[GR] Discovery of GM rice heats debate over food safety enforcement

Having found unauthorised GM rice on sale, the environmentalist organisation Greenpeace accused the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) of failing to do its job. EFET responded that it had informed retailers and consumers about brands to be avoided, and that retailers hold the actual responsibility of removing illegal products from the shelves.

In a Marinopoulos supermarket in Athens last week, Greenpeace uncovered large amounts of illegal US rice. The activists removed the affected products from the shelves, and accused the watchdog EFET of faulty law enforcement. Furthermore, until a reliable control system has been established, the environmentalists are calling for a total ban on US rice imports.

EFET insisted that it has taken all steps necessary to protect consumers. The food authority has given a list of brands contaminated with the illegal GM rice to retailers and consumers and, according to EFET president Ioannis Vlemmas, the organisation also has conducted checks at retailers, telling them to stop trade of affected items.

“The law specifies that the withdrawal of food that does not meet certain conditions is the responsibility of businesses,” Vlemmas explained. EFET accused AB Vassilopoulos and Carrefour Marinopoulos of being slow to withdraw the rice from the market  -  and food companies which do not follow EFET recommendations may face heavy fines.