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Greek Grocers Get New Rules For Expired Food

Oct 23, 2012
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, let's go next to Greece. The deep recession that's hit that country has seen household incomes cut by up to 50 percent at a time when the cost of living is still among the highest in the European Union. To ease the financial pain, the government wants supermarkets to start selling some non-perishable food items at much lower prices. But here's the catch: The discounted items will all be past their sell-by dates. Anti-austerity activists say this is immoral. Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: When the Greek government announced the new food policy earlier this month, critics pounced immediately. Anti-austerity bloggers said it divides consumers into those who can afford basic food and those who cannot. They said supermarkets would soon be selling stale bread, dodgy Greek yogurt and salmonella.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KAKISSIS: Journalists on a Greek morning news show accused Deputy Development Minister Thanassis Skordas of allowing the sale of old food that supermarkets, quote, "send to the pigs."

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KAKISSIS: An exasperated Skordas said the journalists were lying and scaring Greeks into believing that austerity was driving supermarkets to sell products that would poison the public. Obviously, he said, the government will always forbid the sale of perishable foods that have expired.

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THANASSIS SKORDAS: (Through translator) Milk, fresh juice, meat and cheese cannot stay on supermarket shelves even a minute past their expiration date.

KAKISSIS: The new policy only applies to non-perishable foods like the pasta, spices and canned tomato sauce that tellers are ringing up at this Athens supermarket. Those items have what's called a recommended sell-by date. Food experts say they're safe to consume for a little while after the date, though the items lose flavor. The development ministry says the products must have a second label noting their final sell-by date.

The Food Safety Board will set that date, which will range from an extra week to an extra three months, depending on the product, Skordas says.

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SKORDAS: (Through translator) The items must also be placed on a separate shelf and marked at a much lower price. Of course, we are not forcing anyone to sell these products, but if they choose to, they must follow these rules.

KAKISSIS: He said consumers could save up to 80 percent on these items, but the markdowns will be left to the merchant's discretion. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis, in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.