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EC study on dual food quality shows ‘mixed results’

The European Commission (EC) on Monday released the results of a study confirming that some food products sold in different European Union member states, though branded identically or similarly, have a different composition, albeit "not necessarily" of varying quality.

The study of a large, but non-representative sample of food products showed that 31% had identical or similar packaging, but a different composition, according to a report by Hungarian news wire MTI. The EC noted that the study showed no consistent geographical pattern and that the difference in composition "does not necessarily constitute a difference in product quality."

Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, who is responsible for the ECʼs in-house science and knowledge service, which conducted the study, said the probe had produced "mixed results."

"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," he observed.

A new, uniform methodology developed for the study can now be adopted by national authorities to analyze food products and determine whether companies are using misleading practices prohibited under EU consumer law, the EC said.

The EC issued a call for proposals with a total budget of EUR 1.26 million to strengthen consumer organizationsʼ capacities to test products and identify potentially misleading practices.

A probe by Hungarian food safety authority NÉBIH in the spring of 2017 suggested that multinational companies employ double standards for markets in Eastern Europe. The authority compared 96 identically branded food products that it purchased in Hungary with ones it bought in Austria and Italy, and found that 70% showed some degree of difference in quality.