Ica removes ‘hep A risk’ frozen strawberries

Swedish supermarket chain Ica announced on Wednesday that it was removing all frozen strawberries from its shelves, due to the risk of them being a source for the spread of the hepatitis A virus.

Ica removes 'hep A risk' frozen strawberries

“We’re halting sales on the advice of Sweden’s National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket),” Johanna Stiernstedt of Ica Sweden told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

The berries that have been removed from shelves are the Ica Basic frozen strawberries in 1 kg packets, the 150-gramme Ica deep frozen strawberries, and the 1-kg Ica Basic Berry Mix (Bärmix). The berries come from Morocco and Egypt.

The fact that the berries may contain the virus is nothing new for Sweden, but Wednesday marked the first instance that Ica had decided to remove the berries. Stiernstedt maintained that there was no health risk, however.

“We’ve had extensive dialogue with the suppliers and we have no sign that our products are a health risk,” she added.

She said that concerned customers were welcome to bring any purchased products back for a refund, however, she stressed that there was no risk in eating them.

In April, health authorities warned that a hepatitis A outbreak in Sweden could be linked to frozen berries. Experts with the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control (Smittskyddsinstitutet, SMI) advised berry lovers to take caution when consuming any berries bought in Sweden that were sold frozen.

In May, however, SMI tweaked its advice, saying it was safe to eat all frozen berries except strawberries.

At the time, there were 44 confirmed cases of hepatitis in the Nordic countries that could be traced back to the same source: 26 from Denmark, ten from Sweden, five from Norway and three from Finland.

The virus strain was linked to frozen berries first discovered in Denmark.

TT/The Local/og

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First Swedish spring strawberries at auction

Sweden's annual strawberry crop contest has a winner, with Lars Jacobsen from Skåne in southern Sweden the first to produce the fresh fruits in 2015.

First Swedish spring strawberries at auction
Swedish strawberries snapped in 2014. Photo: TT
The farmer has won the yearly competition for nine years in a row and his latest box of juicy offerings has been bought at auction for 894 kronor ($103).
This year's price was much higher than in 2014, when the fruits fetched 175 kronor a box ($20), although in 2013 the strawberries were sold for 750 kronor ($86) a punnet. 
"I was shocked," the farmer told local newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad, reacting to his 2015 winnings.
The difference in cost is believed to be because last year Jacobsen had almost 150 punnets available, while this year he only had seven.
"I'm a little late this year," the farmer told the paper.
Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits in Sweden and Swedes believe they are the best in the world. The cold climate and the long summer days are believed to pack in extra sweetness and flavour. 
The berries play a role in numerous Swedish desserts and are sold at special stalls all over the country during the summer, and on strawberry farms where many families travel to pick their own each year.
Jacobsen grows his strawberries under glass in a greenhouse in Hjälmshult in Skåne, raising the temperature gradually from early February as he attempts to beat other producers to sell the first box.
While the auction took place on Monday, Jacobsen admitted to the news agency TT that he had already tasted a few of the fruits himself.
"I walk in the greenhouses, I cannot help it," he laughed.