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OCU denounces that the Government wants to approve a law that borders on censorship

09 abr 2015
Royal Decree regulates comparative analyses in favour of the food industry

OCU denounces the fact that the government wants to deprive consumers of access to accurate information about the different options they have in the market. The Government plans imminent approval of a Royal Decree that regulates studies and comparative analyses of food products. This will mean, in practice, that it will be made as difficult as possible to conduct independent comparative tests about the quality of food in Spain.

Finally it seems that the government has bowed to pressure from the powerful food industry, the real driving force behind this initiative. Annoyed by the food scandals uncovered by OCU (milk, olive oil, horsemeat), they applied pressure until they got a decree which seeks to limit carrying out independent and objective studies on the quality of food in Spain. And this, despite repeated opposition from both OCU and the Council of Consumers and Users who have spoken out repeatedly against a law that works to the disadvantage of consumers.

The law that the Government intends to adopt, violates, according to OCU, the right to communicate or receive truthful information. It is a law that establishes a clear imbalance between the obligations of industry and consumer associations who want to provide information about food products by forcing the latter to meet a number of requirements over laboratories used and the verification of their results which are not required from the food industry when they put a product on the market. OCU believes that the government gives more importance to the so-called defence of the reputation of companies than to information for consumers about the quality and safety of food products.

Among the most critical aspects of this law, OCU notes that it jeopardises the confidentiality of the laboratories performing the analyses, leaving them defenceless against pressure from the food industry lobby. Another key point is the minimum period of 20 days in which to publish accurate information supported by laboratory analysis.

The most glaring thing is that there is no similar law anywhere in Europe. Spain, with this rule is at the forefront of countries that restrict freedom of expression. European consumers receive and assess this information and make purchases based on the scores obtained by different brands. In this sense the major European organizations represented through BEUC and worldwide by Consumers International, have written to to the Minister of Agriculture to express their outright rejection of the proposed new law based on the possible violation of both the treaties of the European Union and the UN principles and to ask, therefore, that the Government reconsider the adoption of the Royal Decree.

The methodology used in OCU for comparative analysis is supported by its use in other countries and also for all sentences passed in our country that have always supported OCU in cases where it has had to defend the accuracy of our information in court.
 
Given this serious violation of such a fundamental right as the freedom of information, OCU will do everything within its power to amend this legislation which, in our opinion, is unconstitutional. OCU will contact different groups (social organisations, trade unions and political parties) to raise awareness about the serious effects of the legislation that the Government intends to adopt. In this regard, through the change.org platform we are promoting a petition urging the Ministry to withdraw the draft Royal Decree. Also the platform in defence of freedom of information (PDLI), to which OCU belongs along with other social and professional organisations has voiced its opposition to the text that the Government intends to adopt.

Finally, OCU through social networks will promote the campaign against Royal Decree #secomentulibertad (“they are eating your freedom”) for citizens to express their opposition to this legislation which limits comparative analyses and restricts their rights as consumers and citizens.
  
For more information (media): Eva Jimenez Tel.: 91 722 60 61 - ejimenez@ocu.org
www.ocu.org