German authorities have uncovered a price-fixing cartel among some of the country’s best-known sausage makers, claiming food manufacturers colluded for decades to rig the price of “Wurst” and related products.
According to the Financial Times, Germany’s Federal Cartel Authority will fine 21 producers and 33 individuals a total of €338m (£267m) for running what has been called “the Atlantic circle,” named after the Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg in which the sausage producers first met.
Andreas Mundt, president of the cartel authority, said: “The total penalty seems high at first glance but makes sense against the backdrop of the large number of companies involved, the duration of the cartel and the billions in sales earned in the market.”
The cartel authority said 21 manufacturers including the country’s biggest producer, the Zur-Mühlen-Gruppe, were involved in the price fixing. But according to the Guardian, the Zur-Mühlen-Gruppe has denied the allegations.
According to the German Food Guide, Germany offers the largest selection of Wurst in the world, with 1,500 different kinds. The sausages range from Bratwurst to Bockwurst (which evolved into the American hot dog) to Nürnberger Rostbratwurst to Landjäger and on through hundreds more.
Consumption of sausages and related products make Germans the largest consumers of pork in the world. The FT reported that Germans consumed on average 38kg (84lb) of pig meat each in 2012, equivalent to 380 Bratwurst.
Because of so many different kinds of sausages, the cartel office said manufacturers had not been able to fix the price of individual Wurst so price ranges were agreed for products such as cooked sausage and ham.