Food sector criticises 'political' dual-quality debate as EC signals intervention

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

©artJazz/iStock
©artJazz/iStock
Food makers have insisted that the industry views “all consumers [as] equally important” as the European Commission signalled its intention to improve product competitive testing proceedures in response to concerns over so-called “dual quality” foods. 

European Commission president Jean-Claude Junker criticised a perceived divide between the quality of food on sale in the east and west of Europe in his state of the union speech yesterday (13 September). 

Speaking before the European Parliament, Junker insisted: “In a union of equals there can be no second-class consumers. I will not accept that in some parts of Europe consumers are sold food of a lower quality than in other countries. 

“Slovaks do not deserve less fish in their fish fingers, Hungarians less meat in their meals, Czechs less cacao in their chocolate.” 

The EC president was addressing concerns that food makers are using cheaper ingredients in food brands sold in Eastern Europe. According to one Croatian study, released earlier this year, differences in pricing and ingredients exist in as many as 85% of products sampled by the authorities.  

Junker said the EC is providing €1m in funding to the Joint Research Centre to develop a methodology to improve food product competitive tests in the EU. 

Earlier this year the EC said it is putting together guidelines to help national authorities address the “totally unacceptable”​ practice. 

Food industry rejects ‘dual quality’ criticism 

The European food sector downplayed the claim that it supplies consumers in eastern Europe with poorer quality products. 

Industry body FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) said that it “fully agrees”​ that if dual quality products are being sold the issue should be “clearly addressed”​. 

“We... welcome the Commission's commitment to improve and harmonise testing methodologies and we look forward to the establishment of a multi-stakeholder dialogue to assess and address the perceptions that exist in some Member States,”​ a spokesperson said. 

However, FDE also stressed that – to date – there is “no evidence”​ that dual quality products are “widespread"​ in Europe. 

“Differences in the composition of products does not equal 'dual' or 'inferior' quality per se. Companies consider all consumers equally important and are working hard every day to provide consistent and steady high-quality products, taking into account taste preferences, the availability of and preference for locally sourced ingredients, etc. In most cases, differences between recipes exist in different countries - and not specifically between eastern and western EU Member States - to allow for these preferences,”​ the FDE representative explained. 

FDE said that it will work with the Commission and other stakeholders “on the basis of facts and evidence”.​ 

“We wish to avoid the issue from being further marred by politics,”​ the spokesperson concluded. 

EU food sector insists consumers ‘equally important’ in dual quality debate

 

Food makers have insisted that the industry views “all consumers [as] equally important” as the European Commission moves to tackle concerns over “dual quality” foods.

 

European Commission president Jean-Claude Junker criticised a perceived divide between the quality of food on sale in the east and west of Europe in his state of the union speech yesterday (13 September).

 

Speaking before the European Parliament, Junker insisted: “In a union of equals there can be no second-class consumers. I will not accept that in some parts of Europe consumers are sold food of a lower quality than in other countries.

 

“Slovaks do not deserve less fish in their fish fingers, Hungarians less meat in their meals, Czechs less cacao in their chocolate.”

 

The EC president was addressing concerns that food makers are using cheaper ingredients in food brands sold in Eastern Europe. According to one Croatian study, released earlier this year, differences in pricing and ingredients exist in as many as 85% of products sampled by the authorities.  

 

Junker said the EC is providing €1m in funding to the Joint Research Centre to develop a methodology to improve food product competitive tests in the EU.

 

Earlier this year the EC said it is putting together guidelines to help national authorities address the “totally unacceptable” practice.

 

Food industry rejects ‘dual quality’ criticism

 

The European food sector denied the claim that it supplies consumers in eastern Europe with poorer quality products.

 

Industry body FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) said that it “fully agrees” that if dual quality products are being sold the issue should be “clearly addressed”.

 

“We therefore welcome the Commission's commitment to improve and harmonise testing methodologies and we look forward to the establishment of a multi-stakeholder dialogue to assess and address the perceptions that exist in some Member States,” a spokesperson said.

 

However, FDE also stressed that – to date – there is “no evidence” that dual quality products are “widespread.

 

“Differences in the composition of products does not equal 'dual' or 'inferior' quality per se. Companies consider all consumers equally important and are working hard every day to provide consistent and steady high quality products, taking into account taste preferences, the availability of and preference for locally sourced ingredients, etc. In most cases, differences between recipes exist in different countries - and not specifically between eastern and western EU Member States - to allow for these preferences,” the FDE representative explained.

 

FDE said that it will work with the Commission and other stakeholders “on the basis of facts and evidence”.

 

“We wish to avoid the issue from being further marred by politics,” the spokesperson concluded. 

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