OPINION

Price and quality of milk products

The unjustifiably strong-worded response by Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Federation of Hellenic Food Industries (SEVT) and chairman of the Delta dairy industry, to the Development Ministry’s warnings caused a very bad impression. The row emerged after a study conducted by Greece’s food safety watchdog, EFET, revealed that labels found on milk packaging are usually misleading. The Hellenic Food Authority checked pasteurized and condensed milk from 24 producers around the country and found that in 85 percent of cases the consumer is misled about the products’ area of origin. The inspection revealed that in 73 percent of the cases information on the packaging misled the consumer about the product’s nutritional value. Moreover, 74 percent of condensed milk was found to be carrying false nutritional data, while 63 percent had misleading information about its composition. The milk firms’ response – which condemned the ministry’s intervention as «extreme» as well as detrimental to consumers’ interests – was hardly convincing. In fact, it was disturbing to hear the federation claim that «the era when every minister does what he wants must also pass.» One would expect that milk firms and traders would vow to comply with the legislation and correct their mistakes as soon as possible – before the expiration of the three-month deadline set by EFET. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos rightly stressed yesterday that «the state must protect consumers and everyone must realize that no one is above the law.» The conservative administration and EFET must conduct a fresh round of inspections on the 24 producers after the end of the three-month deadline and impose hefty fines on those who fail to comply. Instead of hinting that the government harbors a hidden political agenda or alleging that the administration «is seeking to humiliate business activity,» they should rather take steps to trim milk prices, currently among the highest in Europe. The government can help to achieve this goal by encouraging healthy competitiveness among small as well as large milk producers which meet all legal standards, while providing higher quality at better prices.