By Sergei L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times
MOSCOW — A Siberian dairy plant was temporarily closed Friday after its workers had been found bathing in milk, a Russian consumer oversight agency reported.
Trade House Cheeses, a dairy producer in Omsk, about 1,600 miles east of Moscow, was closed for 90 days by regional authorities for an urgent inspection after complaints resulting from photographs and a video posted by one of its employees on a Russian social network.
In the photographs and video clips posted on New Year’s Eve by worker Artyom Romanov, a group of undressed employees relaxes in a container of milk as part of their New Year celebration. While still partly undressed, they then demonstrated cheese making in a clownish manner.
“But in reality our work is very boring.)))))” Romanov wrote in a caption accompanying the images.
“In a checkup we found the container where the workers were bathing and the bowls in which they were making cheese and a mass of other violations of sanitary-epidemic norms,” Marina Boyko, deputy chief of the Omsk region’s sanitary inspection agency, said in an interview with Lifenews, an online publication.
After the video appeared on NTV, a federal television network, many residents of Omsk refused to buy products made at the plant, an NTV report said this week.
“The production and service facilities are in an unsatisfactory sanitary-technical condition,” the statement read. “Conditions for personal hygiene are lacking.”
The appalling conditions and outrageous practices at this Omsk plant are quite a common occurrence these days in Russia as sanitary oversight has become virtually nonexistent, said Dmitry Yanin, a Russian senior consumer service expert.
“For five years Russia has been languishing in a so-called experiment of practically exercising no control over consumer production after a law was introduced limiting inspections of such facilities to only once every three years,” said Yanin, board chairman of the Russian Confederation of Consumer Societies, a Moscow-based group.
“What happened in this dairy plant in Omsk is of course a case of sheer idiocy, but nowadays there is nothing to prevent such idiots from indulging in similar outrages or routinely violating production and sanitary conditions elsewhere in the country.”
The plant in question could be closed for a thorough inspection five days after a prosecutor’s approval, Yanin said. “Which in many cases gives violators ample time to correct their problems before an inspection only to resort to malpractices again once the checkup is over.”
The average salary of a sanitary inspector is equal to $500 a month, but instead of raising that, the state decided to move in to prevent the inspector from taking bribes by in effect seriously curbing the inspector’s ability to control production norms and practices. More often than not, these practices lead to dire consequences, especially in food production and catering services resulting in thousands of cases every year, Yanin said.
In the western city of Kaliningrad 74 cases of acute food poisoning were registered this week resulting from eating shawarma (meat kebab) at a local cafeteria, Rospotrebnadzor Kaliningrad branch reported on its website.
Fifty-two of the cases were hospitalized in a regional infectious diseases clinic, Forty-seven of them were diagnosed with salmonellosis, the report said. The facility in question was closed for inspection.
“But for the video appearing on a social net and but for over 70 people poisoned from eating some horrible stuff, we would have never known about the risks of using these facilities’ products,” expert Yanin said. “The entire sphere of food production is now completely out of the state’s control, which means that none of us are safe when we buy food in Russia these days.”
Photo: Salim Virji via Flickr