Tainted Irish meat delivered to Swedish schools

Less than a day after authorities warned consumers in Sweden to avoid pork products from Ireland due to the possible presence of dioxin, it has emerged that Swedish school children may have already eaten some of the tainted meat.

Tainted Irish meat delivered to Swedish schools

On Monday, Swedish food company Findus announced it was recalling a host of its products containing Irish pork.

Wholesaler Servera, a major distributor of Findus products, in turn reviewed its list of nearly 20,000 clients only to discover that several schools may be among those that received deliveries.

“We’ve identified 152 customers. It can be to schools, nursing homes, or hospitals. It’s only a fraction of our customers,” said Servera purchasing manager Nils Berntsson to the TT news agency.

Specifically, Servera is tracking 726 packages of “Biff Lindström” and Swedish meatballs.

Servera’s Berntsson didn’t know how many of the packages may have already been consumed by Swedish school children or hospital patients.

“We’re going to be getting in touch with all of our clients within the next several hours. Obviously, we think this it’s terrible to be in this situation and for our customers have been put in a difficult position, but unfortunately it’s out of our control,” he said.

Louise Nyholm, an inspector with Sweden’s National Food Administration (Livsmedelsverket) can’t rule out that the tainted meat has already been eaten.

“We can’t say that with certainly that that is not the case,” she told TT.

“We don’t really know how widespread it is, so right now I can’t say [how much meat is involved]. We have our toxicologists involved in this and after we know more we can estimate how it might affect the population.”

So far, Findus has been hardest hit by the Irish pork warning, being forced to recall several products from store shelves and commercial distributors throughout Sweden on Monday.

On Tuesday, the European Union’s food safety body, EFSA, was brought in to investigate the scope of the impact caused by the contaminated Irish pork.

The EFSA is currently conducting a risk assessment and is expected to issue a statement on Wednesday as to whether any additional measures will be necessary.

The pork recall comes following the discovery of the cancer-causing agent dioxin in various samples of Irish meat tested in France.

Irish authorities later traced the dioxin to poisoned feed consumed by pigs on several farms in Ireland.

While dioxin is known to cause cancer, the Food Administration’s Nyholm stressed that people who may have consumed meat containing the toxin need not be too worried.

“Dioxin is a toxin which isn’t healthy for us. Therefore we should limit the amount we ingest. But if you consume it on one particular occasion, it’s not dangerous,” she said.

“There’s no acute toxic effect but rather it something which could be dangerous if it accumulates over a long period of time.”

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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.