The European Commission published the results of a pan-European testing campaign of food products which showed that some products, while identically or similarly branded, had a different composition.
The study, conducted by the Joint Research Centre, the Commission's in-house science and knowledge service, analyzed some 1,400 food products in 19 EU countries.
The tests showed that 9 percent of the products in the study differed in composition, despite identical packaging. A further 22 percent of products presented in a similar way had a different composition. Nearly a quarter, 23 percent, of products, had an identical front label and an identical composition; while 27 of products signaled their different composition in different EU countries with a different label.
However, the study did not show a consistent geographical pattern. This conclusion goes against claims made by Eastern European EU member states that products sold there were of inferior quality compared to those in the west.
Based on the new methodology developed, national competent authorities will now be able to perform the case by case analysis required to determine misleading practices prohibited under EU consumer law.
According to an official EC press release, Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, said: "Some Europeans feel branded food products they buy are different, perhaps worse, compared to those available elsewhere. The Commission called on our scientists to help objectively assess the extent of such differences on the single market. The results are mixed: while I am happy that they found no evidence of an East-West divide in the composition of branded food products, I am worried that they uncovered up to one-third of tested products having different compositions while being identically or similarly branded."
As a result of the study's findings, the European Commission today launched a new call to strengthen consumer organizations' capacities to test products and identify potentially misleading practices. The EC is proposing a budget of 1.26 million Euros for the program and applications can be submitted until November 6th.
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