Maggie Beer Products acknowledges misleading conduct

Maggie Beer Products Pty Ltd has accepted a court enforceable undertaking for misleading customers following an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Beer, who is the founder of Maggie Beer Products Pty Ltd, said that the investigation served as a wakeup call for her regarding accurate labelling and she has urged fellow manufacturers to carefully consider each message that is sent to consumers on product labels.

The incident in question involves four out of 200 products in the Maggie Beer range; extra virgin olive oil, aged red wine vinegar, rosemary and verjuice biscuits and ice cream –  all of which feature the Maggie Beer logo with the text “A Barossa Family Tradition” as well as “Made in Australia” or “Product of Australia” and the words: ‘Maggie Beer Products: 2 Keith Street Tanunda South Australia 5352’.

The ACCC considered that as a result of these representations, a reasonable consumer would have gained the overall impression that each of these products was manufactured in Tanunda, the Barossa Valley or South Australia.

While the products were initially made in the Barossa, as the company grew and demand rose, the company decided to outsource the manufacturing of these four product lines to third parties in Queensland and Victoria.

Beer says that she has now decided to modify all labels on all 200 products in her range with added information on the State in which each product is made.

In addition to the misrepresentations on product labels, Maggie Beer Products made representations to the public during a “Local Fair” held at a Woolworths supermarket in Mitcham, South Australia in April 2013 that its Ice cream and Rosemary and verjuice biscuits were made locally in South Australia which was not the case.

Maggie Beer Products has acknowledged that its product labelling, representations to the public at the “Local Fair” and representations to Woolworths were likely to have contravened sections 18 and 29(1)(k) of the ACL.

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims said that consumers pay a premium price for local products and that the ACCC views the integrity of credence claims made about food products is a priority enforcement area.

“The Barossa Valley is a nationally recognised premium food and wine destination, and businesses in that region use place of origin claims to promote or distinguish their product from others in the market,” says Sims.

“Misleading representations about the origin of products to capitalise on this demand undermines the integrity of credence claims which are relied on by consumers and, equally important, can harm competing producers whose products are made locally.”

Maggie Beer said that she fully supports the ACCC’s interpretation on provenance in food labelling.

“All four of these products originally were made in South Australia but, as Maggie Beer Products grew to supply larger markets, we were unable to find suitable South Australian suppliers for four of our product lines.  In these four instances our labels, while  fully compliant with Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) labelling laws, did not reflect the ACCC’s interpretation of provenance in labelling,” she said.

“We acted immediately when the ACCC drew this to our attention.  Maggie Beer customers can be 100 percent sure on the provenance of the food that we offer. I apologise to anyone who may in the past have been misled in any way.

"It’s the last thing I would want to do.”

The misrepresentations come just months after Maggie Beer’s Daughter, Saskia Beer accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Saskia Beer’s Barossa Farm Produce Pty Ltd for false or misleading representations.

Between 9 December 2010 and 28 May 2013, Barossa Farm Produce made various representations that the pork used in its “The Black-Pig” smallgoods was from heritage Berkshire pigs, or other heritage black pig breeds; and/or free range pigs, when that was not the case.

Saskia Beer, Barossa Farm Produce’s sole director, also made representations at an Autumnal Cooking Class held at the Maggie Beer Farm Shop in April 2013 that the pork used in “The Black-Pig” smallgoods was from Berkshire or other black pig breeds, when that was not the case.

Maggie Beer has apologised to "anyone who feels they may have been misled" in the video below.

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