OPINION

Horrors of food market continue

The public is in an uproar over continuing revelations that unscrupulous importers, manufacturers and vendors of all kinds of food are opening the market to tons of foodstuff unfit for human consumption and even containing additives that have been shown to be carcinogenic. We have reached the point where profiteering as well as deceiving consumers about the food’s country of origin is seen as the most innocent of crimes, even when committed in the middle of the Varvakeio food market in the heart of Athens. These crimes are concealed by the stench emanating from confectionery factories, from herds of cows in the «pure Greek countryside» shown grazing on landfill sites, or the nightmare of «clean» Norwegian smoked salmon full of nitrates. It is clear that the inspection system of the food distribution chain is in trouble, there is a gross lack of accountability and fines are paltry compared to the profits to be earned. As a result, the unscrupulous stop at nothing. Indicative of the extent of the problem is the fact that during 64 inspections by the Prefecture of Attica at bakeries, confection shops and restaurants, charges were pressed against the owners of 34 of these establishments. Stepped-up inspections this year have shown the depth and range of the phenomenon. Fines need to be greatly increased, penalties made much harsher and the procedure for removing operating licenses simplified if those committing crimes against public health are to be deterred. Above all, however, a much more methodical mechanism and hygiene checking system needs to be included in the state’s permanent policy. We need to get past the practice of carrying out inspections as a temporary measure or simply to make an impression on television. Merciless and severe continued inspections by incorruptible staff members are needed as part of a methodical policy of rooting out organized gangs that have become parasites on all branches of Greek society. At some point, the Augean stables must be properly cleaned out.