Just days after the Greek authorities announced a recall of tainted cooking oil the issue has turned into an publicity nightmare for the conservative New Democracy government when it was revealed that the oil had already been on shop shelves for two months.
The Greek national food safety body, EFET announced on May 6 that over a 2000 tons of Ukrainian sunflower oil which had been imported via Switzerland was probably contaminated with mineral oil. However, a report in the Kathimerini newspaper revealed that EFET had known about the contaminated oil since the 28 February when the European Food Safety Authority issued a notification via the European alert system. The Greek authorities were told by their European counterparts that the Manos A.E.company had received 1,1182 tons of sunflower oil which contained 900mg/kg mineral oil. In addition on the 10 March the Agrotiki A.E. company also received 855 tons of sunflower oil, most possibly contaminated.
In addition, opposition PASOK MPs criticised the government over its failure to inform the public more promptly of the possibility of dangerous foods on the market. Also questions were raised over why the Greek authorities delayed the recall of tainted products for weeks even though French authorities had taken similar steps from 23 April.
The Spanish food safety agency ordered all sunflower oil to be withdrawn from sale on the 28 April until the contaminated Ukrainian oil could be located. In contrast, no such measure has been taken in Greece. Indeed local companies supplied by Manos A.E. refused to tell the Kathimerini newspaper the names by which their products are sold on the market.
In 1981 tainted rapeseed oil caused the death of hundreds after being put on sale in Spain.