Foods sold with the same packaging and under the same brand may vary from one EU country to another, a study by the Czech Agriculture Ministry has revealed.
The project compared foods from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and Hungary to find out whether foods with different composition, quantity of ingredients or weight are sold under the same name.
Iglo (known as Birdseye in the UK) fish fingers were found to contain 50.2% fish in the Czech Republic compared to 63.8% in Germany.
The study follows an ongoing saga in which some Eastern European countries have criticised international food companies of double standards. Consumer groups have also complained that companies use lower quality ingredients than the same brand products sold in Germany and Austria. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov claimed that the issue marks a form of ‘food apartheid’.
As part of the latest investigation, 21 products sold in different countries under the same brand were selected. Tests revealed that 13 of them were different. In addition, five products had a different volume in the same size pack.
Czech agiculture minister Marian Jurecka said: “I find this unacceptable and discriminatory towards consumers. I have already addressed the issue at the V4 meetings, at the European Parliament and at the Council of EU Agriculture Ministers. And now we have clear and verifiable proof.”
The study recognised that the different composition of products can be influenced by the taste preferences of consumers in a particular region or the availability of local ingredients. The composition is shown to be stated on food labels, although the packaging of the product does not differ in marketing.
Jurecka continued: “The customer, anywhere in the European Union, often chooses a brand he already knows and trusts. In my opinion, I have the right to find the same food from the same manufacturer and in the same package.”
EU legislation does permit food companies to sell identically-branded products with different ingredients as long as they are clearly labelled.
Meanwhile companies have claimed that the differences in ingredients respond to changes in consumer tastes in different countries.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020