OPINION

Business deficit

The discovery of Greek feta cheese contaminated with listeria in a Norway-bound shipment constitutes more than just an «unfortunate, isolated incident» for our exports in general – even more so for Kolios, the firm which produced the cheese in question. As the company said, two suspect samples were found in a total of 12, and these were traced during a sampling survey conducted by the Norwegian authorities. After consulting EFET, Greece’s food authority, the producer destroyed the entire shipment (2,880 kilograms), reassuring that no part of the lot in question reached the domestic market. The firm added that it follows all domestic monitoring procedures, and that the causes of the bacterial infection were exogenous. The statement, sincere as it may be, clearly minimizes the size of the problem as well as its root causes. Experts say that listeria occurs only when milk has not been properly pasteurized or when cheese has been exposed to improper conditions during its slicing or packaging. Hence it is hard to believe claims that the causes of the contamination were exogenous, let alone that the outbreak could not have been predicted and prevented. The incident is bound to have a negative impact since the contaminated cheese was exported to Norway, a Scandinavian country engaged in the battle for the legalization of Danish-made feta – a move that took a great deal of Greek effort to curb. This aspect renders the incident even more irking and unforgivable. Greece has put up a fierce fight to fend off the Danish and French assaults on our patent rights. Feta cheese enjoys a good status globally and thanks to it the Greek industry enjoys an important share of the packaged products market. Now corporate irresponsibility has inflicted a serious blow to the image of Greece’s feta exports. Instead of offering thorough explanations and apologies that this was an isolated error, we see an attempt to play down the incident. The EFET chairman expressed her indignation at the publication of the company’s name – as if it would be better to tarnish the image of all feta-producing firms. The issue may sound trivial but it is not. It reflects the organizational deficit of Greece’s export businesses, and the fact that they are not conscious of the risks posed by such negligence for businesses and the economy in general. Greek firms must realize that quality monitoring is a sine qua non for succeeding at home and abroad.