New food boss downplays fears

Following the recent scares surrounding Greek honey and yogurt, Parliament yesterday approved a new head for the state-run food watchdog, who immediately played down fears over the safety of the products but said the body needed to be more responsive to complaints. «Watching the discussions about honey on the TV news last night, I got the impression that half the country was in danger of dying from cancer,» said Yiannis Vlemmas, a veterinarian professor from the University of Thessaloniki who was approved as the new president of the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET). His comment was made in reference to recent tests which found that over half the country’s main brands of honey contained levels of a poisonous chemical, parabichlorobenzene, above EU limits. As a result, Development Ministry officials have been removing any affected honey from stores since Monday. Vlemmas was thrust into his new post following the resignation of EFET’s former head, Nikos Katsaros, and the organization’s general manager, Christos Apostolopoulos, after they came under a wave of criticism for not informing the Development Ministry last month about a batch of moldy yogurt made by Greek dairy foods giant FAGE. However, Vlemmas played down the scare over the moldy yogurts and said that EFET simply had to speed up the way it reacted to consumer complaints. «Mold is a bacterium. We cannot wipe bacteria off the face of the planet. When there is a complaint, EFET has to conduct checks immediately to find the problem,» said Vlemmas. Along with newly appointed vice president Evangelos Lazos, Vlemmas said their immediate task would be to secure more state funding for the watchdog so that 80 more employees could be taken on.

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