Same merchandise, different prices, different labels

Aishe, 60 years old, is a resident of the city of Elbasan, and she regularly buys chicken wings (or chicken thighs) at the shop near the house. She thinks that these chickens were raised in Albania and are of high quality. The seller (store owner) tells her that they are local products despite the fact that this information is missing on the label. Aisha says that she checks every product for the label because in this way she avoids health problems.

In most cases, the “Big Market” supermarket sells chicken thighs on offer, but without any label, raising doubts about the products we consume.

Aisha tells us that chicken thighs or chicken wings have different prices, from 190 lek to 250 Lekë. For the same product, the supermarket of a well-known company has another price of 610 Lekë, but with more detailed information, making consumers feel more confident in the products they consume.

Not all labels on domestic products contain all the information required by law. In markets chicken by-products continue to be marketed with labels as a product of domestic companies.

In a survey of markets and shops, it is easily found that most imported chicken products do not have any distinctive mark that can be considered as a label. Chicken fillets, chicken wings or chicken thighs, have no indication of where they came from, what is their origin, manufacturer or importer and much less, advice on use.

According to law 9863 d.23.01.2008 the label must contain some data which are considered mandatory as:
 The name of the product must contain the data only in Albanian language
 Have the name under which the product is sold
 Have the list of ingredients
 Have the amount of specific ingredients, or categories of ingredients;
 Have a net quantity declaration;
 Have the date of minimum shelf life, or, in the case of foods which, from a microbiological point of view, pose a risk, the "production date" must be declared;
 Have any special storage conditions, or conditions of use;
 Have the name or business name and address of the manufacturer or packager, or trader. (Even when produced for third parties, the address of the manufacturer, packager, trader and exporter is declared)
 Have details of country of origin or origin for imported food product (failure to provide these particulars may confuse the consumer about another product and its true origin or origin of the food product) 

But these obligations expressed in the law on consumer protection often remain only on paper.

Photo 2. Chicken fillet of Kazazi company

There are many violators of the law, but from a survey conducted in the main points of sale in the city of Elbasan, one of the main traders which has a significant part of the meat market products, is the company Kazazi. On the packaged chicken fillets, with the inscription “Production of Kazazi” is written “trusted taste”. Looking at such a simple label and limited information for the consumer, some questions arise:

Does the company have a poultry breeding facility?

If yes, why is “imported” written on it?

We addressed Kazaki with a request for comment. However, until the moment of publishing of this article, no comment was provided.

“The Kazazi company does not have a poultry farm, despite the fact that their food products are labeled as packaged and produced by the Kazazi Meat Shpk meat processing plant”, says the director of the Alert Center, a non-profit organization based in its consumer protection. “There are companies”, he says – “that have poultry breeding facilities, such as Tik Tik, Driza, Chicken Farm and Radostina, but the Kazazi company has no information on where the products come from, causing panic that the product may contain Salmonella”.

The products that the company sells are imported, and the consumer has the right to know where they come from, but this information is missing.

Photo 3. Unpackaged chicken thighs, without any information where it originated. Photo taken at the Big Market supermarket.

As for the labelling of the food product (meat) that comes frozen from import, it should be written on the label, because the subjects are obliged to thaw it to put it in smaller bags, freeze it and put it on the market, but they have to write it on the label and the consumer should know.

The decision of the Council of Ministers “On labelling” and the Law “On Food” specifies the manner of labelling food products. While, according to the law and the DCM, the products that are melted, must have it written on the label.

If we were to compare the labels of domestic products with the countries of the European Union, there is a very big difference, because the labels of EU products have detailed data that the consumer should know. Products sold in stores in Albania may have the explanation that it is imported but not from which country, as well as temperature, nutritional values and ingredients, while the law makes it clear:

“Have details of country of origin, or origin for imported food products (failure to provide these particulars may confuse the consumer about another product and its true origin, or origin of the food product);

“To have the name or denomination of the business and the address of the manufacturer or packager, or the trader. (Even when produced for third parties, the address of the manufacturer, packager, trader and exporter is declared).”

If we compare these two products, it is immediately noticeable that the product is made in Greece and the accompanying label contains a large number of data on the origin of the product, nutritional values and storage and consumption conditions. Meanwhile, the product presented by the Albanian company has no data. Ingredients and temperatures are also given in the product made in Greece, with all the necessary information.

To have the original name under which the product is sold

Pursuant to Decision no. 1344, dated 10.10.2008, For the approval of the rules “On the labelling of food products”, the food product must have a name that exists; not to be complicated but ordinary; the name of the food should describe how it is used and be clear that buyers recognize the product and distinguish it from other products that may be similar and not be confused. No trademark should replace the name under which the product is sold.

Each product for sale must explain on its labels the physical condition of the food product or the specific treatment it has undergone (eg, powder, frozen, deep-frozen, concentrated, smoked) in all cases where it is absent this information can create confusion for the buyer. Any food product that has been treated with ionizing radiation must have one of the following indications: “irradiated” or “treated with ionizing radiation”.

But, unfortunately, all these points are not contained in many products which are sold in markets and points of sale in the Republic of Albania, causing concern for citizens for the safety of the products they consume.

The consumer should look at the label not only for the expiration date, but also the ingredients of the product. If the consumer may be allergic to an ingredient that the product may have and it is not labeled then the company and the market that sells it should be held liable according to the law that has been set.

The National Food Authority, in response to the request for information, says that there have been no complaints from citizens regarding the non-compliant labelling of food products!

Food safety is an alarm bell not only for consumers, but above all for the authorities obliged by law to ensure that the products consumed are not a danger to our health. And just for this, the expiration on the package is not enough!