|a New Yorker cartoon, http://www.newyorker.com/humor/issuecartoons/2012/12/24/cartoons_20121217#slide=3|
mmm, it is definitely a funny cartoon..., so it is a good one
if you buy greek yoghurt though,
let's not forget this story as well...
Yoghurt scandal trickles on
A MEMBER of the public complained to yoghurt producer FAGE about the presence
of glass in a pot of yoghurt on November 10.
On November 13, FAGE informed the Greek health watchdog EFET about the problem
and the company recalled the affected yoghurt (unlike in March 2005, when
mould was found in FAGE yoghurt). On the same day EFET issued a press release
to make consumers aware of the contaminated yoghurt.
Four important points need to be clarified here:
* What was the source of the broken glass in the yoghurts? Was it a broken
protective cover over the production line? If so, how did the operations
manager not notice the breaking as it happened? It is impossible to accept
that a whole cover breaks and nobody in the production area notices it. Was it
indeed a protective material and not a thermometer? If it was a thermometer,
where the mercury has ended up?
Whatever the source of the glass, it is certain that FAGE failed to implement
the "broken glass policy", ie stop the production, identify the source of the
broken glass and hold all the possibly infected batches.
* Why did not FAGE keep back the affected yoghurt in order to make sure that
there was no glass present? Who decided to release these batches to the
The EU law 852/2004 obliges every company that produces or retails food to
implement a food safety management system called Hazard Analysis and Critical
Control Point (HACCP). It needs to be clarified whether FAGE applies this
system and whether EFET is properly checking the implementation of HACCP by
the food industry.
* If FAGE knew about the broken cover, why didn't it inform consumers before
somebody complained to the company?
* Why did it take FAGE three days (from November 10 to 13) to recall such a
harmful product? This slow response is a breach of the EU law 178/2002.
The role of EFET
In this second yoghurt scandal, it has become apparent once again that EFET
does not effectively supervise the food industry in applying the EU laws
178/2002 and 852/2004. EFET does not appear to be working properly and this
has been proved in a series of incidents. The latest example of its inadequacy
was a press release on October 24 in which EFET admitted that it can't check
for the presence of genetically modified material in food. In fact, they asked
the environmental group Greenpeace to inform them of any legal breaches of
Meritocracy for all
Perhaps it is time to start employing scientists as watchdogs, using academic
and professional criteria. It is widely accepted by many people in the food
industry that the existing controlling mechanisms are vastly insufficient. We
also need to ask what are the criteria for appointing the EFET leaders and how
effectively this organisation is checked by the ministry of development for
whether it is meeting its objectives.
On 15 April 2005, I wrote in the Athens News: "Greece can indeed be a
European pioneer of top class food. The last thing that people involved in
food and food education sectors want is another case study of poor
implementation of HACCP or crisis management with the flavour of yoghurt and honey."
Now, 19 months later, the complete implementation of the HACCP management
system is still a must to protect public health.
*Yannis Zabetakis is a lecturer in food chemistry at the University of
Athens, lead auditor for HACCP and a registered EFET trainer