Seed World

Consumers are Led Down the Garden Path with Heaps of Sand in Grass Seed Packaging

Based on independent research results, the Brussels-based Breeders Trust found earlier this month, that consumers are being misled on a large scale when purchasing 1 and 4 kg boxes, grass seeds packaged in Poland. In 1 and 4 kg boxes sold by the internationally operating retail companies, Leroy Merlin and OBI, far too much sand and chaff were found in all sampled packages from the Polish supplier, Global Grass.

The sale of grass seed to consumers is subject to strict regulations within the EU. The basic principle of certification by law, is that the consumer is guaranteed to receive grass seed of a reliable quality. For example, to comply with the required purity level of grass seed, a package must contain at least 93 percent pure grass seeds. Chaff and other residual vegetable material are only allowed to a very limited extent, and sand particles are not permitted at all. In addition, the germination capacity of the seed must be at least 75 percent. Finally, the imprint on the packaging may not conflict with the contents of the package.

Breeders Trust regularly checks such consumer packages within Europe. This so-called “mystery shopping” is practical for assessing whether packaged grass seeds for the consumer market actually meet the requirements, independently of the responsibility of national inspection bodies, ensuring that “they do not have the wool pulled over their eyes” by being sold sub-standard product; this also ensures a level playing field in the international grass seed market.

In the middle of 2018, Breeders Trust visited a number of stores of the internationally operating retail chain, Leroy Merlin, in Warsaw to buy 1 kg boxes grass seeds. The content was analyzed by an internationally accredited laboratory. The purchase and analysis of packages from the same supplier was repeated in 2019. These results are, frankly, shocking. Only around 63 percent to 83 percent grass seed was found in all the packages, instead of the legally-prescribed minimum of 93 percent. Leroy Merlin removed as a reaction of the Breeders Trust action consumer-packaged grass seed with the private brand name Geolia, which had been packaged by the Polish supplier, Global Grass, from its shelves.

Van Beers, Project Manager at Breeders Trust explains that up to 37 percent impure content, in the form of chaff and sand particles, were found in the grass seed mixtures. It also became clear that this fraudulent activity was not limited to the retail chain Leroy Merlin in Poland. During the same period, Breeders Trust visited a store of the international retail chain OBI in Budapest. Here, too, an independent laboratory found that the same supplier, Global Grass, supplied packaged product with an impurity level of between 16 percent to 24 percent. Van Beers continues that it has been established that the supplier Global Grass structurally compiles grass seed mixtures with far too many impurities, such as chaff and sand. It seems that the Polish inspectorate has been purposefully and deliberately duped. The shocking results have been shared with top management at OBI’s headquarters in Germany, as well as with Leroy Merlin in France. In 2018, this led to an extensive recall at Leroy Merlin: a recall of the entire packaging batch from the Polish stores, but this, it now appears, did not lead to structurally better results. Even after repeated requests, the OBI chain has not responded.

“We have repeatedly found, independently, that Polish and Hungarian consumers are being led down the garden path on an epic scale when it comes to the purchase of 1 kg boxes of grass seed mixtures packaged in Poland, which are then sold into the market by international retail chains, Leroy Merlin and OBI,” Van Beers says. “You would expect a company with retail chains around the world to take its customers seriously, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.”