Agency steps up efforts to unmask strawberry cheats

Agency steps up efforts to unmask strawberry cheats
Swedish agriculture authorities are going hi-tech to crack down on the sale of imported strawberries which have been falsely marked as being home grown.

In addition to increased inspections, the Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) also plans on utilizing isotope analysis to expose suspected cases of strawberry fraud.

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of reports in the Swedish press about imported strawberries being packaged and sold as authentic Swedish strawberries.

While the Board of Agriculture has never come across a confirmed case of the alleged strawberry fraud, the agency is taking no chances in its efforts to protect Swedish consumers.

The agriculture board announced on Tuesday it plans to dispatch more than 20 inspectors tasked with taking a closer look at the strawberries lining the shelves in stores, street markets, and roadside stands all across the country.

After inspecting the berries’ packaging and invoices, inspectors then call up growers to confirm that appropriate prices are being charged.

Suspicious strawberries are confiscated, then sent to a lab in Germany which in turn performs an isotope analysis to determine the origins of the berries by cross-referencing them with samples of guaranteed Swedish strawberries.

“Customers are faithful in their purchases and buy Swedish. The consumer has the right to make an informed choice,” said Susanne Görsberg from the Agriculture Board’s trade and marketing division, to the TT news agency.

Also working in the agency’s favour this year, according Waldemar Ibron, an inspector based in Helsingborg in western Sweden, is the drop in the price difference between Swedish strawberries and imported strawberries.

According to Ibron, there is less of an incentive than in years past for merchants to deliberately mislabel strawberries because there is less to gain by passing off imported berries as Swedish.

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