Food inspections ‘inadequate’

The state system for inspecting food is complicated, haphazard and unable to keep poor-quality goods out of the market, experts have said ahead of World Food Day today. «Monitoring mechanisms are scattered across five ministries and so the system for inspecting foodstuffs does not work properly,» Ioannis Zambetakis, a food chemistry professor at Athens University, told Kathimerini. The closure yesterday of two Athens bakeries found to have been violating health and safety regulations shows that action is being taken. However, the lack of a central mechanism for overseeing quality checks on food perpetuates a chaotic state of affairs that other firms exploit. The lack of adequate staff to carry out the required inspections at the local level is also a problem, according to Nikos Besas, a scientific adviser on food safety issues to the prefecture of eastern Athens. Moreover, fines imposed on wholesalers and retailers found to be dealing in poor-quality food often remain unpaid, particularly in the case of large firms, experts say. «The big names find some loophole through their lawyers,» Besas said. Furthermore, cases indicted for prosecution take up to three years to reach court. «At what stage is the prosecutor’s probe into a large dairy firm whose products were found to contain shards of glass a year ago?» Zambetakis remarked. The amount of domestically produced food deemed unfit for consumption is difficult to determine. However, figures from the Agricultural Development and Food Ministry show that more than 2,320 tons of food destined for import has been stopped at the border so far this year after being branded «unsuitable for consumption.»