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Egypt's Strawberry Export Woes Continue: Is Social Media to Blame?

UAE has just imposed restrictions on imports of Egyptian agricultural goods and Russia bans them altogether following reports of a Hepatitis A outbreak in the US which has been linked to frozen strawberries imported from yours truly.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has tightened import measures of Egyptian frozen strawberries, reports Emirates 24/7.

The decision was made by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment on Saturday, which released a statement saying it has instructed food control authorities nationwide “to tighten control procedures on frozen strawberries imported from Egypt in order to avoid the entry of any contaminated products that pose a risk to the consumer in the country,” according to Gulf News. 

The move comes in response to rumours that have circulated on social media following reports of a Hepatitis A outbreak in the United States (US) which has been traced to strawberries imported from Egypt.   

A report by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that 119 cases of Hepatitis A were reported in eight US states and that most of the people afflicted "had consumed smoothies containing frozen strawberries imported from Egypt at well-known cafes across the US.” 

However, the results are inconclusive as “The US authorities are still coordinating with Egyptian authorities to validate the results. The report stated that there was no further information indicating the existence of external cases of Hepatitis A.”

The FDA’s report did not confirm rumours which circulated on social media about Egyptian strawberries containing contaminants such as formalin, salts “unfit for human consumption" and prohibited additives. 

According to Gulf News, the ministry addressed the rumours saying: “it is clear that the official report on FDA’s website does not conform to what has been circulated on social media platforms." 

According to Ahram Online, Russia has also banned Egyptian fruit and vegetable imports effective Thursday, September 22nd. The country's food safety watchdog cited sanitary concerns for the ban. However, it is believed that the move comes in response to recently introduced regulations by Egypt, the world's largest importer of wheat, to lower the maximum acceptable concentration of ergot fungus in imported wheat which hurt Russian trade interests. 

Earlier this week, the Russian Agricultural Supervisory Authority had said that it may enforce similar measures and restrictions on Egyptian agricultural goods, reports Egypt Daily News. “In spite of numerous appeals addressed to the Central Administration for Agricultural Quarantine affiliated to the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture, the Egyptian side did not take the appropriate measures to correct the matter,” a statement from the agency read.

(Photo by Yiannis Liakos)