How is the EU tackling dual quality food?

Commissioner Věra Jourová on dual quality food © Arno Mikkor, Aron Urb
Commissioner Věra Jourová © Arno Mikkor, Aron Urb

As controversy over dual quality food rises, European Commissioner Věra Jourová has welcomed a new commission action plan to tackle the issue in Europe.

Consumers have raised concerns in recent years over food manufacturers offering lower quality food in some member states than in others, a phenomenon referred to as ‘dual quality’ food. The commission’s advice to consumers was to send a message to manufacturers by refusing to buy lower quality products.

However, the commission has now taken steps to address the problem with a raft of new legislation. A new plan for an overhaul of consumer law, which Jourová dubbed a “new deal for consumers”, would ensure that non-compliant traders are properly sanctioned and that consumers can take action if they feel their rights have been infringed.

What are the commission’s next steps?

The commission is now developing a harmonised testing protocol, and plans to undertake a co-ordinated testing campaign in May, with at least 16 EU member states participating, representing a broad geographical spread and including both large and small member states.

The tests will involve chemical and sensory testing of the composition of a number of common products which are marketed in most member states. The plan was developed after dialogue between the commission and the industry, including trade associations, retailers and the largest food producers.

Beyond dual food quality, the commission will also explore extending its oversight beyond food to other household products, such as detergents.

What did Commissioner Jourová say?

Jourová welcomed the plan as a major step for consumer rights. She expressed optimism that the package of measures would discourage manufacturers from producing dual quality products: “Our ‘new deal’ will make it more difficult and costly for traders to mislead consumers in marketing dual quality products, which will be one of the examples of illegal practices.”

The commissioner also emphasised the responsibilities that member state authorities have to ensure that food sold in their countries meets the requisite standards, and suggested that it would be their responsibility to build upon the commission’s work in 2018.

She said: “When we have completed these steps, the commission will have accomplished its part in relation to dual quality food issue. It will subsequently be for national authorities to take up the challenge and to demonstrate that they also take the issue seriously. They should start to tackle the concrete cases that have been found on their national territory.”

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