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Fake Swedish berries get their day in court

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Fake Swedish berries get their day in court
Swedish strawberries... or are they? Photo: Carolina Romare/imagebank.sweden.se
14:32 CEST+02:00
Claims that a summer fruit shortage has prompted some retailers to sell fake "Swedish" strawberries in order to dupe customers are set to be brought in front of prosecutors.

Swedes love to snack on strawberries during the summer and frequently claim that the Nordic nation produces the best in the world.

But as The Local reported earlier this month, chilly weather in Sweden has created a shortage of the sweet fruits and led to some traders resorting to desperate, even illegal, methods to keep their kronor rolling in.

The Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) caused quite the stir in the Nordic country when it revealed it was investigating claims some retailers had been labelling strawberries as Swedish when they were actually imported from overseas – in order to trick customers into buying the in-demand local produce.

After carrying out 200 inspections in the country, almost a dozen samples were sent to high-tech laboratories in Germany to be tested. Officers confirmed on Wednesday that only one of the samples had turned out to be genuinely Swedish.

“We've never had this many cases before. The last two batches we sent off just the other day,” Waldemar Ibron of the Board of Agriculture's department for trade and market told Swedish news agency TT on Wednesday.

The tests were carried out using high-tech specialist equipment that can determine berries' origins by closely examining molecules and comparing them to those in a global database.

READ ALSO: Swedish strawberry shortage 'a disaster'

Six of the samples are still being investigated. Two have been found to be from outside of Sweden and only one has been confirmed as Swedish. Investigators have not been able to determine the origin of the remaining two samples.

The Board of Agriculture will now ask Swedish prosecutors to charge the sellers behind the fake berries.

“It is very unusual that these controls lead to a request for prosecutions, not least because the burden of proof is heavy. But based on the test results we have now received it appears we will be able to take it further,” said Ibron.

Kristina Mattsson, a spokesperson from the board, advised readers of The Local earlier this month to closely check prices on berry boxes in stores, noting that Swedish strawberries are usually more expensive than those from other countries and that there should not be vast differences between the costs of different Swedish brands.

So, if a 15 kronor ($1.77) box of 'Swedish' strawberries is sitting next to other punnets marked 45 kronor, there is a good chance the discounted box is ifake.

“Since Swedish strawberries are more expensive than foreign ones, it makes sense for us to have a higher vigilance when there's a financial opportunity for traders to exploit the situation,” she said at the time.

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