BRATISLAVA Feb 23 Leaders of four central
European countries will meet next week to urge the EU to act
against food companies which put inferior ingredients in branded
products destined for sale in poorer member states.
The special summit will "call on the Commission to take
legislative measures that would ban such practice ... that
humiliates people and creates two categories of people," Slovak
Prime Minister Robert Fico told a news conference on Thursday.
Fico said leaders of the Visegrad Four countries - the Czech
Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - would discuss the issue
Consumer groups and governments have complained that some
foodmakers use cheaper ingredients in products for central and
eastern Europe than in identically-branded goods to be sold in
Germany and Austria.
The practice is currently allowed, as the European Union
only requires that packaging contains a clear list of all
Slovakia's Agriculture Ministry last week presented results
of laboratory tests showing half of 22 products bought in
Bratislava, the Slovak capital, differed in taste, looks and
composition from equivalents bought in two Austrian towns across
Czech Agriculture Minister Marian Jurecka last week said
people were tired of being "Europe's garbage can" while
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff called
the double standards on quality "the biggest scandal of the
Consumers in central and eastern Europe were quick to
embrace western brands after the end of communism in 1989.
Producers say the composition differences cater to local tastes.
Food remains generally cheaper on average in eastern Europe
than in the west, but many shoppers travel west to buy higher
(Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Andrew Roche)