Italian investigators seize 30,000 bottles of falsely labelled wine

Italian police have seized 30,000 bottles of falsely labelled premium wine from Central Italy following a three month investigation.

Consumers alerted authorities after discovering that the premium Brunello di Montalcino (that sells for around AU$44) they were drinking was in fact “normal table wine”, abcnews reports.

The tip off led to authorities staking out restaurants, wine bars and grocery stores where they uncovered 10,000 bottles of  Brunello di Montalcino, along with other falsely labelled premium drops including Chianti Classico and Sagrantino di Montefalco.

Col. Marco Grandini of the Siena branch of the Carabinieri military police estimates the fraud to be worth hundreds of thousands of euros.

Authorities are reported to be expanding their investigation to seize counterfeit wines in other areas of Italy, and have stated that some falsely labelled wines may have been bound for a number of international markets.

 

The week in focus: video

A landmark GM court case, an alleged egg cartel and dodgy deli meat are the focus of this week’s news round-up.

One of the biggest stories on our website this week was the news that organic farmer, Steve Marsh, lost a landmark court case against his neighbour and former friend, Michael Baxter for allegedly contaminating his property with genetically modified canola.

Marsh alleged that he lost his organic certification on more than half of his farm after GM canola blew onto his land from Baxter’s neighbouring property.

Justice Martin noted that the Marshes’ could not prove that there has been “any reasonable interference” by Baxter, and that Baxter had employed industry standard harvest methodology when planting his GM seeds.

"Mr Baxter was not to be held responsible as a broadacre farmer merely for growing a lawful GM crop and choosing to adopt a harvest methodology (swathing), which was entirely orthodox in its implementation," he said.

"Nor could Mr Baxter be held responsible, in law, for the reactions to the incursion of the Marshes' organic certification body, NCO, which in the circumstances presented to be an unjustifiable reaction to what occurred."

Get all the details about this, and other top-rating news stories from our website, in the video below.

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NASAA says GM canola decision highlights need for reform

Australian organic certification body, the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture (NASAA) has called upon the State and Federal regulators to provide greater regulatory certainty on the application of National Standards for Organic and Biodynamic Produce.

The move follows a landmark high court decision that ruled in favour of conventional farmer Graham Baxter, who’s GM canola allegedly contaminated a neighbouring organic property owned by Steve Marsh, resulting in Marsh losing his organic certification to a significant proportion of his land.

NASAA says that Justice Martin’s decision to rule in favour Baxter is a “significant blow” for Marsh and the organic sector of Australia as a whole.

NASAA maintains that it acted responsibly in withdrawing Organic Certification rights to Marsh’s land despite Justice Martin finding that the decertification was ‘erroneous’.

Ben Copeman, General Manager of NASAA said that the Court’s decision not to recognise NASAA’s decertification of Marsh’s land as warranted highlights the need for regulatory reform.

“We found GM canola growing on organically certified land. The court found that there was no risk of GM contamination," says Copeman.

“While tolerance thresholds for GM contamination are governed by the Federal Government under the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, it is not a legislated standard and is not recognised by the courts.

“Without any legally recognised form of protection, Australian organic farmland and produce is left vulnerable to contamination from conventional farming methods including GM crops. This could seriously threaten the sectors access to domestic and international organic markets.

Copeman said that the decision has the potential to opens a “Pandora’s Box of conflicts” between neighbours and farming communities

 “Farmers across Australia are left with an uncertain future. The need to recognise and support greater commercial security for both organic and conventional (GM free) farming is now an issue of national importance," said Copeman.

“The issue of how organic and non-organic farmers can co-exist while respecting each other’s right to farm in the way they choose will not go away and needs to be resolved.”

NASSA recently secured approval from Chinese regulators for its certification arm, NASAA Certified Organic, to inspect organic operations within Australia for export to China.

According to NASAA, the deal has the capacity to boost Australia’s organic and biodynamic industry by up to $100m per year, and marks the first time that a foreign organisation has been approved to inspect organic products for export to China.

Copeman says that progress on this agreement and others like this will be put at risk if Australia is seen to be unable to ensure the security of its organic produce.

“Australian organic standards and related export regulations have a good international reputation in key markets within SE Asia, China, Japan, USA and the European Union.

“Any unreasonable risk of contamination can lead to a loss of recognition and acceptance of Australian certified organic produce and those markets being inaccessible to Australian famers.”

