Bulgaria Agriculture Ministry: Second study finds ‘double standards’ in food compared with other EU countries

A second study has found differences in ingredients and prices of some brands of food products, between those sold in Bulgaria and in four other European Union countries, the Agriculture and Food Ministry in Sofia said on April 23 2018.

In October 2017, Bulgarian Agriculture Minister Roumen Porozhanov said that tests had established that a number of food products sold in Bulgaria by multinational companies had ingredients that differed from the equivalents sold in Austria and Germany. Sixteen of the 31 products tested were being sold at higher prices, he said.

Porozhanov announced the second study in February. It involved 106 samples, covering 53 food and beverage products of the same brands, from the same or similar chain stores in four other EU countries: Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy.

Comparing information on labels, researchers carrying out the second study found that in about a quarter of cases, there were differences in information regarding ingredients and/or nutritional value.

The products where differences in information on labels was found included milk for infants, mozzarella, soft drinks, confectionery, pasta, chocolate products and vegetable broth.

In the case of the milk for infants, the Bulgarian version contained a higher proportion of vegetable fats, including palm oil, at the expense of less milk powder.

“The product from Bulgaria does not contain milk whey powder and has a lower content of microelements and vitamins. Although the Bulgarian analogue can be described as inferior quality, it is offered at a similar price to that in Italy,” the Agriculture and Food Ministry said.

The differences in the mozzarella cheese included in the colour and taste, and less cheese at the expense of more brine.

The milk chocolate in the version of the brands sold in Bulgaria had lower fat content and less cocoa. In one brand, the Bulgarian version contained fewer hazelnuts than in the other EU countries.

In the case of non-alcoholic beverages, the Bulgarian versions had differences in ingredients, degree of aeration, taste and energy value.

The ministry said that in the case of an orange-flavoured soft drink, the Bulgarian version had a slightly lower fruit content compared with the Austrian product, and contained glucose-fructose syrup instead of sugar.

Given that this product is widespread in Europe, a further comparison was made with the equivalents in five other EU countries: Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Spain. The study found that the fruit content ranged from five per cent in Bulgaria and Hungary to 12 per cent in Italy.

In Austria, Belgium, Germany and Italy, the product contained sugar. In Hungary and Spain, as in Bulgaria, it contained glucose-fructose syrup.

The ministry said that regarding price comparison, in the case of 58 per cent of the products, the prices in Bulgaria were from 0.4 per cent to 64.8 per cent lower in Bulgaria than in the other EU member states.

“Overall, the prices of chocolate, biscuits and soft drinks in Bulgaria are substantially below those in the other EU member states covered by the survey,” the Agriculture and Food Ministry said.

Twenty-two products, including brie and pasta, were more expensive in Bulgaria than in the other EU countries.

One brand of pasta cost two and a half times more in Bulgaria than in Italy.

The brands of fruit juice, tea and meat products had prices “significantly higher” in Bulgaria than in Germany.

In the cases of the other products, the differences in prices were not significant, the ministry said.

In May 2017, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov had announced the investigation, the results of which were announced in October, calling the differences between food products sold in Bulgaria and elsewhere in Europe “unacceptable and insulting”.

In October 2017, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia called on the European Commission to fight “double standards” in the quality of food.

On February 2 2018, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova called for the double standard of food products in the EU to be on the list of illegal business practices in the EU.

Should this be approved, it would mean that consumers would be able to sue a company over the practice.

(Photo: Bartosz Wacawski/freeimages.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

The Sofia Globe - the Sofia-based fully independent English-language news and features website, covering Bulgaria, the Balkans and the EU. Sign up to subscribe to sofiaglobe.com's daily bulletin through the form on our homepage. https://www.patreon.com/user?u=32709292