Study finds some food items better quality in Austria than Slovakia

Slovakian food inspectors have carried out tests that reveal that many of the same grocery items sold in both Slovakia and Austria differ in quality - with many food items costing more in Austria, but generally of a higher quality.

Study finds some food items better quality in Austria than Slovakia
Billa Corso store in Vienna. Photo: Gryffindor/Wikimedia

Inspectors from Slovakia’s State Veterinary and Food Administration (ŠVPS) tested a range of 22 food items sold in retail chains in Bratislava, and in the Austrian border towns of Kittsee and Hainburg in November and December 2016.

They selected various kinds of food, including dairy, meat and fish products, chocolates, baked goods, cheese and drinks. They checked information on the packaging about the composition and weight in grams, and also analysed the colour, flavour and smell of the food.

The inspectors focused on quality parameters like the content of meat, fats or proteins (depending on which product was tested), and additional substances such as sweeteners and colouring.

“Up to one half of the products contained differences that significantly impact their quality,” Slovakia’s Agriculture Minister Gabriela Matečná said at a recent press conference.

The products sold in Slovakia had a lower proportion of meat, and a higher proportion of fats, more artificial sweeteners and preservatives, and a lower weight in grams, she added. Matečná has promised to raise the issue with the European Commission.

However, the Lidl supermarket chain cast doubt on the selection of some of the foods analysed, claiming that in case of ham, the inspectors had not tested the same product. They bought braised ham in Austria, but cooked ham in Slovakia. The inspectors listed the ham among products with only little differences.

According to the EU Commission, as long as EU legislation on labelling and safety is respected, products can differ from one country to another. As a result, companies can use different ingredients and sell their products at different final prices.

According to Eurostat, Austria is the third most expensive place in Europe to buy groceries, just behind Sweden and Denmark. 



How did the Wiener Schnitzel become an Austrian icon?

Despite being Austria's national dish, the origins of the Wiener Schnitzel lie further south. Here's the story of how the breaded meat dish came to popularity in Austria.

How did the Wiener Schnitzel become an Austrian icon?

The Wiener Schnitzel might be almost as famous at the city of Vienna itself; so much so the BBC says the Wiener Schnitzel “defines Vienna”. 

It turns out however that the dish was not invented in Austria at all. 

Even though there is Wiener (Viennese) in the title, the schnitzel actually originated from Milan in Italy as cotoletta alla Milanese, although the original recipe used a thicker cut of meat and was cooked with the bone in.

How did the Wiener Schnitzel become an Austrian icon?

As with many stories delving into Austrian history, the tale of the Wiener Schnitzel involves royalty, mythology and nobility. 

The story goes that Czech nobleman and Austrian Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky brought the recipe back to Vienna from Milan in 1857 after a trip there during the Habsburg rule.

READ MORE: Which Austrian cheeses are protected foods and why?

Radetzky described the dish as a “deliciously breaded veal cutlet” and the emperor requested the recipe. It was a huge success and the schnitzel quickly became popular across Vienna.

Today, the humble schnitzel is the country’s national dish and a key part of Austria’s culture.

You can even find it in cafes and bakeries as a sandwich version called Schnitzelsemmel, which is a schnitzel served in a bread roll.

What is a Wiener Schnitzel?

In case there are some readers out there that are unfamiliar with the Wiener Schnitzel, it is a piece of veal that is breaded and fried, then served with potatoes and a wedge of lemon. 

National Geographic describes the dish as “unassuming” but don’t let that fool you. The schnitzel dominates most menus in Austria and can even be found in restaurants specialising in international cuisine.

The schnitzel is also popular in households across the country, but outside of restaurants it is often cooked with pork instead of expensive veal.

READ ALSO: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

How to make Wiener Schnitzel

Impressing your Austrian friends with a homemade Wiener Schnitzel is easy.

Simply pound the meat (veal or pork) to an even thinness. Then dip it in flour, followed by egg and breadcrumbs. Fry the meat until it is golden brown. You want it to be crispy but not burnt.

Serve with boiled potatoes and a lemon wedge. A side of cranberry sauce is optional but recommended.