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Central Europe Demands Western-Quality Foods

Food advocates say the food industry discriminates against the region by using lower-quality ingredients and more chemicals.

17 February 2017

Manner wafers in Hungary are less crunchy than those offered to Austrian consumers, the Hungarian food safety authority announced yesterday.


Earlier this week Slovakia’s Agriculture Ministry said an orange drink sold in the country by the German Rewe Group contained no actual orange juice, unlike the Austrian version, and had more chemicals.


The reports, including a Czech study last year, are reviving an old dispute pitting Central European countries against big food producers and the European Commission.


Nutella 350The formulas for Nutella and other brand-name products may vary from one European country to another. Image via Janine/Flickr


In the new Hungarian study, the food watchdog said makers of 24 food products were selling inferior goods in Hungary with the same labels as better-quality products found in Austrian supermarkets, EurActiv reports.


Hungarian Nutella, for example, was less mellow than in Austria.


Slovakia, supported by the Czech Republic, tried to highlight the issue of “dual-quality foods” last year during its presidency of the EU, Politico reported


Researchers have found that the Czech versions of identical-looking products are often inferior to those sold in Germany. Consumer advocates argue suppliers are still foisting lower-quality foods on Central European consumers more than a decade after they became EU citizens.


“We’re not [saying] companies cannot adjust their products to consumer demands,” said a Czech member of the European Parliament, Olga Sehnalova. “We are talking about different quality when it comes to the composition of basic ingredients. I think that this is unacceptable.”


The food industry says the differences reflect the variety of national tastes, Politico wrote.


The European Commission’s stance was that consumers are fully informed as to the ingredients in food products thanks to labeling rules.


“As long as products comply with EU legal requirements and do not mislead consumers as to their main characteristics, no legislation prevents companies from differentiating products according to markets, in line with the taste, preferences or purchasing power of consumers,” the official said.


Commenting on the Slovak comparison study, Agriculture Minister Gabriela Matecna said Tuesday, "The argument that consumers in different regions prefer different tastes won't stand, because Slovak consumers definitely don't prefer artificial sweeteners and additives or lower content of meat compared to Austrian products," Reuters reports.




  • After complaints about the quality of food sold in Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in 2011, EU parliamentarians heard that manufacturers adjust their recipes for Western European consumers too. Nutella sold in France, for example, was said to be runnier than that sold in Germany so it would spread more easily on the softer bread preferred by the French.


  • The formula for Sprite sold in the Czech Republic contains artificial sweeteners, fructose, and glucose syrup, while the German product is sweetened with sugar alone, a Czech study found in 2015.


  • Coca-Cola, the manufacturer of Sprite, said the Czech formula was similar to that used in the United States and Spain. Responding to a similar complaint about Nestea, the company said the Czech version contained 35 percent less sugar than the German one, Politico reported.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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