What do you do, if you happen to buy a food in Georgia and before eating it you notice that it is spoiled? In such a case, many people simply throw the food away and that’s it. Some people go back to the shop and request to exchange the food, or to return money. But what happens, if in the shop you are told: ‘it’s not our fault, you have not kept the food properly, and that is why it is spoiled’; or ‘we have not sold this food, do you have a receipt from our shop? No? We are sorry, but we cannot help you’. You get angry, but what to do? An easiest way seems to be to simply give up. But you were not treated fairly; you don’t want this to happen again… You decide not to give up… There should be a certain regulation in the law on cases like this.
Once it happened with me. I searched and I came across The Code on Food/Feed Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection. Yes, it is written there that the National Food Agency can make an inspection of a food eterprise upon consumers appeal. Great, that’s I was looking for!!!
I decided to follow the law. I wanted to give a lesson to the shop, which was treating consumers so badly!
So, how to prepare the complaint? The law reads: the application of the consumer to the NFA must be accompanied with the:
Description of the sampling procedure which must comply with the requirements set out by the Georgian legislation.
Results of the laboratory analysis of the taken sample according to which food/feed is not safe; and
Health certificate where it is indicated that the consumer had suffered from the intestinal infection or food intoxication.1
I have no idea what does the sampling procedure mean and where to find a laboratory. I search again and come across a consumer consultation service run by an NGO. I explain them about my case. It turns out that I have to buy another food sample in the same shop, but together with a food expert and then to take it to a laboratory. This NGO can help me with finding the food expert and the laboratory, but this will cost me money. How much? Depending on the type of analysis it may cost 100, or even up to 2000 Gel. Hm… Can I afford it?!… But this is not all! What to do with the third requirement?! Doctor’s certificate about intoxication! How do I get it?! I have to eat that spoiled food and get poisoned! There is no other way!!!…
O.K. This law is not for such lucky people, like me, who are not poisoned. I’d better recall about this law, when I am poisoned. And when I am, I definitely call a doctor and get a certificate, after that I will find a food expert, buy a suspicious food sample, take it to a laboratory and if confirmed that the food is spoiled, I will send my application to NFA, which will hopefully punish the shop owner. Yes, I will definitely do it, if I have time, nerves (especially after being poisoned) and spare money from 100 to 2000 Gel!
Thank you, dear government that you have not forgotten about people like me! Thank you that you allowed me to help you to enforce the law!… But how can I help you, if I reveal a spoiled food, before I eat it? What if I see eggs in a shop without indication of an expiry date? What if I notice that refrigerators in a shop are off in the night? What if I see a rat in a supermarket? Probably you will take care for cases like this yourself?! So I won’t get poisoned! Great!!! So why do we need that regulation in the law that allows me to apply to you, when I am poisoned?
Dear government, you are telling me that you cannot spend public funds to check each unjustified complaint. Great! I am ready to provide you with evidences. I can take pictures and videos in the shop, I can gather witnesses. This I can afford… I can do it for free for you. We, consumers can do it everywhere, in all parts of Georgia, any time. Can you do it better without our help? Dear government, why do you often tell me that I have to be active and help you to enforce the laws? Only this I don’t understand…
Vakhtang Kobaladze works as a Senior Program Manager of the European Integration Program at the Eurasia Partnership Foundation The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and should in no way be taken to represent those of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation.