EU: "same package, same ingredients"

Photo: European Commission

A recent study found that contents and quality of food products can be different throughout the European Union. The EU now demands the practice be stopped.


One in three products differs per country

In the European unified market, the same packaging should contain the same product, says the European Commission. Its president Jean-Claude Juncker had already complained about the problem of "products with dual quality" back in 2017. Armed with a new study and methodology, the EU now wants to act concretely on this issue.


There have been rumours for a long time that for example Coca-Cola in, say, France, may not be the same as Coca-Cola in the Netherlands. There are also lots of regional differences between food products in the same or very similar packagings, the EU concludes in a new study based on nearly 1,400 samples of 128 different products from 19 countries.


Almost one in three food products is different, even if it is marketed as the same product. Almost one in ten products differs based on the country in which it is sold, even when exactly the same packaging was used. 22 % of food products with similar packaging are different based on where in the EU they are sold.


Misleading and illegal

Manufacturers say the products are simply adjusted based on local tastes and each country's unique character, but the EU calls the practice misleading and even illegal. The press release states: "According to EU legislation, marketing a good as identical to one marketed in another Member States while that good has a significantly different composition or characteristics which cannot be justified by legitimate and objective reasons could unfairly and illegally mislead consumers."


Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, said: "There will be no double standards in Europe's single market. With the new laws penalizing the dual quality and strengthening the hands of the consumer authorities, we have the tools at hand to put an end to this practice. European consumers will be able to do their shopping in full trust that they buy what they see."


Consumer organisations to track down differences

But the EU researchers also have some good things to say: despite the differences that were found, there is no evidence of products being regularly worse in different locations. Usually the differences are a matter of composition, not quality. There also was no evidence of a gap between Eastern Europe and Western Europe, contrary to some of the rumours that sparket the study.


The European Commission wants to handle the matter by providing national consumer authorities with the needed tools to act against these product differences. A new methodology was developed to track down the differences. The EU will also spend 1.26 million euros to have consumer organisations conduct product tests.