 

Organic farmer loses GM canola case

Western Australian organic farmer, Steve Marsh has lost a landmark court case against his neighbour and former friend, Michael Baxter for allegedly contaminating his property with genetically modified canola.

Marsh alleged that he lost his organic certification on more than half of his farm after GM canola blew onto his land from Baxter’s neighbouring property.

Following a three week hearing, Justice Kenneth Martin ruled in favour of Baxter, stating that although Marsh and his wife bought two causes of action against their neighbour – common law negligence involving the breach of duty to ensure that the GM seeds were contained on his property, and the tort of private nuisance – they only claimed financial damages, WAToday reports.

"They did not claim to have suffered any physical damage or injury to themselves, to their animals or to their land at Eagle Rest," said Justice Martin.

"GM canola only posed a risk of transferring genetic material if a canola seed germinated in the Eagles Rest soil … and then later cross-fertilised through its pollen being exchanged with another compatible species," Justice Martin said.

"There was no evidence at the trial of any genetic transference risks posed by the RR (roundup ready) canola swathes blown into Eagle Rest at the end of 2010.

"The Marshes had never grown canola upon Eagle Rest."

Justice Martin also noted that the Marshes’ could not prove that there has been “any reasonable interference” by Baxter, and that Baxter had employed industry standard harvest methodology when planting his GM seeds.

"Mr Baxter was not to be held responsible as a broadacre farmer merely for growing a lawful GM crop and choosing to adopt a harvest methodology (swathing), which was entirely orthodox in its implementation," he said.

"Nor could Mr Baxter be held responsible, in law, for the reactions to the incursion of the Marshes' organic certification body, NCO, which in the circumstances presented to be an unjustifiable reaction to what occurred."

It has not yet been confirmed if the Marshes’ will appeal the decision.
 

Illegal workers found at WA chicken factory

Mt Barker Free Range Chicken in Western Australia has been raided for allegedly using illegal workers, with one child and 14 other suspected workers removed from the facility.

The raids took place on Thursday last week, Perth Now reports, and most of the suspected illegal workers are Malaysian.

The child, a young boy, had been taken to an alternative place of detention while the Immigration Department tries  to locate the two relatives that travelled to Australia with him.

A spokesman for Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Michaelia Cash, said 13 of the 14 illegal workers had been identified as “unlawful non-citizens” were transported to Yongah Hill and Perth immigration detention centres.

The fourteenth worker is being granted a bridging visa.

Michael Tarling from Mt Barker Free Range Chicken said the company and GRANND Processing, its main contract company, had been checked by the Department of Immigration and found to be compliant. He added, however, that some workers supplied to GRANND by another labour hire company didn’t have valid work visas.

 

 

New Zealand distillery prepares for trademark battle

Boutique New Zealand distillery, the New Zealand Whisky Collection has found itself in the midst of a trademark battle with Scottish whisky giant William Grant & Sons.

William Grant & Sons, makers of famed dram The Balvenie DoubleWood, is alleging that the New Zealand Whisky Collection’s drop, Dunedin DoubleWood's name is too similar, and has the potential to cause confusion between the two brands.

Both companies have laid claim to the use of the term ‘double wood’ which is in fact a term used to describe a barrel technique used during the maturation process of whisky.

New Zealand based solicitor, Simpson Grierson issued a statement on behalf of William Grant & Sons, stating that the company was working towards “resolving a dispute over the use of the DoubleWood trademark.”

“William Grant & Sons has used its DoubleWood trademark, which is distinctive when used in relation to alcoholic beverages, in New Zealand since 1994. This use significantly predates the New Zealand Whisky Company’s comparatively recent use,” the statement reads.

CEO and co-owner of the New Zealand Whisky Collection, Greg Ramsay says that is would be quite difficult to mistake one product for the other.

“Our bottle has a map of New Zealand on it, prominently says ‘New Zealand Whisky Collection’ and has a black box. It could not possibly be confused with The Balvenie which has a white box, white label, and to my knowledge doesn’t refer to New Zealand at all,” Ramsay told the Australian Financial Review.

“Technically you shouldn’t be able to register as a name something that refers to a common process,” he says. “We’d prefer not to go down the legal path but we’ll do what we have to do to defend Dunedin DoubleWood.”

