Free-range chickens not so ‘free’

Australian consumers are being deceived by false claims from so-called ‘free-range’ egg producers.

Free-Range Egg Farms, which produce the brands Ecoeggs, Port Stephens and Field Fresh, have been issued a $300,000 fine by the Federal Court for falsely labelling their eggs as ‘free-range’. This is the sixth similar instance in the past five years, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

This latest instance comes just one month after Australian Consumer Affairs Ministers’ controversial decision to define free-range as hens having ‘regular and meaningful access to the outdoors’, and a maximum outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare. This is in opposition to the Model Code of Practice recommendation of no more than 1,500 hens per hectare.

“Today’s ruling shows that consumers can’t trust free-range egg labels in supermarkets,” said CHOICE spokesperson Erin Turner.

“These producers have knowingly misled and deceived customers yet their practices will likely be protected by a weak free-range egg standard and consumers will be the ones to lose.”

CHOICE prescribes to the Model Code of Practice recommendation that hens are stocked at no more than 1,500 hens per hectare.

“Eggs that come from hens that don’t go outside and have high stocking densities don’t meet consumers’ expectations and don’t deserve the free-range label,” said Turner.

“We are calling on consumers to continue boycotting bad eggs stocking at 10,000 hens per hectare, including Ecoeggs, Port Stephens and Field Fresh. Consumers should look for eggs from hens stocked at 1,500 hens per hectare which are much more likely to free roam.”

CHOICE have developed an app called CluckAR, which allows consumers to scan free range egg cartons and figure out which eggs live up to their claims.

Chicken processing plant fined $30,000 for waste overflow

Chicken processing plant Supreme Poultry and Chickens has been issued a $30,000 fine by the NSW EPA for having overflowing effluent ponds at its Mangrove Mountain premises.

The EPA inspected the premises on 14 January 2016 and observed that the effluent ponds were full and overflowing, the irrigation areas were not managed in a competent manner, and parts of the waste water management system were not operating adequately.

EPA Hunter Manager, Adam Gilligan, said the EPA considers the multiple breaches to be serious, and the latest evidence of the company’s failure to comply with environmental requirements at its various premises.

“These latest non-compliances follow the February 2016 fines for non-compliance at Supreme Poultry’s Shanes Park (Sydney) premises,” Gilligan said.

“The EPA has informed Supreme Poultry that it requires full compliance with all EPL conditions at all times and that significant fines and criminal penalties can be issued for non-compliance with license conditions.

“The EPA has advised Supreme Poultry that any further contraventions of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 may result in the instigation of legal proceedings.”


Image: Daily Telegraph

ACCC slugs Arnott’s $51,000 for ‘misleading’ fat claims

Arnott’s has paid penalties totalling $51,000 following the issue of five infringement notices by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission relating to representations made by Arnott’s about its Shapes Light & Crispy product.  Arnott’s also provided a court enforceable undertaking to the ACCC.

The ACCC said that Arnott’s represented on the packs of four varieties of Shapes Light & Crispy and a multipack between October 2014 and July 2015 that Shapes Light & Crispy contained “75% less saturated fat” than Arnott’s’ original Shapes biscuits, when in fact it contained approximately 60 per cent less saturated fat than original Shapes.

In making the “75% less saturated fat” representation, the ACCC noted that Arnott’s was actually comparing its Shapes Light & Crispy product not to original Shapes but to potato chips cooked in 100% palm oil. This was included in a fine print disclaimer at the bottom of the packs. However, even if potato chips had been an appropriate comparison for the saturated fat content of Shapes Light & Crispy, the ACCC notes that since only around 20 per cent of potato chips sold in Australia are cooked in palm oil, the representation may still have been misleading.

“Consumers should be able to trust the claims that businesses make to sell their products. Small print disclaimers cannot correct false or misleading representations which are made in a prominent way in advertising or on packaging,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“Businesses must ensure that any comparison claims they make are accurate and based on meaningful comparisons for consumers. This is particularly the case regarding claims that involve healthier eating.”

“Truth in advertising, particularly where misleading claims are made by large businesses, is a priority enforcement area for the ACCC,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC issued the infringement notices to Arnott’s because it had reasonable grounds to believe that Arnott’s made a false or misleading representation about the composition of Shapes Light & Crispy, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

Arnott’s has provided a court enforceable undertaking to the ACCC that it will not engage in similar conduct for a period of three years. It will also publish a corrective notice on its website and in the nationally published Foodmagazine.