BRUSSELS: The EU unveiled plans Tuesday to crack down on food makers selling poor quality versions of products including Coca-Cola, Nutella and fish fingers in different parts of the bloc, particularly in eastern Europe.
Eastern member countries have complained bitterly of “food apartheid” or being treated as “Europe’s garbage can” by manufacturers who use the same label for everyday goods that are of far lower standards than in the west.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm and watchdog, will give member states one million euros to help improve tests for comparing products to detect differences in quality.
“These products are presented in exactly the same packaging but for instance the coffee contains less caffeine and more sugar, fish fingers contain less meat in one country than another,” EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Vera Jourova told a news conference.
“So when I say I take this issue very seriously I mean it,” she added.
The plans also include making sure EU states are fully aware of the way to enforce the bloc’s food rules.
The steps unveiled on Tuesday came after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a keynote speech earlier this month that “there can be no second class consumers” in the EU.
“Slovaks do not deserve less fish in their fish fingers. Hungarians less meat in their meals. Czechs less cacao in their chocolate. EU law outlaws such practices already,” Juncker said.
Jourova held back from “naming and shaming” the products but said she was waiting for evidence of cheating.
Asked which EU country had the worst fish fingers, she added: “There was an alarmingly low percentage of meat in my country, the Czech Republic, but it can be the case also in some others.”
In February Hungary’s food safety authority said many food products sold with identical packaging were superior in neighbouring Austria.
Among a list of discrepancies, the agency said the version of Nutella, the children’s favourite chocolate-and-hazelnut spread from Ferrero, appeared to be “less creamy” than the Austrian version.
The aroma of Coca-Cola was seemingly “less rich, less complex” in Hungary, the agency said, while the flavour of Nestle’s Nesquik cocoa powder was “more harmonious and intense” in Austria.