Sour news for milk firms

Milk producers were yesterday given three months to correct the misleading labels on their products after checks revealed that the overwhelming amount of milk on store shelves displayed incorrect information about the product’s origin and nutritional value. «The era when anybody could do what they want has passed,» said Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou. «This is a message to all sectors.» The Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) inspected fresh and condensed milk from 24 producers around the country and found that in 85 percent of cases the product’s labeling misled the consumer about the geographical area from which the milk is supposed to have come. EFET also discovered that almost eight in 10 milk cartons violated the law on product naming. According to food and drink regulations, only milk that comes from cows and is fresh can carry the title «fresh milk.» The implication from this is that in most cases the milk was not fresh even though the label claimed it was. It has long been a complaint of consumer groups that much of the milk sold in Greece as «fresh» is in fact pasteurized. Around 2.2 billion liters of milk are sold in Greece every year. Domestic production accounts for only 720 million liters of this. EFET also found that seven in 10 milk cartons did not comply with regulations for listing the product’s nutritional information, while 15 percent did not display the correct expiry date. Similarly high rates of misleading labeling were found in condensed milk products. Papathanassiou said that the milk producers would be given three months to rectify their labeling or face hefty fines. Industry leaders objected to the warnings. The president of the Federation of Hellenic Food Industries (SEVT), Dimitris Daskalopoulos, described EFET’s results as «extreme.» «The era when every minister does what he wants must also pass,» Daskalopoulos said in response to Papathanassiou’s comment. Earlier this year, Daskalopoulos admitted that milk in Greece was on average 12 percent higher priced than in other EU countries.