Proven: Double standards at play
Products of the same brand are of poorer quality and more expensive in Bulgaria compared to Germany and Austria; sausages contain more water and salt, chocolate - less milk
1 July, 2017
The foods consumed by Bulgarians are both of poorer quality and more expensive than those offered to western Europeans, concludes an analysis conducted by the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency, in which 31 products of the same brand purchased in Bulgaria, Austria and Germany were compared.
The food products marketed in Bulgaria are of considerably poorer quality compared with their same-brand versions on the German and Austrian markets. Moreover, half of the tested products are sold at higher prices in Bulgaria.
For the purpose of the probe, which was launched two months ago, the agency purchased foods in five categories – meet, dairy, chocolate, non-alcoholic beverages and pureed baby foods. The items have been compared to their western equivalent in terms of labelling, price and ingredients in five laboratories. Seven of the products have shown inconsistency in their labelling. Meanwhile, the lab tests revealed discrepancies in 20% of the goods. The most egregious differences were found in pureed baby foods, which contained higher percentage of vegetable oil and lower percentage of proteins in Bulgaria, where they are sold at higher prices. In one particular same-brand baby food product, all the ingredients were found to be listed but the Bulgarian version contained 1.3% rapeseed oil, while the German one – 0.9%. The German market product contained 1.5g of protein per 100g serving, compared with 1g per 100g serving in Bulgaria. Even so, that product’s price in Bulgaria is 107% higher than in Germany.
The other products with considerable discrepancies are non-alcoholic beverages. The ones intended for Bulgarian consumers use glucose-fructose syrup as sweetener, while those intended for German and Austrian consumers use sugar. There is no evidence that attributes any health risks to the consumption of this syrup but it is much cheaper than sugar. Fruit juices marketed in Germany are 100% natural, while those in Bulgaria contain 97% fruit juice and 3% pulp.
The tested energy drinks from Bulgaria contained 1.52% lower concentrations of caffeine.
Discrepancies were found in chocolate products as well. The German products were made of sugar, dextrose, egg powder, 24% milk and 21% dark chocolate. In comparison, the Bulgarian products contained glucose-fructose syrup as well, just 21% milk and 20% chocolate.
In the dairy products category, differences were found in the percentage of fat in butter, with 82% for Bulgaria and 80% for Germany. Despite the higher concentration of fat, the butter distributed in Bulgaria costs BGN 5.89 for a 250g package, while that in Germany goes for BGN 4. The margarine intended for Bulgarian consumers contains 70% fat, while that for German consumers – 80%. The mozzarella cheese product also differed in taste, smell, aroma, colour, texture, cross-section surface and brine. The cheese offered on the Bulgarian market lacks a distinctive milk aroma and has porous cross-section surface and only slight distinction of layers. The brine lacks the characteristic greenish tint. In terms of ingredients, it contained 0.1% more carbohydrates compared with the western version and 0.2% less than indicated on the label. The protein concentration was 0.19% higher.
One of the type of sausages distributed in Bulgaria contained a higher concentration of water and salt compared with its German version.
The analysis of the ingredients of dried sausage revealed that the concentration of water in the product was 3.2% higher on the Bulgarian market. Furthermore, the sausages distributed in Bulgaria contain 0.12% more salt than those in Europe and 0.17% more than indicated on the label.
The subject of double standards in foods will be raised at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers on 17-18 July. The information will be presented by Slovakia’s Minister of Agriculture and supported by the members of the Visegrad Group and the other four countries participating in the probe. The European Commissioner for Consumer Protection will be asked to initiate the introduction of a common quality and ingredients standard for foods on the European single market.