William Grant & Sons say that they are simply seeking to protect the “craftsmanship, artistry and expertise” associated with The Balvenie DoubleWood.

“William Grant & Sons has approached the New Zealand Whisky Company on numerous occasions in an attempt to draw the matter to a close but without response since September 2013. It will continue in its efforts to seek a solution that both parties agree on,” a statement from the company reads.

Ramsay says he has a great deal of respect for the Scottish whisky giant, however he is prepared to defend his distillery’s product.

 “Anyone and everyone I’ve talked to about their legal threat thinks its laughable and legally weak, but sadly we have to take it very seriously and I am still hoping we can resolve this amicably,” he says.

“They’re a great company and Balvenie DoubleWood is actually a rather nice dram, and (William Grant & Sons is) the kind of company that might want to invest in New Zealand whisky one day.”

 

Dick to appeal OzEmite trademark decision

Following the loss of the naming rights to his OzEmite yeast spread last month, entrepreneur Dick Smith has announced that he will now appeal the decision.

“We got some very good advice from a barrister who’s an expert in this field. He thought not only would we be able to prevent him from striking out our name but we’d have a very good case of having his name removed because he pinched ours,” Smith told Mumbrella.

Intellectual Property Australia ruled in February that Smith’s OzEmite product sounds too similar to another yeast spread, AussieMite – the founder of which, Rodger Ramsay, commenced legal proceedings in 2011.

At the time of the ruling, Smith said he ‘probably’ wouldn’t appeal the decision, however an ensuing spate of public support encouraged him to reconsider.

“So many people wrote to me and said Dick, under no circumstances should you give in to this dishonesty when Ramsey’s clearly stolen your name,” Smith told Mumbrella.

“It won’t impact on our charity donations. We’ll raise the money to fund the case separately. A tremendous amount of people have volunteered to put in money.”

Ramsay said that he was disappointed to learn that Smith has chosen to challenge the decision. “We’ve come this far,” he stated. “We’re at the point of no return.  The rules are in Australia it’s first to shelf, not the first to register a trademark for who has the rights to that name.”

Smith registered the OzEmite trademark back in October 1999 with the product officially launching mid last year, while on the other side, the Ramsey’s registered the Aussie Mite trademark 18 months later than Smith in May 2001, however their product hit shelves 12 years earlier than OzEmite with a launch date of May 2000.

According to Smith’s lawyers; Johnson, Winter & Slattery, the case will most likely be heard later in the year.

 

Primo abattoir embroiled in $41k staff underpayment case

The Fair Work Ombudsman is alleging that 10 employees at a regional NSW abattoir have been underpaid more than $41,000.

The employees were supplied by labor hire company Raying Holding to the Primo Australia Scone Abattoir, operated by Hunter Valley Quality Meats. They were entry-level laborers in the slaughtering, boning and dispatch operations at the abattoir, eight of whom were casuals – Chinese nationals here on short-term visas – while the remaining two are Chinese immigrants who were employed on a full-time basis.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, the workers’ underpayments range between $347 to $10,257, and come to a total of $41,674 for periods of time worked between March 2011 and July 2013.

Legal proceedings have commenced against Raying Holding and another individual in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney. Raying Holding faces penalties of up to $51,000 per breach and the individual faces a maximum penalty of $10,200 per contravention.

Court documents allege that Raying Holding often required the employees to work more than 38 hours a week, but did not pay overtime penalty rates. It’s also alleged the employees were variously underpaid minimum wages, casual loadings and public holiday entitlements and that Raying Holding was involved in sham contracting (by representing to the two full-time employees that they were independent contractors) and breached record-keeping laws.

Fair Work inspectors discovered the alleged contraventions when they conducted an audit of the company’s books following complaints from employees.

The alleged underpayments were rectified last year, however Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says legal action is proceeding because of the significant amount involved and because the workers were deemed to be vulnerable.

 

Cadbury fights Nestle over Kit Kat trademark

Cadbury is fighting attempts by rival confectioner, Nestle, to trademark the shape of its popular chocolate snack, Kit Kat.

According to SmartCompany, the UK 3D trademark registration for the shape of the Kit Kat was accepted by the UK trademark registery on the basis that the chocolate’s shape mark is distinctive.

The case has now been referred to the European Union Court of Justice for guidance on EU law.

