Eastern Europeans Tired of Being Sold Inferior Products

Prague Morning

Prague Morning

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Why does Nutella in Hungary contain less cocoa than the same chocolate spread in Germany? Why do fish sticks in Prague have less fish? Eastern European are tired of being served inferior products -- and the EU is finally addressing the issue.

The European Commission in Brussels has been repeatedly informed of the fact that products sold under the same brand name sometimes contain different ingredients depending on where in Europe they are sold. But the EU executive body only got involved once several leading Eastern European politicians began focusing on the issue.

This spring, the chief of staff to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán referred to the situation as "the biggest scandal of the recent past." The Czech agricultural minister said it made people feel as though they were "Europe's garbage can."

One test showed that a package of fish sticks sold in Slovakia and the Czech Republic contained just 58 percent fish whereas a package purchased across the border in Austria included 65 percent fish. 

In the first years following the collapse of communism, the use of cheaper ingredients could perhaps have been justifiable: Consumers had little purchasing power and delivery routes tended to be long, with most of the products being manufactured in Western Europe. Companies, though, have long since adjusted prices in Eastern Europe to match those elsewhere - but they have continued to use the inferior recipes. 

Chocolate multinational Ferrero likewise serves up some rather strange answers when questioned about the different recipes for its famous hazelnut-chocolate spread Nutella. Tests have determined that Ferrero uses less cocoa powder in Hungary than it does in Germany, giving a curious explanation: the amount of cocoa used in Germany, they said, is slightly higher to make the consistency of the Nutella sold there thicker because Germans tend to use denser, whole-grain breads. 

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