Has it ever happened to you that a food item you consume regularly tasted different when you bought it while on holiday, even though it was the same brand and had the same packaging? Maybe you blamed the differences in taste and consistency on the changed subjective perception of your relaxed holiday-self. A study published by the Commission shows, however, that there are differences in food product quality and composition in the EU. Under EU law, it is legal to alter products to cater to specific markets but these different products cannot be presented as identical in order not to mislead customers.
Consumers of several EU countries have complained that products sold under the same brand with the same or very similar packaging differ from the ones sold in other EU countries. For example, some products contain more fat or different sweeteners. The phenomenon that the quality of certain food products is lower in some EU countries than in others, even though the branding and the packaging is the same is called dual food quality. President Jean-Claude Juncker addressed this issue in 2017.
One of several initiatives taken by the Commission to tackle dual food quality since then is the recently published study. It was conducted to learn more about the actual differences in the composition of food products in the EU. The study analysed 1,400 food products in 19 Member States. It found that in 23% of the products, the packaging and the composition were identical and in 27% the difference in the composition was indicated with a different front-of-pack. However, 9% of the products had a different composition even though it had an identical packaging and 22% of the products was presented similarly but had a different composition.
The EU does many things for its citizens when it comes to food. Click on the respective links to learn more about what the EU does for cooks and foodies, people concerned about food safety, people with food allergies, and people who hate wasting food.
Iate. https://iate.europa.eu/search/standard/result/1562077002099/1. Accessed August 7, 2019.
Dual Food Quality: Commission releases study assessing differences in the composition of EU food products [Updated on 25/06/2019 at 13:25 CEST]. European Commission – PRESS RELEASES. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-19-3332_en.htm. Accessed August 7, 2019.
Dual Food Quality: Questions and Answers. European Commission – PRESS RELEASES. https://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_QANDA-19-3333_en.htm. Accessed August 7, 2019.
Parliament E. “No second-class consumers”: MEPs discuss dual food quality. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzFJdNsEask. Published October 12, 2017. Accessed August 7, 2019.
Press corner. European Commission – European Commission. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_19_3332. Accessed August 7, 2019.
Written by Annemarie Menger – Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and a student of the Master’s Program in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. She holds a teacher’s degree in the form of the First German State Examination for Elementary Education, a BA in Cultural Basic Skills and an additional degree in Global Systems and Intercultural Competence from the University of Würzburg.