EU – The European Commission has published the results of a study showing that similarly or identically branded food products across the European Union differed in composition.

The study which involved an analysis of nearly 1,400 food products in 19 EU countries revealed that 9% of products though carried the same front-of-pack labeling, differed in composition.

Also, 22% of products with a different composition had a similar front-of-pack.

The Commission noted that national competent authorities will now be able to perform the case by case analysis required to determine misleading practices prohibited under EU consumer law.

“Some Europeans feel branded food products they buy are different, perhaps worse, compared to those available elsewhere,” said Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.

“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.”

Addressing dual quality of products in member markets

The campaign is part of the EU’s response to concerns around dual quality of goods in member states.

The assessment was carried out in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and The Netherlands.

The report states that in the majority of cases, products’ composition matched the way they were presented: 23% of products had an identical front-of-pack and an identical composition.

According to EU, there was no consistent geographical pattern in the use of the same or similar packaging for products with different compositions.

Also, the difference in composition in products tested did not necessarily constitute a difference in product quality.

The EU legislation dictates that marketing a good as identical to one in another market would illegally mislead consumers if the two have a significantly different composition or characteristics.

“There will be no double standards in Europe’s single market,” said Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.

“With the new laws penalizing 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.”

Action plan

  • The commission has identified five action plans to address the issue of dual quality of products.
  • Clarifying when dual quality of products is a misleading practice through legislation under the recently agreed New Deal for Consumers;
  • Establishing a common methodology for the testing of food products;
  • Issuing a set of guidelines to help national authorities apply EU consumer and food legislation;
  • Dedicating over €4.5 million (US$5.1 million) to solve this issue;  
  • Testing products across the EU with the same methodology to get a better understanding of dual quality of goods.