New survey confirms Czechs get poor food

The same brand-name products are higher quality in Germany and Austria

Food sold in the same packaging and under the same brand name can have different compositions in different EU countries. A survey commissioned by the Agriculture Ministry confirmed this and the findings were presented by Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka (KDU-CSL). The testing was done by the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague (VŠCHT).

The issue of the Czech Republic and other countries being a dumping ground for poor quality food is not new, and people have made complaints for several years. Czechs living in border areas, for example, have long held that they get better food in stores in Germany and Austria than in Czech stores.

In February, the Agriculture Ministry announced that the testing would take place and the results would be brought before the European Union, which is responsible for food standards across the 28-nation bloc.

The new survey compared food products from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and Hungary. The goal was to see whether products sold under the same name and packaging had different quantity of ingredients, weight or other measurable characteristics.

“Tests by VŠCHT experts have shown that some foods from the same brand differ in their properties. I find this unacceptable and discriminatory toward consumers. I have already addressed the issue at the V4 meetings, the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Agriculture Ministers. And now we have more clear and verifiable proof,” Jurečka said, according to media reports.

Jurečka added that in his opinion, the consumer has the right to find the same food from the same manufacturer and in the same package across Europe.

The VŠCHT expert committee examined 21 products sold in different countries under the same brand. Tests showed 13 products were very different, five slightly different and just three were the same. Five products also had a different volume in the same size package.

Minister Jurečka said it is almost impossible to compare the taste of food, but the amount of individual components can be measured. “We found, for example, that Tulip Luncheon meat from Germany contains pork, while the Czech version has processed poultry. The consumer finds more meat in Iglo brand fish fingers than when he or she buys them in Germany than in the Czech Republic. We also compared detergents, where in equally large packages there is a different amount of product. For example, Persil from Germany and Austria contains more of the active ingredients than the same brand sold in Czech, Hungarian or Slovak stores,” he said.

The different composition is often stated in the printed data on the side of the package, although the product packaging otherwise does not differ from country to country.

A similar survey was conducted two years ago by VŠCHT, but only comparing foods from the Czech Republic and Germany. Discrepancies were found then as well.

In the past, spokespeople for brands said that the differences were due to national preferences being different. For example, Vratislav Janda, director of corporate affairs for Nestlé Česko told Czech Radio that legislation for the “artificial unification of recipes” would not benefit the consumer, as differences in local tastes and traditions should be respected.

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