If you have been on any form of social media in the last few days, chances are you have willingly or unwillingly come across rather disturbing videos of innocent-looking strawberries giving birth to dozens of weird, wormy, little creatures after being dunked in a bowl of warm, salty water. Even if you hadn't heard of it, now you have.
The whole stomach-churning phenomenon was first exposed by a TikTok video. Others quickly followed suit, posting on the platform the proof that despite their pristine appearance, their strawberries also hid dirty little guests.
The whitish maggots that eventually crawl out of the fruit after being submerged in water are called spotted wing drosophila (SWD), a type of fly that is attracted to yeast and sugar – found in sweet and fermenting fruit. What makes them different from the common fruit fly is that they can lay their eggs in fresh-looking fruit, and not just damaged or rotting fruit.
However, food engineers have some good news. These are the only type of pests that can be transported in fruit, and they are not something you should be too concerned about.
“Butterflies, insects and flies can lay their eggs on fruits during their breeding periods. These eggs form maggots. This situation does not pose a health risk for humans; its nature's cycle," food engineer and professor Bülent Nazlı told Demirören News Agency (DHA).
If you still can’t fathom how such a thing can go unnoticed despite your careful inspections, Nazlı says you should just be extra diligent when washing your produce, paying special care to the leafy parts.
“If you want complete peace of mind, you can get put them in salty water or use a vinegar-water mix," he said.
Not every strawberry you pick or buy will have them either. Nazlı said he conducted his own saltwater experiment with some berries and didn’t have the same result as in the videos.,
Noting that there is currently no evidence that suggests these maggots are poisonous or harmful for humans, Nazlı said: “People may not like it when they see those worms in fruits. Therefore, they may not want to consume them, but this is wrong. There is also this belief that if there are no insects in the fruit then there must be a lot of chemicals in it. You see, the harm caused by the chemicals (pesticide residue) ingested with fruits is much greater. It can even lead to cancer. Yes, some maggots may emerge from fruit, but this is no cause for alarm.”
“In fact, fruits with maggots are sold at higher prices in Europe,” he joked.
If you still want to see for your own eyes, here's how you can conduct your own experiment.
Pour some warm water into a large bowl, add a teaspoon of salt to the water and mix. Then drop your strawberries into the water and wait anywhere between five and 30 minutes. If there are any creepy crawlies hitchhiking inside of the berries, these critters will soon show up on the surface of the water. If you don't want to ruin one of your few culinary pleasures during the coronavirus lockdown, just continue with your usual ways. After all, what you don’t know (or see) won’t hurt you.
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