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Russians pay with their health and lives for poor-quality food

April 11, 2014, 22:11 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS / Alexander Kolbasov

MOSCOW, April 11. /ITAR-TASS/. It is well-known that Cleopatra bathed in milk to stay young. But it is unknown what motives drove the employees of a cheese factory in the West Siberian city of Omsk to throw a party last month at which they bathed in a tub of milk designed for cheese production, capture the outrage on video and post it on the web. One of the workers even rinsed his trousers in milk.

In addition, a video showing several scantily clad employees rolling the cheese in appalling unsanitary conditions was posted on the internet.

The factory was temporarily shut down, the inspection materials were handed to a court and the cheese that had been manufactured at the unfortunate factory was removed from stores, but the incident had consequences: the topic of poor-quality food has been actively discussed by Russian publications since then.

Especially as another high-profile incident occurred recently: 166 people got poisoned with salads from Magnit supermarkets in the southern Russian Stavropol Territory, with 128 of them hospitalized. A preliminary check showed that the salads were infected with salmonella.

Low-quality food products annually take tens of thousands of lives in Russia. However, there is no official statistics of those who fell ill or died from food poisoning in the country. But analysis company WrongDiagnosis, cited by the Nasha Versiya newspaper, assumes that the number of food poisonings in Russia exceeds 40 million a year.

A study guide Life Safety by Professor Yury Sychev asserts that “50,000 people annually die in Russia from food poisonings, and another 40,000 die from alcohol poisonings”.

The shocking incident in Omsk is not an exception from the rules. The Novye Izvestiya daily claims that a considerable part of food products sold in Russian shops are manufactured with violations of sanitary norms. This specifically refers to past-due raw materials.

Last summer, Samara Region resident Yekaterina Kargapoltseva found the job of a dishwasher at a regional enterprise’s sausage making shop. On the very first day of her work there, Yekaterina got to know a lot of new things about production of sausage that she had always liked.

“It turned out that carcasses from which sausage is made may be stored in a freezer for 10 years and more; ground beef that fell to the floor is thrown back to the pot, and workers often touch the product with soot-covered hands,” she told the newspaper.

Besides, Kargapoltseva was surprised to learn that sausages with expired best before dates are sometimes brought to the meat factory from stores. Instead of disposal, the sausage is processed anew and then sent to stores again.

The head of the National Meat Association’s executive committee, Sergey Yushin, assesses the share of substandard meat products sold in the country’s shops at 4%.

Other food products are also prepared with numerous violations. Moscow Region resident Sergey Semyonov worked as a driver at an enterprise that supplied raw materials for confectioneries and bakeries. Semyonov says he once saw a sack of peanuts with worms being sold to a confectionery at a discount. Enterprising confectioners promised to grind the peanuts and use them for cookies, cakes and peanut flour.

Manufacturers started massively violating technical regulations after Russian consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor was in 2008 banned from holding unscheduled checks.

Now representatives of the sanitary and epidemiological service and Rospotrebnadzor have to notify an enterprise of a planned inspection not less than a day prior to it. Enterprises can’t be checked more often than once in three years. The limit for checks was imposed as a measure to fight corruption, but it resulted in many violations remaining unrevealed, and the manufacturers getting the sense of impunity.

Quality control institutions have virtually stopped their existence. Only Moscow’s Nutrition Institute and Rospotrebnadzor’s department in St. Petersburg have them. No one controls anything in other Russian cities.

Last year, Moscow’s State Trade Inspection confiscated over 700 tons of low-quality products. The specific character of the inspection’s operation is to be taken into account: along with scheduled checks it should also react to complaints from consumers.

More often than not, complaints-connected inspections lead to the depressive statistics. According to Nasha Versiya, the inspection rejected 35% of all inspected chickens, 67% of butter, 30% of tea and coffee, and 24% of bread and bakery products.

After mass poisonings in Pyatigorsk (Stavropol Territory), the People’s Control action was launched. It is designed to check cases when poor-quality products are sold at trade outlets. The Pyatigorsk administration calls on city dwellers not to leave unattended cases when rotten or expired food products are discovered in stores. Such cases may be reported in a special section of the Pyatigorsk city’s official website.

However, these are only separate initiatives that don’t change the general picture yet.

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