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Sweden vows to fight EU over smelly fish

TT/The Local/rm · 8 Apr 2011, 12:59

Published: 08 Apr 2011 12:59 GMT+02:00

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The government decided Friday to continue requesting the special exemption to sell fatty fish from the Baltic Sea in Sweden, despite dioxin levels too high to be sold elsewhere.

Included in the exemption is Baltic herring, which, when fermented, becomes the core ingredient found in one of Sweden's most beloved (and reviled) culinary offerings - surströmming

The country's surströmming-aficionados are expected to hail the decision, announced by agricultural minister Eskil Erlandsson during a Friday press conference.

“To me it is important that the tradition to eat Surströmming is safe,” he said at a press conference, although he himself is not a fan of the smelly dish.

Fermented Baltic herring is one of the types of fish that falls under the exemption, in place since 2002, which is set to expire this year.

The EU commission wants to change the rules to only allow fish shorter than 17 centimetres to be exempt, as these contain lower levels of PCB and dioxins.

But the proposed change has led to protests from the fishing industry as it would severely limit supply.

The National Food Administration (Livsmedelsverket) supported a change to the rules, arguing that the high levels of dioxins in fatty fish sold in Sweden today could lead to negative effects for some groups of society.

But according to the government this can be avoided with better information to consumers.

Story continues below…

Surströmming is traditionally eaten at the end of the summer and is most popular in some parts of northern Sweden.

The bulging can is a sign of the continued fermentation and the smell that travels when opened is a source of argument with many urban neighbours when the surströmming-season kicks off every year.

TT/The Local/rm (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:36 April 8, 2011 by BrittInSweden
European council really has too much time on its hands dictating what people should and shouldn't eat. Saying how straight a banana should be etc.
13:57 April 8, 2011 by rohermoker
First it is wolf hunting, now Sutstromming. It is time the Swed's throw off the shackels of the EU. (Yes I have eaten it, and I like it, I just wish I could find it in Minnesota)
14:25 April 8, 2011 by JulieLou40
I don't like the eu meddling but I'm with them on this one. I hope they ban it. Why the hell should I have to smell it when people nearby eat it??
14:26 April 8, 2011 by seagull

How is hunting a species almost to local extinction and to levels below which they can successfully and safely repopulate got anything to do with a foodstuff? I use the word "foodstuff" very loosely mind.
14:30 April 8, 2011 by Rishonim
I will support the EU commission any day if they decide to go after Systembolaget
15:04 April 8, 2011 by tadchem
There is a word for the unreasonable fear of chemicals: chemophobia.

The only well-established effect of dioxin in people is chloracne. Viktor Yushchenko (target of an incompetent assassination attempt) had dioxin levels 6,000 times normal in 2004, and chloracne was the only lasting effect.

The "negative effects for some groups of society" from "high levels of dioxins in fatty fish sold in Sweden" is referring to the hysterical paranoia some people develop at the mention of certain words.
15:19 April 8, 2011 by Swedesmith
Next, they'll ban farting. Then, how will I amuse myself?
17:30 April 8, 2011 by frey
surely you jest tadchem. trying to "whitewash" dioxin? get real.
18:47 April 8, 2011 by William Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha
PCBs are suspected to be the cause of autism. They interfere with brain development in the womb. They also never leave your body. Once you eat them the only way to get rid of them is to pass them on to your children.
19:37 April 8, 2011 by Rick Methven

"Next, they'll ban farting. Then, how will I amuse myself?"

Better not go to Uganda then- It IS illegal to fart there
21:24 April 8, 2011 by Swedesmith
What, they all walk around looking like the Michelin Man?
21:43 April 8, 2011 by Douglas Garner
I have long thought that opening a can of surströming in any public place should be considered an act of terrorism!
08:21 April 9, 2011 by Rick Methven
A British guy I knew was invited to try some surströmming on a visit to Sweden. The can was taken outside to be opened, but some of the contents splashed over the guys brand new shirt and pants.

5 attempts at washing them did not remove the smell and they had to be destroyed
11:50 April 9, 2011 by johnny1939
Long Live surströmming and down w/ EU!!!! I have had surströmming twice in my life. Once in Malmö and the other time in Honolulu. I really enjoyed both times. I still wonder how the can got thru the mail.
08:46 April 10, 2011 by rise
The "festivities" with Eating surstömming is just an other excuse for drinking more booze... To put this rotten fish in your mouth is a barbaric tradition which should have died out long since. The stink are spreading to all of the closest apartments making the people living in them vomit..! :P
17:06 April 11, 2011 by Raiha
"Short-term exposure of humans to high levels of dioxins may result in skin lesions, such as chloracne and patchy darkening of the skin, and altered liver function. Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions. Chronic exposure of animals to dioxins has resulted in several types of cancer."

"The developing fetus is most sensitive to dioxin exposure."

World Health Organisation on Dioxins


But good try Tadchem *rolls eyes*
22:20 April 13, 2011 by gl245p2
From UK prospective, I have tried and still alive. Nothing wrong with. All aspects of swedish food including this one. This is what makes Sweden special. In village that I live in Sweden Smalland. Every house is having their own special way of making it. Long live surströmming. Just make sure there is enough of Glog with it.
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