Meat in nationality change

Lamb and kid from Bulgaria and Romania that has been labeled as Greek forms a large proportion of the meat that consumers pay for as domestically produced, according to the Agricultural Development and Food Ministry. Together with a team from the financial crimes squad (SDOE) of the Finance Ministry, the ministry has investigated the gangs that carries out the «Hellenization» of 80 percent of the 650,000 kids and lambs imported into this country annually from Bulgaria and Romania. Consumers end up paying more for imported meat, since it’s branded Greek, at the same time that Greek stockbreeders are suffering acute problems. The information gathered on the illegal rebranding of meat would be sent straight to a prosecutor, Deputy Agricultural Development and Food Minister Alexandros Kontos said. As of now, inspections will be attended by the police as well. After a meeting at the ministry on the issue on Monday October 25, which was also attended by representatives of the Finance Ministry, Kontos said that it had been decided to draw up market regulations that would stipulate imported and local meat to be placed in separate glass cases at points of sale. Rebranding imported meat as Greek is an old, and common, tactic given the preference of Greek consumers for local meat. Often, however, domestic production cannot meet demand, or, even more commonly, many sell imported meat as Greek because they can buy it cheap and sell dear. Inspections are not needed, in any case, to confirm that all meat markets and butcher’s shops cannot possibly be selling domestic meat when there are such large imports of meat from abroad. Kontos said investigations began nearly three months ago, in the prefectures of Kavala, Thessaloniki, Aetoloacarnania, Ioannina, Preveza, Argolida, Arcadia, Attica and Corinth. «Threats and insults made with anonymous telephone calls was the reaction of the gangs, which include vets, importers and traders,» Kontos said. According to the report on the investigation, vets and meat inspectors often carry out only cursory inspections, and even look the other way. Specifically, they fail to carry out requisite inspections before slaughter. After death, the animal’s provenance is impossible to tell, so it receives a stamp of origin in accordance with where the trader says it’s from – usually Greece. This nationality change normally takes place in the slaughterhouses, where slaughtered animals from third countries receive the blue stamp normally bestowed on Greek meat – with vets turning a blind eye or even being complicit, by their own confession. According to the report, which is still in the hands of the Food Ministry’s legal services and has not yet been made public, in many cases butchers also pressurize the rings to supply them with «Hellenized» meat so that they can rake in a profit. Equivalent checks will be carried out on wine and honey, since imports of these two products also mysteriously disappear from products sold on the market.