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Commission supports EU states against substandard food

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Commission supports EU states against substandard food

Vera Jourova - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission issued a set of guidelines Tuesday to help Member States determine whether a company is breaking EU laws when selling food products of dual quality in different countries.

The guidelines will, the EU executive hopes, help countries crack down against the practice of firms selling food of lower quality in some countries than in others, despite identical packaging and branding.

"Presenting two different products in the same branded packaging is misleading and unfair to consumers," said Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova: "I am determined to put an end to this practice, prohibited under EU law and make sure that all consumers are treated equally."

The guidance lists and explains the relevant requirements from EU food laws and EU consumer laws to which authorities need to refer when analysing a potential dual quality product issue:

  • the Food Information Regulation which requires that consumers are given truthful and sufficient information about a particular food product. For example, food labels must list of all of the ingredients contained in a product.
  • the Unfair Commercial Practices directive, which prohibits unfair commercial practices, such as marketing identically branded products in a way that has the potential to mislead consumers.

Based on this legislation, the guidance establishes a step-by-step approach for the national consumer and food authorities to identify whether the producers are in breach of these laws. In case there is a cross-border aspect to a breach, the consumer authorities can address it through the Consumer Protection Cooperation network at the European level.

The national consumer and food authorities are responsible for ensuring that companies comply with EU laws. However, the Commission says it is committed to helping them through this guidance and through different work strands.

In addition to the guidelines, the Commission says it is working on a methodology to improve food product comparative tests so that Member States can discuss this issue on a sound and shared scientific basis that is the same for all. It has made EUR 1 million available to its Joint Research Centre (JRC) to develop this methodology.

Guidance on the application of EU food and consumer laws

Factsheet on the guidance

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