Food Laws

EU keeps governing Greece,and the latest directives of EU to Greece is a pack of laws that aims to 'free' food competition.

Greece has a number of laws that dictate how some specific products should be produced,and how they should be called.
Here are a few examples:

FRESH MILK: For a product to be called fresh milk,it must have the natural life expectancy of milk,meaning to have a best before date of maximum 5 days from production.

NATURAL HONEY: For a product to be called natural honey,it must be the exact product bees produce, without added sugar,water or additives.

OLIVE OIL: Olive oil is only allowed to be sold 100% pure. It is not allowed to mix olive oil with other oils and label the product as 'Olive oil',one would have to call that product 'Oil Mix",no matter the percentage of the concentration of each oil.

YOGURT: For a product to be called yogurt,it must only contain 2 ingredients: milk and culture.

What the EU says,is that this kind of regulations doesn't provide enough competition between businesses,and that Greece should make it so businesses can call their products however they want,even if they are not selling what they say they do.

I wanted to see what is the general opinion of people on food-related laws.
Do you believe that a government should allow businesses to call their products however they want,even if what they are selling isn't exactly what they say they sell ? Do you think that milk producing companies should label "fresh milk" a month's old bottle of milk ? Should a product that is a mix of milk with gelatin and not a mix of milk and culture be called yogurt ?
Should honey products that are diluted with water and additional sugar be allowed to be marketed as 'natural honey' ?

Do you think that food products should have a pretty clear message on their package detailing what the food really is,or do you think that businesses should be free to call their products something,even if it really isn't that something ?

Got a source for that?

If that's all the case, I'd agree with you. If that's all the case, it sounds like big business has snuck in and tries to manipulate the EU into forcing lesser standards upon Greece (and presumably other countries within the union as well).

Reminds me of that time when Germany wanted to hold on to the heavy metal and chemical limits on children's toys and the EU meant to enforce equal, but weaker standards on everybody. What ever happened to that...?

So it's not like something like this hasn't happened before: Business considerations above countries' own regulations and standards. I'd still want a source, though.

I'm not super-familiar with the specific dispute in question, but maybe because America tends to take things far too far the other way, I'm inclined to support Greece's position over the EU's. In the US, we have chocolate that isn't chocolate, cheese that isn't cheese, Budweiser that isn't Budweiser, and "all-natural" foods which I guess means that their constituent atoms weren't assembled in a cyclotron. Hell, I seem to remember a time when we had to actually make a law that you couldn't label your food "light" unless it had a certain change in it's healthiness because companies were labeling their food "light" if it was lighter in color or lighter in weight.

Now personally I'd just rather allow consumers to sue the pants off of companies that misleadingly label their products rather than write into law exactly what each product should be, but in general I support labeling that helps consumers make intelligent choices. If you have to make it harder for customers to know what they're getting in order to sell your product competitively, that just means your product isn't any good.

DANGER- MUST SILENCE:
If you have to make it harder for customers to know what they're getting in order to sell your product competitively, that just means your product isn't any good.

Very much so.

One of the cornerstones of any well-functioning market is information. If no one knows anything about what he is buying other than the price, what is the point of that market's existence? While it's all well and good to argue that maybe consumers might not give some product that is slightly different a fair shake simply because they don't know any better or are cautious, that's really not something that is properly addressed by obfuscation. You don't achieve fairness by tricking consumers-- you might accidentally approximate fairness by doing so, but you're far more likely in far more circumstances to cause an unfair result-- where some product that is not as good as the others competes unjustly because consumers have no information about how it is worse.

This is not a good market:

"Whatever is behind door #1 is $20. Behind door #2 is something else that is $20. And behind door #3 is something that will cost you $30. So which one do you want to buy?" And this is essentially the market that businesses that oppose clear labeling seem to want to inflict upon us. We should resist: the more we know about what we're buying the better.

I think that the product had better reflect what's written there or I will go on a rampage. You see that milk? If it's getting chunky and I've barely gotten the chance to even use it, you are going to PAY. Yeah, your damn milk better be fresh, it I will be fresh. Or rather, I will be nine flavors of rage capable of making someone piss themselves at 20 paces returning your faulty product for one that isn't or you find yourself DRINKING said faulty product.

(NOTE: I may have issues about shitty business practices.)

I can see both sides really, but the more I think about it the more I actually find myself coming down on the side of the EU..

While it might be easy to get behind such laws on some kind of pro-organic, health food grounds, the reality is that the aim of such laws is almost certainly protectionist, particularly since it only applies to products Greece itself produces. It means that foreign competitors who want to sell in Greece have to deliberately tailor their packaging and marketing to comply with these laws, raising the barrier for entry while also potentially making the product itself sound less appetizing. That's really the purpose, since there's nothing to stop Greek producers from simply advertising the ingredients of their product even if these laws were repealed.

