Consumers getting a raw deal

Consumer campaigners yesterday derided the declining quality of food as figures compiled by Kathimerini ahead of today’s World Consumer Rights Day showed that more than 2,000 tons of food products were not allowed into Greece last year. The Greek Quality of Life Consumer Union (EKPOIZO) said yesterday that in a test it had conducted, it found that six out of the 27 products it checked contained ingredients, such as nuts, which could provoke allergies but did not indicate this on their packaging. EKPOIZO found unlabeled genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in one of seven products that it tested. It said the quality of food on offer to consumers had declined rapidly in recent years. Athens prefecture officials seized and destroyed some 2,200 tons of unsuitable food products last year but the head of EKPOIZO, Eleni Alevritou, told Kathimerini that this was only treating a symptom of the problem. «Every inspection is similar to carrying out an autopsy: You discover a problem once it has already developed,» said Alevritou. Campaigners are apparently not alone in feeling the quality of food is getting worse. A survey conducted on behalf of Kathimerini in January found that 75 percent of those questioned thought food was better 10 years ago than it is now. The cost of food products, however, has not declined. A four-member Greek family spends an average of 749 euros on food each month. Statistics indicate that much of the money being spent in Greece is being heaped on credit cards. According to the most recent figures, Greeks owe a combined total of 8.5 billion euros on their credit cards. This is on top of the 21.5 billion euros owed in mortgages. In a statement, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis pledged legislation that would strengthen the role of consumer watchdogs but called for consumers themselves to be alert. «An informed and active consumer safeguards the smooth operation of the market,» he said.