Golden Circle makes charity donation after false ownership claims

More than 800,000 cans of Golden Circle fruit and vegetables will be donated to Australian welfare agencies after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) raised concerns about misleading country ownership claims.

The ACCC has also accepted a court enforceable undertaking from H.J. Heinz Australia, after it admitted to engaging in misleading conduct by representing that Golden Circle was “Proudly Australian owned.”

After Heinz’ acquisition of Golden Circle in 2008, Heinz continued to sell Golden Circle products with the representation “Proudly Australian Owned” while rolling out new labels. As late as January this year, Heinz was manufacturing some Tetra Pak beverages in packaging bearing the Australian-owned representation.

The ACCC also identified a number of Australian-owned representations accessible through the Golden Circle website in November 2009, including a statement that its “iconic status has been achieved through a commitment to remaining proudly Australian owned.”

“The ACCC is pleased that Heinz will donate an estimated $1.8 million worth of canned fruit and vegetables to feed the hungry,” Graeme Samuel, ACCC chairman, said.

“News of the Heinz undertaking should also be a warning to all firms involved in acquisitions. Ensuring compliance with trade practices law is vital at every stage of an acquisition, importantly including reviewing and amending representations on product labels.”

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