“There is a double standard at work on the European food market, and this has also been confirmed by the latest food quality study published today by the National Food Chain Safety Office (NFCSO), corroborating the results of its previous investigation”, the Minister of Agriculture said at a press conference.

Sándor Fazekas told reporters that experts had examined some 100 product samples and It is worrying that varying differences in quality were determined with regard to 70 percent of the products examined, compared to the same products distributed in Western Europe”, he added. “In practically all cases these differences in quality were to the detriment of Hungarian consumers, based on the study. Sensory differences were immediately identifiable in the case of many products, while in the case of other products analytics and laboratory methods have helped uncover discrepancies”, the Minister noted.

He said it was a recurring phenomenon that multinational companies are using weaker ingredients of poorer quality, fewer natural ingredients and more flavour enhancers in the products they distribute on the Hungarian market. The Minister rejected the fact that consumers from Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe should be the victims of a kind of food discrimination, and that discrimination should also appear in this form. “The consumer demand and the expectation on the part of the state that similar products of the same brand should also be available in identical quality in this part of Europe is justified”, he declared. “Let’s not allow ourselves to be deceived; this Hungarian viewpoint is shared by many countries, including the V4, but also by Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. The results of the investigation will be submitted to the relevant EU bodies and we will be calling for rapid community-level regulation”, Mr. Fazekas said.

Minister of State for Food Chain Supervision Róbert Zsigó told reporters that the tests had corroborated what Hungarian consumers have been reporting in recent weeks, that the products they are able to purchase in Hungary are often of a poorer quality to those available in Western Europe. The investigation didn’t only include identical products of the same brand, but foods distributed large supermarket chains under their own brand, as well as certain product brands that are not identical, but look similar and have similar ingredients. The experts compared 96 pairs of products and in addition to Hungary, samples were also collected in Austria and Italy. A total of 84 food products, 7 beers and 5 cat and dog foods were examined.

Of these, differences in quality were found in 71 cases. 30 product pairs differed from a sensory perspective (taste, aroma, consistency etc.), 8 with regard to content, and 33 from both a sensory perspective and with relation to content. The comparison also included the ingredients displayed on food labelling and the resulting possible differences in quality, as well as sensory differences despite having identical ingredients.

During the course of the investigation, experts fundamentally differentiated between three major categories: identical brands with identical appearance and ingredients (51 products); products of identical brand and appearance, but with differing content (25 products); similar products (20). The latter involved the examination of products that were not absolutely identical; the products available in Hungarian retail stores were compared to an analogous foreign product.

The results of the study indicate that in some cases the products distributed on the Hungarian market are of poorer quality, and foods that are marketed in Hungary typically contain lower quality ingredients, more flavour enhancers and cheaper ingredients with lower nutritional value. It is not rare for foreign food producers to save money on Hungarian consumers, while there isn’t necessarily a difference in price, and in fact the products available in Hungary are often more expensive. The detailed results of the study are available (in Hungarian) on the NFCSO website.

(MTI / Ministry of Agriculture Press Office)