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Finland has a berry good idea to verify origin

Evira and Luke will start sampling this summer. ©iStock/Brian Jackson

Two Finnish agencies are to sample strawberries as part of work to develop a method to verify their origin.

Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira and Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) will start sampling this summer.

Geographical origin of strawberries can be identified by Stable Isotope Ratio Analysis (SIRA) of the samples, regardless of the variety or time of the crop season.

Professor Janne Nieminen from Evira said the study is based on the different forms of isotopes of the elements.

“Part of the isotopes are found in different concentrations in different geographical regions, and they are absorbed into plants in ratios determined by their environment. Thus it is possible to identify the origin of plant products on the basis of their isotope ratios. The data are supplemented by determining the minerals contained in the plants.”

This summer the objective is to collect samples from 50 strawberry production areas. Samples are also acquired from market stalls for comparison.

"The isotope ratios and mineral concentrations determined for the analysed samples are compiled into a database which can later be used to detect and prove falsification of the origin of strawberries,” said Saila Karhu, research professor from Luke.

“The method is already in use in Sweden, for example, for the identification of the origin of batches of strawberries offered for sale. It has been utilised within EU in legal proceedings of suspected cases of falsification of origin.”

The union representing berry farmers (Hedelmän ja Marjanviljelijäin liitto ry) and a regional association of berry farmers (Suonenjoen seudun marjanviljelijäin yhdistys) as well as the Berry Know-how Centre of Development Company SavoGrow are part of the project.

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