The European Union has begun to become actively involved in the issue of foodstuff of dual quality across different member states. Specifically, the Commission has passed guidelines which ought to make it easier to interpret and apply food production laws and consumer protection laws.
In recent times, the issue of food products in dual quality within the EU has garnered much media attention, having impact on a substantial segment of the community of consumers across the European Union. “Products in dual quality” are products which are sold in the common market in various EU member states in the same packaging, bearing the same designation, but differing in their ingredients.
On 26 September 2017, the Commission has issued a set of guidelines on the application of EU law in the fields of food products and consumer protection to products of dual quality. The intention behind these guidelines is twofold: on the one hand, they are supposed to make it easier for domestic authorities to decide whether or not a company selling products in dual quality in different member states is acting in violation of EU law. On the other hand, the guidelines are supposed to work as a clear and practical aid to interpretation, as a point of departure both for consumers themselves and for businesses which seek to create a marketing strategy for their products. In addition, the guidelines include a step-by-step approach which allow everyone to determine whether a given producer of food products is engaging in unfair practices.
By their very nature, the guidelines do not expand the scope of existing rights and obligations in the areas of food safety, labeling requirements, consumer protection, and other relevant areas of the law.
In combating the double standard with respect to food quality, the Commission is busy on several fronts. It has started a dialog with food producers and their associations, who have committed to developing a code of conduct for later this fall. The Commission is also working on a methodology to perfect comparative food-quality tests for products that are brought to market in several member states. Last but not least, the Commission is financing the collection of evidence of unequal food product quality and the enforcement of the existing rules.
These measures show clearly that the issue of dual food quality is drawing an increasing amount of attention. It is reasonable to conclude that the EU may be at the threshold of union-wide regulation in yet another field.