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Stiftung Warentest in criticism
The good image of the Stiftung Warentest has come under pressure in recent months, above all because of the test result of a "Ritter Sport" chocolate. Now politicians and scientists are also criticizing the lack of transparency and exaggerated dangers posed by the product testers. And all for the organization's fiftieth birthday.
Criticized for controversial test results There are not many organizations in Germany that enjoy as much trust among consumers as the Stiftung Warentest. However, the image as a neutral and independent foundation has recently been shaken. After a series of controversial test judgments, the product testers are increasingly being criticized. As the newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” reported, scientists and politicians are discussing whether the Berlin product testers have overestimated their test results and thus unsettled consumers. The Vice President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Reiner Wittkowski, told the newspaper: "It can be problematic if the foundation communicates its test results in such a way that they are blown up to supposed health risks."
Controversy over a chocolate test judgment Scientists and representatives of consumer goods manufacturers have been discussing for years whether the foundation sometimes judges too severely, as it sometimes gives bad tests for products that only contain small amounts of pollutants. A few weeks ago, Saarland's Minister of Consumer Protection, Reinhold Jost (SPD), called for more transparency about the outcome of test results after a meeting with toy manufacturers. "If guards like Stiftung Warentest set high moral standards, they have to let them apply against themselves," said Jost. In the recent past, several cases had become public in which other institutions came to significantly different judgments than the foundation. Above all, the dispute over a test verdict, in which the nut chocolate from the manufacturer "Ritter Sport" was rated "poor", caused a sensation. It was about the fragrance and aroma substance Piperonal, which is contained in the chocolate. In January, the Munich Regional Court confirmed an injunction against the Stiftung Warentest, according to which it had to withdraw its judgment for the time being. The judges left open the question of whether piperonal is an artificial or natural flavor, but noted that the test was "unfair".
Citizens have great confidence in the Stiftung Warentest The citizens still seem to have great trust in the foundation. According to a survey by the public relations interest group GPRA published last weekend, 82 percent of those surveyed placed great or very high trust in the product testers. The North Rhine-Westphalian Consumer Protection Minister Johannes Remmel (Greens), however, agreed to his Saarland counterpart's call for more transparency at the Stiftung Warentest. However, he also protected her and said that it was one of the tasks of the product testers to initiate political discussions on limit values and standards as “consumer advocates” and thus also to work towards lower limit values. BfR Vice President Wittkowski, on the other hand, said that in his opinion it was not the task of the Foundation to work to lower the applicable limit values.
Fiftieth birthday of the foundation On the part of the Stiftung Warentest itself, it says that legal limits for pollutants are sometimes too lax. Michael Braungart, scientific director of the Hamburg Environmental Institute, criticized such publications. He said that the foundation stirs up "fears among consumers, some of whom are completely unjustified." In contrast, Stiftung Warentest board member Hubertus Primus said that he did not think that the foundation was scandalizing too much. On the contrary: "Especially with 'deficient' judgments, we make sure that the test results are correct and justified. We always focus on what the consumer expects from a product. ”All of the criticism comes on the fiftieth birthday of Stiftung Warentest. In 1966 the first edition of the magazine “DER test” appeared. According to its own statements, the foundation has tested over 100,000 products in more than 5,000 tests since it was founded. (sb)