Egyptian strawberry exports thriving, meet international standards: minister

Essam Fayed, minister for agriculture and land reclamation, issued a statement on Wednesday pointing to increases in Egypt's strawberry exports, saying that safety and quality procedures meet international standards.

The statement follows reports in US media that several people in the state of Virginia has contracted hepatitis-A after consuming Egyptian strawberries, a report that put Egyptian growers and ministry officials on the defensive.

In his statement, Fayed said Egypt has boosted strawberry exports by around 60 percent in 2016. He said the ministry had also opened up new markets for Egyptian vegetables and fruit, especially in the European Union, North and South America, Indonesia, India,and China.

On the issue of safety, he said that all trawberries exported to European and American markets meet international standards.

However, he said that the conducting of tests on strawberry shipments prior to export is optional, being carried out at the request of the importing nation.

Meanwhile, the director of the ministry's central laboratory, Ashraf Marsafy, stressed that tests conducted on random samples of exported strawberries have shown no cases of microbes or viruses.

The ministry is investigating claims from a US media outlet that several cases of hepatitis-A infection in the state of Virginia are linked to strawberries imported from Egypt, the ministry spokesman Eid Hawash said on Tuesday.

In his statement, Hawash said that the US has not officially informed Egypt of the claims, but the claims are being investigated anyway.

Agriculture Minister Essam Fayed has formed a committee, headed by the chairman of the Union of Egyptian Exporters, to investigate the issue, Hawash added.

The WRIC news website, affiliated to the the ABC news network, reported on Sunday that 10 people in Virginia had become infected with hepatitis-A after consuming smoothies made of strawberries imported from Egypt.

"The smoothie chain Tropical Smoothie is now pulling all Egypt-sourced strawberries from freezer shelves," the WRIC reported.

Egypt ranks first among Arab countries in the production and export of strawberries, exporting about 40,000,000 tons of fresh and frozen strawberries a year to 30 countries in Europe, America, Southeast Asia and the Gulf states, according to Al-Ahram.

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