Berries from Blueberry Hill safe, say health officials

Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003

Blueberries growing at a popular picking spot in Whitney Pier are safe to eat, say health officials. "There is no health risk," Don Ferguson, senior adviser for Health Canada, confirmed Friday.

He was remarking on a health risk assessment completed on blueberries picked at Blueberry Hill off Lingan Road in Whitney Pier.

The chemical health hazard assessment division, part of the Bureau of Chemical Safety and Health Products and Food Branch for Health Canada, did the assessment and concluded the berries are safe to consume. "This gang is the ultimate authority in Canada on food safety," said Ferguson.

The berries were also analysed by Dr. Beverly Hale, University of Guelph. Her effort was to compare substances in those berries to those picked in North Sydney and retail food outlets. Specifically, they were tested for metals and polycyclic aromotic hydrocarbons.

Ferguson said there are differences but they remain safe. Gale's results and the health risk assessments are now being joined together to produce one piece of information to be forwarded to Dr. Jeff Scott, chief medical officer of health for the province, and Dr. Charl Badenhorst, medical officer of health at the Cape Breton District Health Authority.
"It's highly, highly unlikely that the two medical officers of health are going to challenge the highest authority of the nation," said Ferguson. "But we have to respect their roles."

As to when the final results will be available to the public, Ferguson said, "We're trying to get it out the door as soon as possible."

The study was conducted as a result of a JAG resolution. It's been reported that members of the community expressed concern over the possible uptake of chemicals in the soil by the wild berries, which are picked and consumed by local residents.