Where do frozen products such as chicken, peas or strawberries actually come from? The Bavarian consumer advice center wanted to find out and launched a sample.
For this, the consumer advice center has selected 52 products that are also produced regionally in Bavaria. Result: 16 carried an appellation of origin. Manufacturers of the remaining 36 products were asked where they came from. Nutrition expert Daniela Krehl talks about the responses the consumer advice center received from the manufacturer. “It was pretty scary. The area looks very different.”
Thailand chicken in bavarian supermarket
Consumer advocates were particularly taken aback by the origin of chicken meat in display cabinets. Of the 13 dishes examined, only three had an indication of origin. For the other ten products, consumer advocates received information upon request for eight. Result: The meat comes mainly from Thailand and Brazil. Next come Poland, Germany, Romania, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Specifying the country of origin is voluntary
Only one manufacturer indicated the country of origin Thailand on its packaging. Daniela Krehl has a theory explaining why the origin of meat is so rarely transparent to the consumer. “I suspect very strongly that the manufacturers also avoid labeling it, because I think very few people want their chicken meat from South America or Thailand.”
The manufacturers of the frozen products examined are not legally required to indicate the country of origin. As soon as a processing step is carried out – for example the freezing of fruit and vegetables – the obligation to label the unprocessed product no longer applies. With meat, it’s a little different. If the meat is only frozen, the country of origin must be indicated. But as soon as the meat is seasoned, for example, the information is again voluntary.
Transparency must become mandatory
The Bavarian Consumer Protection Center calls for legal changes. Origin labeling with details of the country of origin should be mandatory for all foods in the EU, including those that are processed. In this study, two of the manufacturers and retailers interviewed showed that this is possible. These usually already disclose the country of origin of the primary ingredients on the packaging.
Peas are always the best
In the case of frozen peas, eight of the 24 products had a designation of origin: seven came from Germany and one from the Netherlands. For the remaining 16 products, manufacturers and trading companies provided specific information on the origin of only 11. Result: All come from EU countries.
Strawberries come from afar
Consumer advocates reviewed 15 frozen strawberries. Ten of them had no indication of origin. Upon request, consumer advocates received information on the country of origin of six products. Observation: Whether with or without a designation of origin, the producing countries are almost identical: Morocco, Turkey, Poland, Egypt or Bulgaria.
Better frozen than stored
Basically, fruits and vegetables from the counter freezer can be better than “fresh” produce. Even “fresh” products are often stored for several days. And during storage, fruits and vegetables lose a lot of vitamins and nutrients, according to nutrition expert Daniela Krehl. Frozen products, on the other hand, are usually frozen immediately after harvesting – vitamins, for example, are very well preserved.