Bear in mind, the EU has already put enormous amount of money into Greece's economy and it stands to reason they would expect greater economic integration as a condition of that. I think that's pretty reasonable to expect, under the conditions.

Besides. While some of this seems semi-reasonable, pasteurized milk (for example) is still "fresh". Its chemical composition is entirely unchanged, it has merely been heated to kill off microbes which makes it last longer. Let's get over that. In fact, at the time you drink it, pasteurized milk is likely to be more fresh than this absurd definition of "fresh" milk.

Raw milk is actually one of the most dangerous things you can drink in terms of bacteriological risk. I personally think it's kind of insulting to call raw milk "fresh" at all.

evilthecat:
It's one of those things which sounds pretty alarmist on first glance (oh no, the EU is telling countries what to do!) but when you've put billions of dollars of your own citizens' money into keeping a country's economy alive, I think it's reasonable to expect some return.

It's not like we're really gaining much of anything in return, though. The profits will go to private entities and trickle down doesn't work. So it just seems like more corporatism, really. German (or whatever other countries') taxpayers won't see a dime of the money that is gained from dishonest business practices here.

Skeleon:
It's not like we're really gaining much of anything in return, though. The profits will go to private entities and trickle down doesn't work. So it just seems like more corporatism, really. German (or whatever other countries') taxpayers won't see a dime of the money that is gained from dishonest business practices here.

Well, those companies are theoretically German taxpayers, and will certainly employ German taxpayers. We can say the trickle-down effect is overstated or won't be very significant, but not that it is entirely non-existent. Countries generally want businesses based in their countries to succeed, which is presumably why Greece was willing to deliberately rig the rules in their favour.

Regardless, I do think I went too far there which is why I deleted that section of my post. Obviously, the overall situation in Greece is more complicated than I gave credit for, I just don't really think they have much to stand on here.

evilthecat:
Besides. While some of this seems semi-reasonable, pasteurized milk (for example) is still "fresh". Its chemical composition is entirely unchanged, it has merely been heated to kill off microbes which makes it last longer. Let's get over that. In fact, at the time you drink it, pasteurized milk is likely to be more fresh than this absurd definition of "fresh" milk.

Raw milk is actually one of the most dangerous things you can drink in terms of bacteriological risk. I personally think it's kind of insulting to call raw milk "fresh" at all.

So what's the problem with labeling both as such? If I can go to my supermarket and clearly see that one milk is "fresh" and one milk is "pasteurized", I'll go for the pasteurized one every time. The only time I can foresee a problem is if I'm somehow prevented from knowing which is which and I accidentally bought the unpasteurized milk.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/11/europe-trade-talks-cheese-back-parmesan-feta

They want the usa to stop calling american made versions of European cheeses by their names or something like that XD

Skeleon:
Got a source for that?

If that's all the case, I'd agree with you. If that's all the case, it sounds like big business has snuck in and tries to manipulate the EU into forcing lesser standards upon Greece (and presumably other countries within the union as well).
Reminds me of that time when Germany wanted to hold on to the heavy metal and chemical limits on children's toys and the EU meant to enforce equal, but weaker standards on everybody. What ever happened to that...?

Yeah, agreed. EU law should provide a safe baseline standard, but leave countries to enforce more stringent standards, definitions, or regulations on top if they wish. I don't think that's a principle which should be ignored for the sake of commercial convenience or to 'get what's owed' from Greece, even if their definitions are a little whimsical.

Zef Otter:
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/11/europe-trade-talks-cheese-back-parmesan-fetaThey want the usa to stop calling american made versions of European cheeses by their names or something like that XD

Yeah, I think the EU's gone slightly too far here too. Generally I'm in favour of protected names of origin. I wouldn't even let the US call this shit cheddar unless prefixed with 'american' if it was up to me (tbh it barely qualifies as cheese).
But since some of these US producers are apparently long-established and use traditional methods, I don't see any harm in allowing them to continue. I have little sympathy for Kraft however.

DANGER- MUST SILENCE:
So what's the problem with labeling both as such? If I can go to my supermarket and clearly see that one milk is "fresh" and one milk is "pasteurized", I'll go for the pasteurized one every time. The only time I can foresee a problem is if I'm somehow prevented from knowing which is which and I accidentally bought the unpasteurized milk.

But if the law states that pasteurized milk can't be "fresh", what message is that sending out?

Protected categories can create weird perceptual effects in consumers. A lot of people believe, for example, that organic food is healthier than alternatives despite their being no real scientific evidence of that. The case for organic farming is totally based on ecological impact and animal welfare rather than human health, and yet the word "organic" already feeds into this general idea about "wellness" which doesn't really mean anything.

