A ‘clean plate’ for European consumers

For some years now, disturbing revelations about health risks from the food they eat, such as poultry and fish contaminated with dioxins, or «mad cows,» among other scandals, have been troubling European consumers. The European Union decided to embark on a campaign to ensure food safety, since regaining the faith of its 350 million citizens will affect its entire operational framework. The campaign covers every aspect of the food chain; every product reaching the consumer will have the EU’s seal of approval of every stage of production. The team of EU inspectors arriving in Greece today will, above all, be looking for progress in this sensitive area, as well as visiting the country’s abattoirs, monitoring the program to wipe out bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) and in general, work being done to confront livestock diseases. However, a lack of coordination and excessive bureaucracy are still preventing the system of controls from functioning smoothly. Christina Papanikolaou, president of the National Agency for Food Inspection (EFET) told Kathimerini the system was problematic. And Katy Mylona, general secretary of the Panhellenic Veterinary Association, told Kathimerini that «there is no guarantee of public health.» «It’s only luck that stops us from catching various diseases when, for example, in the Rendi market, sales are made at night when inspectors are not there,» she said. Moreover, the General Veterinary Directorate belongs to the Agriculture Ministry, although local veterinary departments take their orders from the Interior Ministry. «Every local prefect is more interested in maintaining his or her clientelist relations than in safeguarding the public’s health,» she said. Greece is not the only country in trouble. The EU’s health inspectors have been finding a number of problems in the production, distribution and trade of food products even in supposedly «advanced» countries.

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