Fruit and vegetables: output from the 2021 survey

The results of the 2021 survey still found that there is often negligent or willful non-compliance by professionals at all stages, but especially at the retail stage, to the detriment of good consumer information.

This survey was conducted in almost all of mainland France and some foreign departments and territories. In 2021, it resulted in the inspection of 5,521 establishments. The percentage of anomalies in enterprises reached 46%.

The specific context of the survey in 2021

The health crisis, which created an atmosphere of caution in the national territory, was accompanied by a period of social movements in the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, which led to the interruption of supplies in these areas.

Production in mainland France was marked by a frost episode in April 2021, unprecedented in terms of intensity and scale. This has affected and limited supply in the French fruit and vegetable market in the summer of 2021. Added to this was the difficult weather conditions. (rain, lack of sun, cool temperature, except for the southeastern part) in June and July, sometimes expected holidays with the end of rest and changes in the territorial distribution of consumption. The fruit and vegetable market has been strongly affected by these elements: crop shortages, small fruits and vegetables…resulting in price increases.

2021 was also marked by the exit of Great Britain from the European Union. Since then, all controls and formalities required by EU law apply to goods (including fruit and vegetables) coming from the UK and entering the EU customs territory or leaving the EU for export to the UK.

Misuse of positive claims, misleading labeling, inappropriate products…

The current context increases French consumers’ appetite for quality fruit and vegetables produced close to home. Aware of this new challenge, some professionals are not afraid to adopt positive notes that they could not use to attract clients and increase their profits. So, for example, a protocol was drawn up against an operator who used the phrase “short circuit” when buying supplies from a fruit and vegetable wholesaler, and he gave positive notes such as “organic farming” if it was less than 20%. his goods were actually from organic farming. The fraud deal was also sent to a Breton hypermarket that sells fruit and vegetables, especially foreign ones, under the name “local”.

In addition, consumers’ desire to eat healthy and balanced foods is driving professionals to use nutrition marketing to sell their products. Therefore, some professionals use claims without paying attention to the relevant rules. As an example, an operator in the Loire has several inappropriate therapeutic and health claims – so-called generics. For example, for nuts: “reduces cholesterol”; “improves cognitive abilities (memory, concentration, understanding)”; or for almonds: “stimulates intestinal transit”; “Enhances satiety”… An administrative police action has been sent to the professional to order it to remove all inappropriate nutritional, health or therapeutic claims.

A number of analyzes were performed on prunes, dates, walnuts, apricots and various dried/dehydrated fruit samples. Out of 147 analyzed samples, 51 were analyzed as non-compliant. Dates suffer the highest non-conformance rate with 69% of non-conforming products.

Recurring inconsistencies are related to the quality of the fruits and their size, for example, moisture levels that are too high for plums; the actual net mass of the product not conforming to the marking; or defects in the label.

Actions taken after inspections

About a third of retail establishments, 15 percent of manufacturing establishments, and 10 percent of wholesale establishments had anomalies. Marketing standards that can be applied at all stages are followed at retail where the batch is the fastest perishable (handling). This creates many discrepancies between the marking of the quality category (Extra, I, II category, etc.) and the actual condition of the products. 536 criminal and 66 administrative protocols were drawn up, 144 protocols were drawn up for non-compliance with requirements, 619 instructions were issued, one or more warnings were issued to about 1912 enterprises.

This investigation demonstrates once again that numerous violations and abuses persist, particularly at the retail stage. Even if these deficiencies are often the result of negligence rather than genuine intent to deceive, consumers should be properly informed when making purchases. In this context and taking into account the results of this annual survey, it is justified to maintain control pressure in the sector.

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