Daily Management Review

Eastern Europe wins in double food standards fight


In the near future, Prague residents will drink Coca-Cola in full confidence that it consists of exactly the same ingredients that the beverage drunk, say, by Berliners or Londoners. The countries of Eastern and Central Europe and the European Commission finally reached a compromise on the new rules for the so-called “double standard” or “dual quality” products, i.e. about products having the same name, but consisting of different ingredients in different countries. For several years demanded, Eastern and Central Europe have been demanding to end the food discrimination and finally achieved equality.

With exception of a few ingredients, everyday products and goods, ranging from food products to household goods, should consist of the same ingredients. Selling food of dual quality will now be considered a violation of the law. Companies that violate the new rules will be fined up to 4% of their annual turnover.

The rules are part of a broad reform in the field of consumption. Their adoption took a lot of effort and several years, because many considered the problem far-fetched and doubted the need to introduce new rules and laws.

Proponents of combating double standards in food cited numerous studies. For example, there was 2015 survey, according to which Iglo fish sticks sold in the Czech Republic contained 7% less fish than the sticks in German supermarkets. The “Czech” Sprite has more sweetener aspartame than Sprite from neighboring Germany, which contains more real sugar.

Food manufacturers have long argued that differences in their composition have no relation to quality, but explained it by different tastes of people from different European countries, as well as by different production conditions and national legislation. The new rules prohibit considering national preferences and tastes to be a sufficient basis for selling different products with the same name.

Companies that will sell exceptionally allowed products of dual quality must necessarily inform buyers about the different composition. Moreover, information about this should be easily distinguishable and clearly visible.

Now, Eastern and Central Europe can be pleased with the result, although the draft of the new rules is not without its critics. For example, it contains no pan-European definition of such an important concept as “significant” differences. Nothing is said about how to determine basic composition of a product, with which all the rest will be compared.

Eastern and central Europeans can still be happy, because, according to officials of the European Commission who dealt with the rules, their main goal is not to draw up the text of the rules verified to each word and comma, but to scare companies and convince them to leave most egregious violations.

By the way, local authorities will have to decide whether a case is a violation or not. The text also explicitly states that Brussels reserves the right to tighten the rules if violations continue.

For two years, Brussels will be monitoring how the rules are implemented and the consequences of their application, before submitting the rules to the European Parliament and sending the final version of the text to the capitals of the countries of the united Europe.

source: politico.eu