Greece introduces ‘supermarket racks for the poor’

Expired foods Greece.jpg

A recent government decision presented in the press as allowing supermarkets to sell “expired goods” led to massive public outrage in Greece. As EURACTIV Greece took a closer look, it appeared that the decision concerned goods that were still edible, but with an expired “best before” date. 

A new code for market regulation was adopted by the Greek government recently and was published in the country’s Official Journal on 22 August.

Greek media rushed to report that the new code would allow Greek supermarkets to sell expired food, thereby providing relief to retailers whose sales plummeted during six consecutive years of recession.

The news caused massive public outrage, many Greeks considering that they were being treated as guinea pigs and fed with expired foods.

In reality, the measure has been taken in consultation with the European Commission's health and safety officials and doesn’t contravene EU legislation, EURACTIV was told.

In fact, the main novelty is that supermarkets are now obliged to lower prices for goods with an expired “best before” date, and to sell them separately in specially labelled racks. Restaurants and bars are forbidden from selling those goods, with offenders facing fines ranging from €1,000 to €5,000. 

Greece's Deputy Minister of Development Athanasios Skordas said the new market regulation code contained “absolutely no provision” that concerns products whose lifetime has expired.

“The regime simply becomes stricter, according to the provisions of the EU”, he insisted.

Giorgos Stergiou, the development ministry's secretary general for consumer policy, insisted that the new provisions refer to products with an indicative date of minimum durability.

“It is not relevant with the food security or quality, the indicative date is set clearly for marketing reasons by the companies,” he was quoted as saying by Skai television.

But a consumers federation warned of ghettoised supermarket racks.

“With this measure the government is just creating supermarket racks for poor people”, the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Consumer Associations, Paremvasi, said in a statement.

“Our country is expensive and we want lower prices, especially in food, but not in this way”, 

The federation insisted that legislation for products with indicative date of minimum durability already existed and that the only new element was the obligation for a “reduced price”.

Greece's international lenders agreed in November on a package of measures to reduce Greek debt by €40 billion, cutting it to 124% of gross domestic product by 2020.

Greece will receive up to €43.7 billion in stages as it fulfills the conditions imposed by the troika of international creditors - the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

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