In Europe, this sort of trademarking comes down to whether consumers recognise the shape and colour of a product as indicating that a trademark owner is the source of the goods, and Bill Ladas, special counsel at King & Wood Mallesons, told SmartCompany a key issue in the Kit Kat case is what standard of proof is needed.

“This is usually obvious for words, but it must be the case with modern advertising practices that consumers have come immediately to recognise some shapes as branding, or that they will at least come to this recognition through promotion of that brand over the course of time,” he said.

In September last year Cadbury lost its attempt to stop Whittaker’s from trademarking the name of a chocolate block.

Cadbury was trying to stop Whittaker's from trademarking the term 'Berry Forest', arguing it too closely resembles Cadbury's 'Black Forest' chocolate flavour and would confuse customers.

And just last week, entrepreneur and advocate for Australia’s food manufacturing industry, Dick Smith, lost the name rights to his OzEmite spread, with Intellectual Property Australia ruling the product is to be pulled from retailers’ shelves.

IP Australia ruled OzEmite sounds too similar to another yeast spread, AussieMite – the founder of which, Rodger Ramsay, commenced legal proceedings in 2011.
 

Dick Smith loses OzEmite name rights

Entrepreneur and advocate for Australia’s food manufacturing industry, Dick Smith, has lost the name rights to his OzEmite spread, with Intellectual Property Australia ruling the product is to be pulled from retailers’ shelves.

According to SmartCompany, IP Australia ruled OzEmite sounds too similar to another yeast spread, AussieMite – the founder of which, Rodger Ramsay, commenced legal proceedings in 2011.

The OzEmite trademark was registered in 1999, approved until 2003 and the product launched years later in 2012. The AussieMite trademark was registered in 2001 and approved in 2006. However, the owner of a trademark must use it within five years, or a third party is able to have it removed from the register, which Ramsay was in the process of doing when Dick Smith officially launched OzEmite.

Principal trademark lawyer with Callinans, John Carroll, told SmartCompany “There is a small caveat in the legislation that you can plead special circumstances and explain why the trademark hasn’t been used, but Dick Smith assumedly never ran such an argument.

“It’s simply a case where one trademark owner didn’t meet the requirements to show the trademark had been in use, while the other did," he said.

Funds from OzEmite sales have gone to charity, and despite claiming in December last year that the legal battle with AussieMite could be “a catastrophe for us and for Dick Smith Foods”, Smith refused to fight.
"We’re not even going to appear,’’ Smith said at the time. ‘‘This is ridiculous. We’re doing this for charity.''

He added that if he was to lose the naming rights, he could re-launch the product under a name he registered in October 2011 – Dinky Di-Nemite
 

WA’s canola case shows GM crops are still being demonised

Once again, genetically modified crops are in the news for all the wrong reasons. In Western Australia’s Supreme Court, organic farmer Steve Marsh is suing his neighbour and fellow farmer Michael Baxter for allegedly ruining his crop by contaminating it with GM canola.

Marsh lost his organic certification as a result, and members of the green movement have rallied to his cause. But the case is just the latest episode in a saga that has left scientists like myself bemused at the strength with which the public has been swept up by the anti-GM movement.

We thought we were generating a useful and benign technology, but instead find ourselves portrayed as purveyors of doom and disaster. Where did it all go wrong?

Tackling disease

When I entered the field of plant pathology 30 years ago, techniques for genetic manipulation of plants had just been established, and it was clear that plants have genes that protect against disease. It seemed a simple matter to find those genes and express them in crop plants.

It wasn’t quite that simple, but by about 2000 the genetic basis of disease resistance was well understood and techniques to express genes in most crop plants had been established. So why aren’t we now enjoying the benefit of GM disease-resistant plants?

The biggest problem is that public anxiety about genetic modification has stymied progress.

A long history of regulation

Genetic modification is, I believe, unique in the history of science in that its original developers were the first to exercise caution and suggest a moratorium, at the famous Asilomar Conference in 1975. This led to a set of regulations under which we all work still today.

After a few years, the scientists realised that working with genetically modified versions of organisms such as cancer viruses was no more dangerous – and often much less dangerous – than working with the unaltered version. Nonetheless, the regulations have never been relaxed, with the result that today, the regulatory hurdles of GM crop production add tens of millions of dollars to the costs of the research.

Researching the risks

The risks of GM crops have been talked about for 25 years and not a single shred of reliable evidence of significant harm to environment or human health has been found.

