Almost a third of branded food products sold in the European Union have different compositions while being identically or similarly branded, according to a new report by the European Commission (EC).
However, the study found there is no evidence of citizens in Eastern Europe being sold lower quality products.
Analysing nearly 1,400 food products in 19 EU countries, the study, carried out by the EC’s in-house science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre, showed that 9% of the compared products differed in composition, although the front-of-pack was identical. A further 22% of products with a different composition had a similar front-of-pack.
The study did not show a consistent geographical pattern.
Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, said: “Some Europeans feel branded food products they buy are different, perhaps worse, compared to those available elsewhere. The commission called on our scientists to help objectively assess the extent of such differences on the single market.
“The results are mixed: while I am happy that they found no evidence of an east-west divide in the composition of branded food products, I am worried that they uncovered up to one third of tested products having different compositions while being identically or similarly branded.”
EC President Jean-Claude Juncker raised the issue of dual food standards in his State of the Union Address in 2017 following a report from the Czech Agriculture Ministry, which found that products including fish fingers, instant soup and coffee often varied from one EU country to another.
The EC has since established a common methodology for testing of food products, has issued a set of guidelines to help national authorities apply EU consumer and food legislation and has dedicated over €4.5 million to solve the issue.
Věra Jourová, Commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, said: “There will be no double standards in Europe’s single market. With the new laws penalising the dual quality and strengthening the hands of the consumer authorities, we have the tools at hand to put an end to this practice. European consumers will be able to do their shopping in full trust that they buy what they see.”
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