Scary food

Food accidents are always popular when looking for a news story that reels ’em in while skirting on the boundaries of ‘good taste’. Because food accidents hit hard, in the gut. My general impression is that the quality of food products in Norway is quite high; eggs can be eaten raw without fear, and raw materials should be fresh and clean.

OK, there was a very big e-coli scare in the meat industry a few years ago, and the focus on food hygeiene did turn up some frights*. But things have been quiet on this front for a while, so confidence is restored. And so these stories about baked teeth and oblong eggs are just freak exceptions. Right?

Newspaper Bergens Tidende had the mystery of the oblong egg more or less fall into their lap when a staff member bought a carton and found the oddity inside. Have a look here.

Their investigation revealed that while this wasn’t so unusual, it was very unusual indeed. That is, some hens produce such deformed eggs from time to time, but to get one in your carton should be nearly impossible, as they are quality controlled twice, once via X-ray and again manually. Experts (yes, they were called eggsperts in the article) at food giant Nortura, which is a merger of Norway’s leading meat and poultry cooperatives, said that the egg itself should be normal.

Øystein Rolland put this to the test in front of a video camera, and the film may still be available here, about halfway down the page. It’s not a thrilling piece of cinema, he cracks a weird shell and a normal egg comes out.

Then there was a woman complaining, rightly in my opinion, after finding a well-worn tooth in a crescent roll she bought. Tabloid VG was quick to document this claim. The bakery delivered a grovelling apology and vowed to investigate how such a thing was possible. Disgusting, but these things happen. Wenche Puthof, who bought the offensive piece of bread, showed the paper that she wasn’t missing any teeth.

Puthof added that the incident had ruined her appetite. “From now on I’m going to do a lot more baking at home,” she said.

Then I spotted something in my corner grocery, part of a huge chain called Rimi. It was in the health and vitamins section and is presumably a common item, but I had never noticed it before. I’ve written before about how much the Norwegians swear by their cod liver oil, and there is great faith in the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. But since when did they start selling seal oil tablets?

According to the information on the somewhat amateurish website “The blubber of seals contains high concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids. Eskimos recipe for a healthy heart, good immune defense system, good circulation, soft joint and beautiful skin is seal oil. It is documented that the molecules in the seal oil is structured different than fish oil, and humans benefit more from seal oil than fish oil during digestion. This is because the seal is a mammal.” which butchered quote they attribute to the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries.

Their promotional material adds that they use the non-endangered Greenland seal for their oil, and that the level of environmental toxins contained is within regulated safety limits, which I’m sure will completely reassure the animal and eco-activists.

Having made a quick scan of the topic, it does appear that seal oil has gotten positive health results from official research and is manufactured by a wide range of companies here. And indeed, toxin levels have been greatly reduced since they cleaned up the cowboy seal oil market about eight years ago.

So maybe they have been on the corner grocery shelf all this time without me noticing. But it still worries me.

*Sheep dung in roast is one such memorable tale from the old News in English service, plus this follow-up story. Things have been quiet since. Gilde has become Nortura, mentioned above.


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