Czechs join Visegrad food fight against international retailers

Czechs join Visegrad food fight against international retailers
Multinational grocers sell food of lower quality in the region compared to that offered in the same packaging in countries such as Germany and Austria.
By bne IntelliNews February 21, 2017

The Czech Republic hopes to persuade the EU to draw up legislation to ban the sale of branded food stuff in Central & Eastern Europe that is of inferior quality to the supposed equivalent in the west, newswires reported on February 21.

The move sees Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary in a food fight against international retailers. The countries refer to recent tests showing that multinational grocers sell food of lower quality in the region compared to that offered in the same packaging in countries such as Germany and Austria. Hungary, which has an official stance that calls for discrimination against international retailers according to the EU, launched an official probe into the issue the previous day.

"With some products, we are in fact Europe's garbage can," Agriculture Minister Marian Jurecka told Reuters. The minister has ordered a Czech study of food quality, which should be complete by June.

Czech consumer groups have long complained about lower-quality food sold by large companies, but EU legislation allows the practice as long as packaging identifies all ingredients. The data from the Czech study will be used, alongside that from the rest of Visegrad, to push to change EU rules.

"Our primary aim is to change the EU legislation, so that if an item has the same producer, the same packaging with the same font, so it is the same item at first sight, then it has the same ingredients," Jurecka said.

"If there is the single market, then let's have the same access to the same quality of products, if they look the same, for all customers," the official added. "I really don't think that Czechs and Austrians have such different tastes. When you look at our menu, thanks to the Austrian-Hungarian empire we have really similar tastes."

Meanwhile, Slovak authorites claim that the speculative and predatory behaviour of retail chains is damaging their agricultural and food producing segments. The gradual decline of food production capacities will eventually translate into growth in prices, the Slovak Union of Food Producers (UPS), a member of the Slovak Agriculture and Food Chamber (SPPK) stated at a press conference, according to TASR.

"UPS will support all legal and legislative measures of the agriculture and rural development ministry aimed at protecting the purity and fairness of the business environment," the lobbyist said.

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