The “Empowering Consumer Organisations: towards a harmonised approach tackling dual quality in food products” (ECO) project is a European project funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (REC) of the DG Justice of the European Commission. This project aims at limiting dual quality practices in food and strengthening consumer organisations in the EU.
The project involves three partners based in 3 Member States :
- Associazione per la Difesa e l’Orientamento dei Consumator (Italy)
- SAFE – Safe Food Advocacy Europe (Belgium)
- InfoCons Association (Romania)
Dual quality in food products
“Dual quality is a practice in which companies use different recipes, formulations or standards for items sold under the same brand name and with very similar looking packaging”.
This practice can be found in every kind of product, but it is extremely present in foodstuffs. In the food sector, “dual quality” has been characterized by products sold under the same brand with identical or very similar packaging, but with different ingredients and quality depending on the European country where they were distributed. Under EU law and Single Market principles, companies that trade are free to differentiate their products for different markets according to local preferences for example. Nevertheless, consumers cannot be misled by different products being presented to them as identical in the absence of legitimate and objective reasons and this is what happens with “dual food quality” in some cases.
This one-year long project aims to create a structure based on consumer organisations and able to alert and provide the relevant authorities (at national and EU level) with a full and accurate assessment on dual food quality in the EU. By raising the awareness of the relevant authorities on this issue and by providing them with full and accurate information, our project will help to tackle this problem.
Based on the EU harmonised testing methodology, the project aims
- to develop a harmonised guidance for testing products and identify misleading branding strategies, corresponding training materials.
- to create an online platform to report and share test results and misleading branding strategies, which will be provided to consumer organisations.
- to report misleading strategies with results of testing of at least 500 products uploaded by 18 consumer organisations.
- to create a certification system with the registration of a minimum of 6 companies
- to improve the advocacy of consumer organisations and fostering the cooperation between consumer organisations, competent authorities and relevant private players through the organisation of a European conference where the results of the testing will be presented.