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Emergency Services Respond to Offensive Odour

Published on by Dr Paul Beckett

surstromming odour survey

(Surströmming image reproduced with permission of

In Sweden, two fire engines, two police cars, and an emergency gas response team were all rushed to a neighbourhood in Stockholm. The alarm was raised by neighbours in relation to an offensive odour in their block of flats.
The fire brigade arrived on site and quickly found out that the offending odour was indeed smelly, but was, in actual fact, harmless. The source was the Swedish delicacy, surströmming.

“I guess somebody didn’t know what surströmming smells like”

Said Sven-Erik Olsson from the police’s command centre to the TT news agency.
Stockholm fire fighter Björn Hörnsten retorted:

“They’ve got gas in the building, so I find it a bit strange that they called us. They ought to know what it smells like when you turn on a gas stove. It doesn’t smell like surströmming at all”.

Surströmming, is a traditional Swedish delicacy of fermenting Herring. However, its odour is well known for being offensive, and as a result, it is usually eaten outdoors. In autumn, it is not uncommon for Swedes to have a surströmmingsskiva (a fermented herring party).
According to the Stockholm fire department, this is not the first time that an emergency call has resulted from a fermented herring party.
At Phlorum we have significant experience in carrying our odour surveys often associated with restaurants, sewage treatment and industrial processes. We’ve not yet been called to assess a surströmming emergency. Maybe if we were to open an office in Sweden…
More on this Nordic tale can be found here.

About the author: Dr Paul Beckett

Dr Paul Beckett - picture

Dr Paul Beckett is one of the UK’s leading experts in Japanese knotweed and is a member of the Expert Witness Institute. He regularly provides Japanese knotweed expert witness services. He helped produce the RICS knotweed guidance for surveyors and was integral in the formation of the Property Care Association (PCA) Invasive Weed Control Group (IWCG).

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