OPINION

Consumer safety

Half of Greek consumers prefer fresh milk, and they pay 40 percent more for it than Europeans do for pasteurized milk. Worse, according to a study that was published in the Sunday Kathimerini, «fresh milk» is often no more than a misleading commercial slogan. No one can be absolutely sure that locally produced «fresh» milk is, in fact, better than pasteurized milk produced abroad. Nor can one say with certainty that milk sold as having been produced in Greece has not been mixed with foreign imports. Greek consumers, in other words, are held hostage to an astonishing degree of uncertainty regarding a basic consumer item. And this constitutes just one aspect of people’s wider uncertainty about everything they eat and drink. The average Greek, a city dweller, knows nothing about life on the farm and has lost touch with nature. When it comes to food products, Greek consumers appear to be virtually uninformed. Moreover, they find themselves overwhelmed on a daily basis with scaremongering or alarming sound bites from local and foreign media, whether concerning microbes, genetically modified products, animal diseases, pesticides or pharmaceuticals. And on top of all this is frequently misleading labeling. Urban consumer behavior in our country has reached a point where it is necessary to increase the need for systematic controls that can ensure a minimum of health and safety standards and the proper labeling of content and origin. It is a welcome sign that Greece is finally taking steps in the area of food control after years of neglect, during which unscrupulous producers were left largely unchecked and paltry penalties were imposed on violators. This won’t be an easy task for the state apparatus; but it is a vital one if we are to make progress in increasing public safety and in the fight against illicit profiteering. The public itself must take steps to improve the level of consumer organizations so that their complaints can make a difference. Producers must also join hands. In a society where food is turning into an industrial product, the food industry has to accept its share of legal and social responsibility, whether in dealing with food or manufacturing. State controls must aim at consolidating this sense of responsibility so that lawbreakers suffer hefty penalties while responsible producers are rewarded with consumer preference.