The majority of food products sold in the European Union (EU) are said to be identically or similarly branded while having a different composition, according to the results of a pan-European testing campaign that was published by the European Commission (EC).

The testing campaign was part of the EC’s response to concerns about dual quality foods. Products for the testing campaign were selected based on Member States’ suggestions following complaints to consumer protection authorities.

To better understand and address the issue of dual quality of food products in the EU, the EC has taken up initiatives and published a study following tests of food products across the EU using the harmonised methodology.

The Joint Research Centre, which is EC’s in-house science and knowledge service, conducted a study by analysing approximately 1,400 food products in 19 EU countries.

The results suggested that 9% of the compared products had a different composition, although the front-of-pack was identical, and 22% of products with a different composition had a similar front-of-pack.

However, the study did not show a consistent geographical pattern.

Joint Research Centre Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics said: “Some Europeans feel branded food products they buy are different, perhaps worse, compared to those available elsewhere.

“The Commission called on our scientists to help objectively assess the extent of such differences on the single market. The results are mixed, while I am happy that they found no evidence of an East-West divide in the composition of branded food products, I am worried that they uncovered up to one-third of tested products having different compositions while being identically or similarly branded.”

EC president Jean-Claude Juncker raised the issue of dual food standards in his State of the Union Address in 2017 after a report by the Czech Agriculture Ministry stated that some of the food products vary from country to country in the EU.

Since then, the EC set up a common methodology for testing food products. It issued a set of guidelines to help countries apply EU food legislation and dedicated over €4.5m towards this issue.

EC commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality Věra Jourová said: There will be no double standards in Europe’s single market. With the new laws penalising 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.”