Study reveals stark differences in same food and drink sold on Czech and German markets

Photo: Czech Television

Cross border shopping is fairly commonplace for Czechs living near the borders or for those from further afield seeking to make a big shopping expedition and take advantage of the relative strength or weakness of the Czech crown, euro, or Polish zloty. But a Czech study has just shown that many products sold under the same brand name in the Czech Republic and Germany do not have the same ingredients at all.

Photo: Czech Television
Prague’s University of Chemistry and Technology was tasked with choosing a selection of common shopping items in Germany and the Czech Republic and subjecting them to chemical analysis of the composition and sensory testing of the food and drink using human tasters. Twenty-four products were originally chosen, one was later excluded because it was not really comparable, and the tests proceeded. The results were revealed in the last week and they will probably be a major eye opener to both cross-border shoppers and the more sedentary form of the species.

Out of the 23 items that underwent the tests, around a third of the products with similar descriptions and packaging from the same manufacturers were found to have a significantly different composition, taste, or consistency.

Jan Pivoňka,  photo: archive of University of Chemistry and Technology
Jan Pivoňka was the project’s coordinator. He described some of the results for a range of soft drinks such as Pepsi-Cola, Sprite, and ice-tea bought in Germany and the Czech Republic. “In the Czech Republic a glucose fructose syrup was used as a replacement sweetener, in Germany sucrose was used. It is not possible to say whether one is better or worse, it all depends on the preferences of individual consumers. Both of these sweeteners have their positive and negative aspects.”

Price-wise, the two types of sweetener are not that different so it is not possible to say whether Czech or German shoppers were being sold a cheaper product. The producers said they were reacting to the different demands of different markets.

In another case, Czech -sold fish fingers had a higher water content and less fish that their German cousins with Czech consumers actually saying that they preferred the German version. A well known mark of coffee sold on Czech shelves had a third more caffeine than the German equivalent.

But in the case of one type of tinned meat, Tulip, from a Danish-based producer, the same product was radically different on the two markets. In Germany, the meat was basically pork, in the Czech Republic it was mechanically recovered poultry remains which is a very different proposition. So are Czechs being offered lower quality cut price food on their supermarket shelves? Jan Pivoňka again: “That sort of conclusion would probably be accurate in the case of the Tulip tinned meat because the mechanically separated meat remains are cheaper than classical pork. In the case of the drinks it would be pure speculation and it would require a much more profound economic analysis.”

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
The tests were commissioned by the Czech Social Democrat Member of the European Parliament, Olga Sehnalová. The member of its internal market and consumer protection committees is expected to use to results to pressure the European Parliament to consider whether tougher rules should be adopted for selling such different products which purport to be the same across the continent.