Consumer agency does its survey in advance of Semana Santa

With Semana Santa just a few days away, Costa Ricans are stocking up on the traditional foods for the Easter season.

Among these are a number of fresh and canned fish products, traditional because of the Catholic Church’s long-standing prohibition against eating meat on certain important religious days. But then there is the unique miel de chiverre, which is best purchased processed in a supermarket. The alternative is to chop into the rock-hard squash with a hammer and blow torch to prepare the sweet jelly in the home.

Then there is the encurtido in vinegar, pieces of vegetables that have been pickled. And a big meal also will include palmito dishes.

The fish products can be tuna or salmon and even squid, called calamares. Then there is the canned octopus or even a fresh-caught one that can be found at the Mercado Central.

The period before Semana Santa is also when the consumer protection agency of the economics ministry does its annual survey. As expected, the survey found big differences in some food.

The survey was from March 20 to 26, which is about when the local supermarkets had set up their displays of traditional foods. The survey covered 40 supermarkets in the metro area, Heredia, San Ramón and Cartago and involved pricing on 29 separate foods.

The biggest difference in identical products was found in Calvo brand tuna packed with vegetables. Megasuper had the product for 620 colons and Jumbo & Perimercado sold it for 1,246 colons. That was a bit misleading, however, because the lower price was a special promotion.  Other differences in the same product and size were about 60 percent or less.

In fact, most of the big differences were the result of stores having an unusual low price for an item as a promotion.

The consumer division urged shoppers to check the per-unit price. In one case an 88-gram can of imported sardines cost 2,435 colons and a similar can of 87 grams cost 520 colons, the surveyors reported. That was a 363 percent difference, but the products are different, too.

The study is on the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y ComercioWeb site.

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