The EU harmonised methodology for assessing quality related characteristics of branded foods, including private labels, describes general principles to ensure transparency, comparability, inclusiveness, and fairness vis-à-vis all food chain stakeholders, including consumer organisations. It has been developed by DG JRC in close collaboration with stakeholders of the food supply chain in response to the current 'Dual-Quality Food' issue. It aims to create evidence whether the provisions of the Unfair Commercial Practice Directive/relevant food laws are fully implemented.
It further lists a number of key recommendations for the selection of products, their sampling and testing (including sensorial aspects) and data interpretation. It shall be used in the design of comparative testing campaigns to assess the composition and sensory properties of branded food products offered within the European Union.
Background and Context
In response to the issue on 'Dual-Quality Food', the European Commission has taken several measures to ensure that European consumers have confidence in food they buy regardless where they live. President Juncker made this very clear in his State of the Union Address on 13 September 2017.
Measures adopted include:
- Guidance for national consumer protection authorities on the application of EU food and consumer protection law to issues of dual quality of products;
- A proposal to amend the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD) under the New Deal for Consumers (pdf) initiative, to bring more legal certainty when assessing differences in products;
- Tasking the JRC with developing a harmonised methodology to improve food product comparative tests, so that Member States can discuss this issue on a sound and shared scientific basis that is the same for all.
EU Harmonised Testing Methodology
The EU harmonised testing methodology was developed by the JRC in close co-operation with stakeholders of the food supply chain and relevant Commission services.
It builds on general principles to ensure transparency, comparability, inclusiveness, and fairness vis-à-vis all food chain stakeholders, including consumers. Moreover, a number of key recommendations for the selection of products, sampling, testing (including sensorial aspects) and data interpretation shall be respected in the design of comparative testing campaigns to assess branded food products offered on several markets in the EU.
The correct implementation of this harmonised framework will provide the required evidence for consumer protection authorities to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether the provisions of the Unfair Commercial Practice Directive (Directive 2005/29/EC) or relevant food laws are or have been infringed.
This framework will also be used for the execution of an EU wide testing campaign in 2018, overseen by JRC, to create the evidence to what extent differences in composition and sensory properties of branded foods (including private labels) exist in the Member States and how significant those differences are.
The results will lead to a better understanding of what constitutes a significant difference of product characteristics, so that authorities in the EU Member States can enforce consumer protection legislation in a consistent manner.
More information about the harmonised testing methodology can befound in the attached report below.