The European Commission has released today a new common methodology for comparing the quality of food products across the EU, which was developed by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), its Science and Knowledge service located in Geel, Belgium.

The methodology will allow national consumer authorities to carry out tests comparing the composition and characteristics of food products sold with similar packaging across the European Union.

The issue was given high prominence at EU level, as highlighted by the State of the Union speech by Ec president Jean-Claude Juncker. The move comes to complement the actions already taken by the Commission.

The Joint Research Centre presented the methodology today at a meeting of the High-Level Forum for a better functioning food supply chain.

“All European consumers are entitled to a fair deal on the Single Market. The common methodology we developed together with Member States, consumer organisations and stakeholders from the food supply chain will help shed an evidence-based light on the different compositions of identically branded food products across Europe. I am glad that the dedicated forum on the food supply chain made the relevant parties heard in a rich and sound debate,” Elzbieta Bienkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said.

“The Single Market cannot be a double standard market. All EU citizens must feel that they are treated in the same way and are offered fair and clear information on the products they buy. They cannot be misled by similar packaging. I encourage all national authorities to use it in the coming months, so that we can put an end to this practice,” Vera Jourova Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said.

“European consumers have the right to be protected from misleading marketing about the food they eat and the products they use – and they must have confidence in information provided by producers. The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has developed a harmonised procedure to evaluate perceived differences in the quality of products in an objective way. This is an excellent example of how first-class scientific work directly benefits citizens,” said Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, responsible for the Joint Research Centre.

The High-Level Forum gave the Joint Research Centre the mandate to develop the methodology in June 2017. The High-Level Forum for a better functioning of the food supply chain was chosen by the Commission to address the dual quality of food issue.

Previously, the EC released a set of actions comprised in the New Deal for Consumers, which aims to “clarify and strengthen consumer rights, including prohibiting dual quality practices which are misleading consumers, empower qualified entities to launch representative actions on behalf of consumers and introduce stronger sanctioning powers for Member States’ consumer authorities.”

According to EU regulations, all food products sold in the EU have to comply with strict safety regulations. Moreover, consumers must be informed about key characteristics set notably in EU food labelling law and should not be misled for example by packaging.

The testing methodology will enable national authorities to identify if food products are marketed in compliance with EU law.

The methodology is based on key principles such as transparency, comparability, similar selection sampling, and testing of products, the EC said in a statement.

Laboratories across a number of EU Member States will now apply this methodology in a pan European testing campaign to collect data on the scope of the dual quality issue under the coordination of the Joint Research Centre. The first results are expected to be issued by the end of 2018.

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