MEPs slash dual quality goods

A product sold under the same brand and packaging should have the same content

Photo: EP Olga Sehnalova

At the plenary session on 13 September in Strasbourg MEPs overwhelmingly backed the non-legislative resolution that firmly opposes the scandalous practice of dual quality products. Over years, consumers from Central and Eastern European countries are buying well-known brands of food - including for babies, as well as cosmetics and detergents, among others, with dubious content and quality, often at very high prices, sometimes even higher than in the Western countries.

The differences in the composition and ingredients was confirmed by series of tests and surveys carried out in the 'new' Member States.For example, a test conducted in Slovakia few years ago found out that many imported meat products compared with the same brands sold in Austria contained less meat and more fat; fish fingers contained less fish; certain drinks contained no sugar but artificial sweeteners instead, and were beefed up with preservatives; an orange drink was without ingredients from oranges - and the list is much longer.

The common explanation of the producers, mainly big multinationals, is that they are adjusting their products to local tastes, expectations and prices.

In the resolution, lawmakers said that if a firm sells a product EU-wide, but with compositions that differ between countries, it must not label and brand it in a seemingly identical way, as this may mislead consumers. They endorsed a set of measures at EU and national levels to identify and tackle dual quality products.

If the product - no matter whether it is a well-known food, drink, cosmetics or detergent - differs, even though it appears identical to the consumer, this should be considered an unfair commercial practice, Czech S&D MEP Olga Sehnalova, rapporteur on the file, pointed out, noting that there can be neither second-class products, nor consumers, in the EU.

MEPs recommended swift cross-border cooperation and data-sharing on potentially non-compliant products and possible unfair practices among national consumer protection and food authorities, consumer associations and the EU Commission.

Lawmakers also praised the Commission's New Deal for Consumers proposal, made in April, which amends the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, but insisted it needs further clarifications. They urged for amendment introducing another item on the 'blacklist' of the directive that explicitly mentions dual quality of identically-branded products. According to the MEPs, manufacturers should consider including EU-wide logo on the packaging that would show that the content and quality of the same brand is the same throughout the Union.

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