Truth in labelling - ACCC crackdown continues

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Truth in labelling - ACCC crackdown continues

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commisssion continues to be red hot on "truth in labelling" requirements. 

The Federal Court has found that Snowdale Holdings Pty Ltd (Snowdale) made false or misleading representations that its eggs were “free range” in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.

Snowdale supplied eggs labelled as “free range” to suppliers in Western Australia under the brands Eggs by Ellah, Swan Valley Free Range and Wanneroo Free Range. 

The Court found that Snowdale represented that the eggs were laid by hens which were able to, and did, go outdoors and roam freely on an open range on most days.

In his judgment, Justice Siopis noted, “There is no suggestion in the images and get up used on any of the Snowdale egg carton labels that the laying hens are, in fact, housed in steel industrial style sheds about 100 metres long and that the hens in those sheds would have to compete with another 12,000 or 17,000 other hens, as the case may be, before the hens could even exit the shed to enter an open range.”

“Consumers expect that when they purchase eggs promoted as ‘free range’ they are getting eggs from hens that actually go outside,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

In backing the strong stance, TradeVine Director, James Leonhardt highlighted the importance of truth in labelling in terms of Australia's food brand in international markets.

"Provenance and traceability of produce is so important in Australia's export markets. While we never like to see producers over-burdened with pedantic regulation, we see truth in labelling as fundamental to the integrity of Australia's food brand. We don't like to see this brand undermined and our competitive advantage in international markets put at risk."

"While these laws are designed to protect Australian consumers, we see our strong regulatory standards as a key advanatge in the international marketplace where regulatory standards often lack rigour and credibility."

The case follows ACCC's action against Kailis Bros Pty Ltd (Kailis Bros) in December 2015. The ACCC issued the infringement notice because it had reasonable grounds to believe that Kailis Bros had engaged in conduct likely to mislead the public about the manufacturing process used to produce its frozen ‘Just Caught Prawn Meat’.

“Consumers are often prepared to pay a premium for Australian made products, so any ‘Australian made’ representations must be accurate. Businesses cannot rely on fine print disclaimers to correct or qualify a prominent country of origin representation that is false or misleading,” Mr Sims said.