Authorities have placed two strawberry fields in Zygi and Mazotos under quarantine after pesticides not suitable for foodstuff was detected on the fruits, the head of the agriculture department said on Tuesday.
The fields, owned by different producers, were quarantined to prevent affected strawberries being sold.
Officials destroy any ripe strawberries on the plants and make regular lab tests. The quarantine will continue until tests show there is no longer pesticide residue on the produce, head of the agriculture department Androula Georgiou told the Cyprus Mail.
The case came to light following routine sample checks by the state health services on strawberries being sold in the market. After the unsuitable pesticide was found on the samples of two producers, the health services alerted the agriculture department.
The health services said it is not known how many strawberries had been sold but that it was estimated it was not a lot.
Head of the health services Alvertos Karis said last week that consuming strawberries contaminated with pesticides does not cause an immediate health problem. This, he said, occurs when someone consumes fruit or other foodstuff ridden with pesticides for a long period of time.
Georgiou said checks have been carried out in nearby strawberry fields to make sure no other producers have used the same pesticide.
“Luckily, only those two producers were found to have used that pesticide,” she said.
She added that so far, they have carried out 10 checks in other strawberry fields and no irregularity was detected.
She said her service is contemplating whether to fine the producers up to €2,000, the maximum, or take legal measures against them. Georgiou conceded that the maximum fine provided by law is too low and that revisions are necessary.
Karis said none of the affected strawberries are on the market as they have been already consumed.
Karis urged members of the public to avoid buying fruit and vegetables from street vendors as there is no way of knowing the production conditions. “We don’t know where they got them from, if pesticide was used, we don’t know if the produce was harvested at the right time or before the pesticides wore off,” Karis said.
He added that fruit markets and supermarkets keep records of who supplied them with fruit and vegetables and it is easy to trace the producers.