Nation is latest in eastern Europe to claim food firms deliberately supply lower-quality food than they give western nations
Bulgaria has become the latest eastern European state to accuse multinationals of selling food of a lower quality in their country than in the west, and has launched a pan-European taste-test to prove its case.
The countrys minister for agriculture, food and forestry, Rumen Porozhanov, said experts had been sent to buy well-known food and drink products in western supermarkets.
Next week, we will buy identical products that are sold on the Bulgarian market by the big chains and then the analysis will start, he added.
It is claimed that major food companies are using poorer-quality ingredients in products sold in central and eastern Europe than in Germany, Austria and the UK, among others.
The newly elected Bulgarian prime minister, Boyko Borissov, appeared to attribute the alleged differences in quality to the legacy of the cold war, in comments following a special sitting of the Bulgarian cabinet.
This is unacceptable and insulting, he told reporters on announcing a review. Maybe this is a remnant of apartheid for some, food should be of higher quality, and for others, in Eastern Europe, of lower quality.
Included in the analysis being undertaken by the Bulgarian food safety agency are popular chocolate, dairy and meat products, non-alcoholic beverages, juices and baby foods.
Bulgarias ombudsman, Maya Manolova, has also reportedly approached Vra Jourov the European commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality about the issue.
It is unclear what evidence Bulgaria has for its claims.
When asked for an explanation, a spokesman for the Bulgarian food safety agency said: Actually, we are still collecting samples to conduct the research. We cannot declare results right now. Now our experts are sampling..
He said the results of the research would not be available until 30 June.
The complaint, however, follows similar allegations from the governments of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. All four countries are members of the European Union.
Hungarys food safety authority claimed in February to have discovered that Nutella sold in Hungarian supermarkets is not as mellow as the brand in Austria, for example.
The spreads Italian maker, Ferrero, has strongly denied there is any difference in quality.
A study published by the Slovakian government in April alleged that the main differences in various products were related to:
- The proportion of fats.
- The different content of meat.
- The addition of artificial sweeteners instead of natural sweeteners.
- The substitution of colouring and artificial fruit aroma for real fruit.
When ordering a review in his country, the Czech agriculture minister Marian Jureka claimed: Where some products are concerned, we have turned into Europes garbage can.
The suspicion that products sold in eastern Europe are inferior to those in the supermarkets in the west has long had a firm hold in the public imagination in the Visegrd group countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia).
And the suspicion has been one of the weapons used by the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbn to attack Brussels.
The latest flurry of accusations builds on complaints first made in 2011 by the Slovak association of consumers.
The European commission has largely dismissed the complaints, noting that multinational companies are free to adapt their products to different markets as long as EU laws on labelling and safety are respected.