Questions arise over strawberries

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It’s strawberry season in Norway, a time when many Norwegians rhapsodize over what’s long been considered a traditional and rather pricey summer delicacy. Questions have arisen, though, over whether they’re really as sweet and healthy as they’re made out to be.

Locally grown strawberries are considered a delicacy in Norway, but some wonder whether they're overrated and as healthy as their image. PHOTO: Views and News

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) risked the equivalent of swearing in church on Wednesday when it ran reports originating in newspaper VG Wednesday morning that locally grown strawberries top the list of Norwegian agricultural products containing the most sprøytemidler – in this case, chemical additives and preservatives.

A study by research firm Bionorsk conducted for food protection agency Mattilsynet examined agricultural products from all over Norway. Its tests were taken in 2010 and, according to VG, found that Norwegian strawberries contain fully six different chemicals used to protect the fruit.

Mattilsynet was quick to point out that eating Norwegian strawberries is not dangerous. The amounts of additives found in the berries, officials say, are under the limits allowed. By comparison, tests of Belgian strawberries (generally viewed as the biggest local rival of homegrown berries, and those most widely available before the Norwegian berries ripen) have shown as many as 11 different additives, five more than the Norwegian ones.

Marit Lilleby Kvarme of Mattilsynet told NRK that most of the protective additives used guard against weeds and fungus, and she claimed that berry growers are keen to reduce their use of chemicals. “They don’t want to use any more than absolutely necessary to maintain good production,” she told NRK.

Environmental organization Framtiden i våre hender (The Future in Our Hands), however, thinks there’s reason to be critical. While the additives aren’t dangerous in the doses used, the group thinks that lumped together, they can be.

“Therefore we’re urging folks to be careful about eating the conventionally grown strawberry,” said Mekonnen Germiso, research leader for Framtiden i våre hender. “Ask for organic berries, to avoid a chemical cocktail.”

Meanwhile, other questions have arisen over whether the Norwegian berries are overrated. Many this year have been much larger than the berries of earlier years, lack the same flavour and even have been downright sour. Growers have worried that heavy rains this summer would damage berries and boost the chances of spoilage.

Prices have fallen from a whopping NOK 59 (nearly USD 11) a basket in late June to as low as NOK 20 (USD 3.60) this week.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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