Tomatoes, imported from Turkey, with a label stating that their peel is not for human consumption, have caused unease among consumers in Serbia.
Following someone posting a picture of the label on Facebook, inspectors from the Phytosanitary went into action, checked the importer of the controversial tomatoes as well as their import licenses, and found that this particular batch was safe for human consumption since it had passed all statutory controls.
So, why does it say on the label that the tomatoes’ “peel is unfit for human consumption”?
“We can say with certainty that these particular tomatoes are safe for consumption. This is a technical mistake and a failure on the part of the importer, which usually imports citrus fruits that oftentimes bear such label”, says Nenad Milojevic, head of the Phytosanitary Inspectorate of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Following the inspection control, it was found out that these tomatoes were imported from Turkey on 24th March, in the quantity of 21.7 tons. The shipment control, sampling, as well as safety checks on pesticides were carried out at the border. Samples were sent to the lab, and the results arrived on 27th March.
“These tomatoes had been found to be safe for consumption, hence the importer was allowed to further distribute them. The label is in accordance with the relevant rules and there is no indication the peel was unfit for human consumption. After we consulted the importer we realized that there may have been a technical error at stake here, because the importer also imports citrus fruits and this particular label is usually used on them. Thus, we consider it a mistake”, says Milojevic.
Following the subsequent control done at the wholesale fruit and vegetable outdoor market in Belgrade, it was ascertained that the tomatoes with the controversial declaration were nowhere to be found, just like the vendor who posted the picture on Facebook. Unofficially, there is rumour that the importer’s competition circulated this picture on purpose.
Regardless of the aforementioned and presuming that the label was originally intended for citrus fruits, the question remains why is the peel of the imported citrus fruits unfit for human consumption. Obviously, it means that it contains some harmful substances and that it should not be used at all. Milojevic explains that, when imported, the entire fruit (lemon in this case) is tested, peel included, and only after it passes laboratory tests, it can be distributed further.
Goran Papovic, from the National Consumer Organization, points out that, unfortunately, some out of season fruits and vegetables do contain certain substances that are not recommended for human consumption. This particularly applies to those fruits and vegetables that are transported from long distances via sea.
“For instance, tomatoes are treated with ethylene so they can ripen faster, as well as fungicides, so as not to go stale in transport. This situation with the controversial label on the boxes with tomatoes, which states that their peel is not for human consumption, is strange and I have no logical explanation”, says Papovic.
This post is also available in: Italiano