EU intervenes in dual product quality scandal; New unit created to check food products, manufacturing plants across the EU

Ovidiu Posirca 30/08/2018 | 17:00

The European Union might create a new unit to check if the food products sold across the EU respect standards in response to the scandal generated by findings that some products made by the same company had different quality in Western Europe compared to Eastern Europe.

The motion for an EU Parliament resolution on dual quality of products in the single market calls for urgent development of capacities and mechanisms at EU level in a specialized monitoring and supervisory unit. This unit would be part of an existing EU body (JRC, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or other.

It would “monitor consistency in composition and proportional use of ingredients in identically branded and packaged food products and to assess comparative laboratory analyses to identify these unfair commercial practices in the marketing of food products,” said the motion.

The document also states that “in the single market, there should, in principle, be no difference in quality or nutritional value between products marketed in a specific and identical type of packaging; notes that products of the same brand may, however, have different characteristics deriving from legitimate factors, such as geographical location of production, specific local requirements or differences in sourcing of raw materials owing to their geographical or seasonal availability, but that consumers should be duly informed in a clear and visible manner on the product packaging of any variation in composition and characteristics compared to the original recipe; calls on the Commission to propose the amendment of legislation on the labelling of products to this end.”

The MEPs also insist on the importance of the notion of a ‘product of reference’, against which consumer expectations are to be measured; highlights that consumers must be adequately informed about the composition of the products they buy, so that they do not buy a product whose composition differs from that which they have in mind.

The motion cites the experts of the Faculty of Law of University Palackého Olomouc, who analyzed the issue of dual quality which was seen in the following activities:

• manufacturer places products on the market with varying flavors and compositions (i.e. different main ingredient) but with the same or similar (indistinguishable for the consumer) packaging appearance,
• a manufacturer places products of differing qualities on the market but with the same or similar (indistinguishable for the consumer) packaging appearance,
• a manufacturer places products of differing weights on the market but with the same or similar (indistinguishable for the consumer) packaging appearance,
• when launching a new product on a particular market, a manufacturer uses a product with a higher quality composition (e.g. higher meat quantity or quality of ingredients in the product) in order to attract consumers’ attention and “teach” consumers to buy/adopt the product; after a certain period, however, a “recipe change” occurs without any obvious change in the product’s packaging (except for the product composition given in small print on the back of the label).

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