been harboring dangerous toxins.
This bizarre scene stemmed from the discovery of swollen mushroom tins at Ohio's United Canning Company two months earlier. After FDA tests revealed the presence of bacteria that causes botulism, calls to United Canning's extended branch of customers eventually reached frozen-pizza maker Mario Fabbrini. When two test mice croaked after eating his mushroom pizza, Fabbrini believed he had no choice but to recall his wares from store shelves and swallow the estimated $60,000 in losses. Attempting the pizza equivalent of turning lemons into lemonade, he announced intentions for a grand "funeral," and arranged for a series of pickup trucks to dump his 30,000 unwanted mushroom pies into an 18-foot hole. After placing a flower garland on the grave — red gladioli to symbolize sauce, white carnations for cheese — Fabbrini served fresh (mushroom-free) pizza to anyone brave enough to partake.
Further tests later showed that the mice had died not from botulism, but from peritonitis, and it was unclear whether their deaths were pizza-related casualties. Sadly, the $250,000 Fabbrini later won in a lawsuit against United Canning and two other defendants wasn’t enough to fully revive his business, and Fabbrini sold the company in the early 1980s. Nevertheless, much like that sauce stain that never entirely disappears from your shirt, the story of the Great Michigan Pizza Funeral endures for those who know where to look.