Beware of those Juicy-Looking Strawberries at the Street Markets in Seoul!

A few of my best friends recently went on holiday to Seoul. And as one does, they visited the shopping streets and markets at Myeong-Dong. They saw a whole stretch of street vendors selling fruits — strawberries, in particular, and in abundance. And these strawberries looked plump, juicy and bright! They bought these mochis with a fresh strawberry centre:


Here’s another look at the fruits inside mochi:

They ate the strawberry mochi that evening and said that it was sweet and juicy. So they returned the following day and bought a box of the fresh strawberries. It was a large box, which they couldn’t finish and so left the remainder in the box to be eaten the next day. [Note: they didn’t put the strawberries in the fridge; but the weather in Seoul was cool, between 11-20°C that day.]

The next morning, the strawberries were rotten. They appeared “collapsed” with a large hole in the centre of some of them, and almost disintegrated.

above: “collapsed strawberries with half of it “eaten away”


above: disintegrated strawberry

The liquid in the box also seeped out onto the bed and when they lifted the box, there was a huge red stain on the bedding which couldn’t be removed with soap, detergent or makeup remover.

You can make your own deductions from this, but it appears that these strawberries were coated with artificial dyes to make them appear vibrant and red; and my friends believe that the strawberries were injected with something (not something good), that caused it to rot and become mush overnight (from being healthy and juicy-looking just half a day before).

According to this article on Hindustan Times, fruits that look too good to be true, usually are. Chemicals are commonly injected into fruits to artificially ripen them, so they appear “fresh” for longer; but these chemicals also tend to be toxic. An easy test for dye is to wash and soak the fruit in water for a few minutes to see if the colour comes out. But testing for chemicals injected into the fruit isn’t as straightforward, so as a precaution, shop from reputable supermarkets and grocers. Did my friends feel sick after eating those strawberries? No. But will they buy from that store (or similar) again? Also, no.