‘Dual quality foods’ in Europe, Hungary calls for clarity on labels

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‘Dual quality foods‘ in Europe. Food packaged under the same brand name, but of different quality depending on the target market. The press and politics of Eastern European countries take action. And Hungary submits a bill to Brussels calling for clarity on labels. If the product is a B product, it should be known. But some in Italy would like to challenge the Budapest initiative.

Dual quality foods, a well-founded issue

Authorities and consumer organizations in Eastern European countries have repeatedly denounced discrimination against them by Big Food giants. Who, according to the indictment, would consign to markets beyond the former Iron Curtain foodstuffs of lower quality than those supplied under the same brands in Western Europe. Moreover, without the lower quality being matched by better prices.

The issue is more serious than you might think, and has in fact been the subject of a special question from the European Parliament. (1) Signed by MEPs Daciana Octavia Sârbu (Romania) and Pavel Poc (Czech Republic) – Socialists and Democrats Group – who denounced the unequal treatment of multinational food industries to the detriment of Eastern European consumers. (2) Raising questions about, among other things, the impact of this phenomenon on the health of citizens. (3)

‘The last thing Europe needs is a new Nutella checking agency

[Christian Schmidt, German Minister of Agriculture].

The President of the European Commission noted the complaints of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, and Slovenia.

Jean-Claude Juncker thus tried to settle any issue with a provocative proposal, confident of its rejection by the member states that dominate the European chessboard. Establish a European Consumer Protection Agency to ensure uniformity of food quality in the Single Market. Alternatively, for the Commissioner, attempts could be made to inhibit ‘misleading practices’ through ‘stricter’ enforcement of existing European legislation.

Hungary moves

In the silence of Europe, Hungary is on the move. Indeed, it has already moved, notifying Brussels of a bill (5) requiring‘dual quality foods‘ to be labeled as such. It also assigns supervisory power to the national authorities of official public supervision.

This would be a real snub for Big Food, which would then be forced to notify Hungarian consumers of any recipe changes in the products intended for them. But the draft legislation is now subject to scrutiny by the European Commission, which could block or delay its implementation by August 21, 2017.

It is precisely from Italy, according to palace rumors, that a circumstantial note aimed at countering the Budapest initiative could come. Alleging formal defects, such as the lack of clarity of the rule and the lack of the mutual recognition clause. (6)

The question remains as to why, and in the interest of which industry group or groups. Place that, in the Italian tradition, the best products have always been marked with the ‘export quality’ seal. And it is unfortunate that the opaque business practices of a single industrial group can harm the reputation of the Made in Italy food supply chain.

There is no shortage of suspicion-the international press pointing to Nutella-the courage and governance in representation is.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) SEE http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E-2016-008709+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

(2) A market survey conducted in Prague showed that Czech Sprite has more artificial sweeteners than German Sprite. And how Igloo frozen sticks have 7 percent less fish. Sigh!

(3) In fact, the lower quality of food destined for Eastern Europe results in the use of ingredients that are also of lesser nutritional value. With the risk of increased exposure of consumers in these countries to fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Because of the increased use of palm oil, for example, which in more mature European markets has been replaced with fats with much better nutritional profiles

(4) An essentially undefined and indefinable measure, given that there is no specific rule to refer to for most food production not subject to specific harmonized rules (such as, for example, Common Market Organization regulations)

(5) SEE http://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/tris/it/search/?trisaction=search.detail&year=2017&num=199

(6) The clause that the rules should not apply to products legally manufactured in other member countries in compliance with the common rules. Which, if applied, would deprive of meaning the legislation itself, which in fact aspires to identify international products of inferior quality when destined for the Hungarian market

 

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.