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EU to crack down on 'dual standards' in fish fingers

Consumers claim percentage of fish vary from country to country.

The European Commission is cracking down on food products across the bloc, with the amount of fish in fish fingers being used as a prime example of "dual standards" used by manufacturers.

New guidance for EU Member States issued Tuesday lined out a list of steps the commission will be taking to develop harmonize standards among similarly labeled products across borders, including "high level" discussions with manufacturers seeking commitments they will end the practice.

The investigations and new guidance came after consumers complained about food products being sold under major brands containing different quality ingredients from country to country.

Coffee, fish fingers and iced tea were the three examples cited as being prone to the practice.

In a speech earlier this month, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker highlighted one example: fish fingers in Slovakia sold under one major brand were found to contain 58 percent fish, while in Austria they contained 65 percent fish.

The commission is now working with producers, retailers and Member State authorities for ways to enforce regulations on product quality and labeling. As part of this, it is putting more than EUR2 million into developing common methodologies for packaging and labeling.

EC Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova noted the practice is prohibited by law.

"Presenting two different products in the same branded packaging is misleading and unfair to consumers," she said. "We want all consumers across the EU to be treated equally."

The commission went on to say there was a simple litmus test for consumers as to whether or not manufacturers were within the bounds of regulations.

"The key question for a consumer is: ‘Would I still have purchased this product, if I knew that there was a significant difference compared to this product I had tasted in another Member State?’" the commission wrote.

"Where the answer is ‘no’, the consumer has not been sufficiently informed. Consumers should be in a position to understand the main characteristics of the product they purchase."

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