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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Butter is expensive, but of good quality - actions of the UOKiK

< previous | next > 12.12.2017

Butter is expensive, but of good quality - actions of the UOKiK
  • UOKiK examined the quality of butter in laboratories.
  • Despite the high price, butter is not adulterated with vegetable fats. That is good information.
  • Doubts are raised by slightly exceeded water content.

For the last few months, a packet of butter - even in discount stores and hypermarkets - has cost approx. 5-7 PLN. In connection with significant price increases, the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) has been examining the sale of this product.

- We are checking the market mechanisms that could have led to the price increase. We have also investigated whether the composition of butter has been adulterated. We are also explaining whether retail chains are misleading their customers - says Marek Niechciał, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.

Prices

Increases in butter prices are related to the global market - a higher demand in the US and a lower supply in New Zealand and Australia. However, media have signalled that retail chains may try to take advantage of the situation and exert pressure on butter manufacturers to sell it cheaper. This way, they could keep a high margin themselves. Therefore, UOKiK decided to check the reasons for the sudden increase in prices and why the pace of returning to their initial level is so slow. Since October, the Office of UOKiK in Bydgoszcz has been conducting five explanatory proceedings. It has asked large chains - Lidl Polska, Jeronimo Martins, Tesco Polska, Auchan Polska, Carrefour Polska - for their correspondence with butter suppliers. It is too early to draw any conclusions. The proceedings are being conducted in a case and not against any entrepreneurs.

Quality

In September and October 2017, UOKiK also checked whether the potential pressure of retail chains and the willingness to reduce costs by producers affected the quality of butter. The UOKiK laboratory in Olsztyn examined 17 samples from the largest producers, including: Mlekovita, Laktopol-A, and Mlekpol. The inspection included branded butter and butter produced for the needs of retail chains. We collected samples from stores and warehouses throughout Poland. The Office checked fat content (it should not deviate by
1 percentage point from the amount declared on the packaging), water content (according to the regulations, it should not exceed 16 percent) and whether other fat was added to the milk fat.

- The results are satisfactory. Most importantly, the butter has not been adulterated with vegetable fats - emphasized Marek Niechciał.

In 4 cases this year's studies showed a slight excess of the amount of water in butter. Attention is drawn to the cheapest of the tested products “Mleczna zagroda" (4.64 PLN in the Eurocash warehouse in Bolesławice) of the company ZPM Mlecz from Wolsztyn, which contained 16.8% of water. Regarding the fat content, only in one case the actual state (84%) deviated from the information on the packaging (82%), although it complied with the regulations.

Provincial inspectorates of the Trade Inspection Authority, which conducted inspection proceedings in this area, initiated proceedings against those entrepreneurs who sold butter incompatible with the quality, i.e. with too much water content. Sellers will also be charged for the costs of laboratory testing if the products they offer fail to comply with the law.

We would like to recall that in 2014, as a result of 46 penalties imposed by the Trade Inspection Authority for adulteration of butter, the President of UOKiK imposed a fine of more than PLN 1.4 million on the Masmal Dairy company for infringement of collective consumer interests (there is an appeal case pending against the legal successor to this entrepreneur).

A strange promotion

UOKiK is also investigating the recent promotion in Biedronka. The chain informed, in
a promotional newsletter and on the website, that the package of butter "Mleczna dolina" costs PLN 4.49 when purchasing 3 packages. Normally the price is 6.99 PLN. According to the promotion regulations, it was to apply in the entire network. Customers complained, however, that in the first days of the campaign the promotional item was missing in the stores. The Branch Office of UOKiK in Bydgoszcz will check whether the butter ran out, because the price was attractive or if it was an intended operation of the company. In the latter case, this could be an example of unfair market practice, the so-called bait advertising.

How to buy butter?

  • Check the fat content. Real butter should contain 80-90 percent. It must be exclusively of dairy origin.
  • Watch out for butter-like products. Sometimes the names or pictures on the packaging are misleading. There is: butter with 3/4 fat content, semi-skimmed butter, fat blends, vegetable butter, margarine on sale.
  • Make sure you do not overpay. We are used to 200 g packaging, however, there are smaller ones, for example 170 g packagings. At first glance, they seem cheaper, but after recalculation this may not be the case. Apart from the price for the packet, there should also be the price per kilogram on the shelf next to the product.
  • Remember about the expiry date. Do not buy products that will soon be overdue, if you do not intend to use them quickly. Pay attention to the conditions in which they are stored.
  • Any doubts? Contact the Trade Inspection Authority.

Additional information for the media:

UOKiK Press Office 
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warsaw
Phone: 695 902 088
E-mail: [SCODE]Yml1cm9wcmFzb3dlQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]

Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

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