Differing standards of food quality in Eastern Europe have pushed MEPs to voice public complaints and call on the European Parliament to form a new agency dedicated to ensuring equal food standards throughout the EU.
MEP Daciana Sarbu of the Romanian Social Democrat Party and vice chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) voiced concerns that similar problems were affecting Romania and Poland.
In a recent interview with Euractiv, she said: “I have raised this issue with the European Commission, as it’s a problem that has been seen by a number of countries. There has to be a decision at governmental level to analyse and compare products. I’ve heard it from many people, ‘please can you bring me back a certain type of shampoo from Brussels’, but ‘we have it here too’, ‘yeah but it’s not the same’. Despite being sold in the same packaging.
“Manufacturers come up with a whole range of excuses, from the water being different to people’s tastes being different. There needs to be action at EU level, a type of quality control body, a kind of agency.”
The EC is expected to provide an answer within the next few months.
György Hölvényi, an MEP of the Hungarian Christian Democrat party, also voiced concern over findings by national agencies that inferior products are being sold under the same label in Eastern European countries:
“The Slovakian Office of Food Safety has reported that certain companies operating in the eastern member states of the EU are selling food of varying standards of quality under the same labels. Investigations by the Hungarian National Food Chain Safety Office (Nébih) have also uncovered similar findings.
"Some food powders, sweets, dairy products, spices and soft drinks have been shown to be inferior in quality and differing in their contents to equivalent products sold in Austria, for example” he said.
Hölvényi then asked whether the EC would launch investigations to corroborate the findings of national bodies like Nébih and if it would look into the activities of international companies to ensure fair standards.
He also challenged the EC as to what is already being done to prevent this.
An investigation earlier this year found that many products sold in Slovakia and Hungary contained cheaper, poorer quality alternative ingredients than the counterparts in Western European countries such as Austria.
Colourings instead of real fruit, sweeteners in place of sugar and lower meat contents were found in the studies.
Companies implicated included Knorr, Nestlé and Danone.