NEWS

Deadline to end meat market woes

The Greek government has until the end of the month to respond to the criticism of a team of EU inspectors who found serious problems in the country’s largest meat market. The government has to present immediate, specific measures as well as long-term ones so as to protect consumers and also improve Greece’s reputation in terms of food safety. It must also submit a timetable of the changes. But a representative of the country’s veterinarians pointed out a serious problem: Vets are not paid to be at the central market to inspect meat when it arrives from abattoirs, and there are not enough of them to do this. Last week, the head of the EU food and veterinary office, Robert Coleman, voiced severe criticism of conditions at Athens’s Redi meat market after an inspection last week. The inspectors noted in their report that the Agriculture Ministry had been aware of the problems at Redi (which are said to include meat in proximity to garbage and stray dogs wandering around) for the last six years, but had done nothing. Among the immediate measures expected is the daily inspection of meat coming to the market, to certify its origin, quantity and quality. This, however, is easier said than done, according to Katy Mylona, general secretary of the Panhellenic Veterinarians’ Association. «In the whole country there are only 700 vets in the public sector, while there are positions for 1,800,» she said. «As Agriculture Minister (Giorgos) Drys himself told us, vets do not go to the market at the time of the purchases at dawn but arrive there in the morning and put their stamp on the meat. This happens because they are not paid to work at night.» The gang had recently sold 300 kilos of hashish on the Greek market, while another 400 kilos were initially destined for Britain.