Consumers are going to attach irrational meaning to particular words and phrases, especially when those words have become protected by law. I'm not even convinced that's totally harmless or totally unmanipulative. Note the tendency to barefacedly advertise vague nutritional benefits on high-fat or high-sugar products ("a good source of fibre", "one of your five a day" etc.) In this case, raw milk is crawling with potentially harmful bacteria to the point where there's basically no way to tell whether it's safe to drink. I'm not sure producers wanting exclusive claim to the word "fresh" can be seen as particularly informative in that case.

evilthecat:

DANGER- MUST SILENCE:
So what's the problem with labeling both as such? If I can go to my supermarket and clearly see that one milk is "fresh" and one milk is "pasteurized", I'll go for the pasteurized one every time. The only time I can foresee a problem is if I'm somehow prevented from knowing which is which and I accidentally bought the unpasteurized milk.

But if the law states that pasteurized milk can't be "fresh", what message is that sending out?

Protected categories can create weird perceptual effects in consumers. A lot of people believe, for example, that organic food is healthier than alternatives despite their being no real scientific evidence of that. The case for organic farming is totally based on ecological impact and animal welfare rather than human health, and yet the word "organic" already feeds into this general idea about "wellness" which doesn't really mean anything.

Consumers are going to attach irrational meaning to particular words and phrases, especially when those words have become protected by law. I'm not even convinced that's totally harmless or totally unmanipulative. Note the tendency to barefacedly advertise vague nutritional benefits on high-fat or high-sugar products ("a good source of fibre", "one of your five a day" etc.) In this case, raw milk is crawling with potentially harmful bacteria to the point where there's basically no way to tell whether it's safe to drink. I'm not sure producers wanting exclusive claim to the word "fresh" can be seen as particularly informative in that case.

If their current system that every one is accustomed to there is already understood that fresh milk means that it is not pasteurized, the people already understand that to be the case and would only cause more confusion if they were to change that. If people associate " fresh milk" with being less safe than non fresh milk, adding a fresh milk label to pasteurized milk would only cause confusion as to which milk is safer to drink. People do have attachments to words, but those attachments are not universal. Whether or not something is good or bad is often regional. It is all about advertising rather than the actual word. People only associate organic with wellness due to advertising. If they wish to show pasteurized milk as being better than fresh, it is nothing that a good advertising campaign could not easily remedy.

I do think it should be up to individual regions to determine any additional labeling they see fit to better assist the people of that region to understand what it is they are purchasing. I can understand the EU having a basic standard that prevents lower quality of products from sharing the same names, but if regions wish to take that a step further to assist the people of their region, they should be able to do so and companies should be forced to comply in order to sell those products in that region. If they have to make an additional label to do so, so be it. It isn't really keeping competition out, as they can label their products accordingly, instead it is keeping competition honest and consumers informed as to what they are consuming.

Lil devils x:
If their current system that every one is accustomed to there is already understood that fresh milk means that it is not pasteurized, the people already understand that to be the case and would only cause more confusion if they were to change that.

True. But then, I'm sure changing the labelling on cigarettes from "delicious healthy goodness inside" to "may make your insides look like rotten dog food" confused people too.

Lil devils x:
People do have attachments to words, but those attachments are not universal. Whether or not something is good or bad is often regional.

Some concept of "fresh" is pretty much a universal. In fact, the chemicals produced when food is not "fresh" cause an evolved involuntary response in human beings (they make you gag and vomit). I personally think exploiting that to sell you food which is only questionably safe to consume (and is thus illegal to sell in many countries) is a little manipulative.

This is a rare example, but branding always picks up on pre-existing culturally sensitive imagery. It's not like the public had no opinion at all on the word "organic" before supermarkets started advertising their organic ranges of food. The word plays on cultural associations of life and naturalness as opposed to artificiality which are already set up to be appealing by virtue of the naturalistic fallacy, which is something almost all people buy into at some point in their lives.

Above all else, this would not be being done if it did not work as a strategy of protectionism. If it did not encourage more people to drink "fresh" raw milk over cheaper pasteurized imports then noone would be bothering. These laws don't apply to anything which doesn't have a major production lobby in Greece. It is almost certainly not about information, it was never about information. It is and has always been about trying to give a branding advantage to companies who do things in a certain way. That can be bound up in ideas about protecting health or tradition or quality or whatever, but it ultimately comes down to trying to shore up local food industries which otherwise couldn't compete in a global market.

It seems that the issue with the milk would sort itself out as the people that drink the "fresh" milk would have issues with it that the "not fresh" milk drinkers would not have to deal with. Of course the argument falls flat when you consider the other items in question(olive oil and honey especially). There is no single good reason to relax standards on honey or olive oil that would at all benefit a consumer.

As for the labeling spat, keep in mind like many things in America, it probably came from somewhere else. There are many products we sell here that started in Europe or were brought here by immigrants. So long as these products do not imply that it is actually made in those countries, I don't see the problem. A simple "made in X" that is clearly seen alleviates this problem.

 

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