Food Double Standards: Rocking Brussels
European Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová has mobilized to tackle the very sensitive issue of food double standards – a practice which sees the food and drink products of the same brand sold with different ingredients (and quality) in different parts of Europe, usually to the detriment of Eastern Europe.
It is reported, that global leaders like Unilever and Coca-Cola, as well as multinational retailers have engaged in the practice of changing their products’ recipes depending on the local market. A 2015 Czech study shows that the soda drink Sprite sold in Czech Republic contains more artificial sweeteners than one sold in Germany, and an Iglo fish stick – 7% less fish, respectively.
Double standards in food quality between Western and Eastern Europe have been known for a long time, and Czech Republic and Slovakia have led the effort in convincing the EU institutions to ban the practice, as it is deemed a failure of the EU Single Market and as discrimination of consumers. They are supported by Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria.
The food companies and the retailer have always argued that the reason for the difference in recipes is caused by the varying national tastes – hence, they are simply catering to consumers’ demands. Furthermore, from a legal point of view, they argue that consumers are already well-protected and informed by EU’s food labeling rules, which are oblige companies to list calorie values and ingredients for every single product. In other words, as long as the difference in food quality is clearly labelled, there is no breach in EU law and consumer information