I took part in a large European Union project in the 1990s to assess the risks of genes from GM crops spreading through the environment. Dozens of researchers worked for five years to identify issues of concern. They found almost nothing – the conferences were easily the most boring I have ever attended.

A couple of well-publicised cases – the first in the late 1990s, when Arpad Pusztai fed GM potatoes to rats, and more recently when Gilles-Eric Seralini made his now retracted claim that GM maize was carcinogenic – have purported to show a health risk associated with GM food. Both studies have since been discredited.

Organic crops do not receive anything like to same attention. A US Centres for Disease Control project found that people who eat organic food are eight times more likely to get infected by E. coli. In Germany, 53 people died and many more permanently disabled from eating organic bean sprouts in 2011. Imagine if GM crops were blamed for even one case of the ‘flu.

Controlling our food?

Another accusation levelled at GM crops is that big companies are “controlling our food”, forcing farmers to buy seeds each year from a monopoly supplier. People too easily forget that farmers have a choice of many types of seed. The huge expansion of the area sown to GM suggests that farmers are increasingly happy to use them. Crops from which seeds can’t be resown (for biological and legal reasons), such as maize and canola hybrids, have been around for nearly 100 years.

Organic farmers argue that coexistence is impossible because they receive a premium for their product and that GM contamination destroys their organic status. But this situation arises from the total rejection by the organic movement of all things GM over the past two decades.

Organic certification depends on a set of arbitrary rules; if the rules permitted a small mixture, there would be no case to answer. The organic movement’s total rejection of GM is irrational, especially as GM has reduced pesticide use. Why are they more worried about mixture from a GM crop treated with glyphosate than a conventional crop treated with a less benign herbicide such as triazine?

Call for coexistence

All three cropping systems (conventional, GM and organic) could coexist. This is best illustrated by the case of papaya ring spot virus in Hawaii, where a sustained epidemic of the virus had severely reduced papaya yields.

Since 1995, a GM virus-resistant cultivar has been grown very successfully. Before then, an organic crop would have been unthinkable because the virus was rife. But now, because the virus levels are so low, it is possible to grow organic papaya in among the GM crop.

The anti-GM movement should be more open to considering examples of positive co-existence such as this.

I don’t see this as a question of ignorance or ideology. Instead, I would suggest that it may be a clash with their commercial and employment interests. The anti-GM movement is spearheaded by a handful of national and multinational organisations, some with very large staffs and budgets. As a result the movement is sustained with the help of subscriptions from anxious members of the public.

Unlike scientists, who are trained to listen to arguments and accept the best evidence, the anti-GM multinationals would evidently prefer to spread anxiety rather than listen and work collaboratively with us.

The way forward

How can we resolve this impasse and move on? If handled correctly, GM crops hold great promise to help maximise the production of safe crops with minimal use of scarce resources. There is a case for their use on grounds of better water efficiency, lower greenhouse emissions, and reduced pesticide use.

Here are some more questions for anti-GM campaigners to consider.

Do they oppose the use of pharmaceuticals developed using GM technology, such as insulin and growth hormones? How would they feel about the resurgence of diabetes and dwarfism that would await if we stopped using them?

Would they want to see people die or go blind through vitamin A deficiency, rather than eat Golden Rice? These are troubling questions for many people. But they need to be answered if we are to consider properly how we want science to be harnessed for progress.

I previously consulted for Zeneca (now Syngenta). I research fungicide resistance and receive funding and support for this from GRDC and fungicide companies

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

Baby food manufacturer sues packaging firm over choke-risk recalls

Organic baby food manufacturer, Green Monkey, is suing its former packaging producer to recover almost $1 million in costs following a 2011 product recall.

Chief executive of Green Monkey, Charlotte Rebbeck, told the High Court in Auckland that her aspirations of making Green Monkey a leading and ethical exporter were ruined after a product recall in 2011 resulted in lost sales and damaged the brand’s reputation.

According to Rebbeck, an Australian baby choked on a small plastic disc found in a Green Monkey baby food pouch, and while the baby was first diagnosed as having an allergic reaction, the doctor later said it was more likely related to two earlier complaints where mothers found small plastic discs in the product.

The company’s packaging producer at the time was Aperio, who used a Malaysian manufacturer to create the pouches, but Rebbeck said she was assured the packaging would meet stringent EU packaging regulations, stuff.co.nz reports.

Now operating under the name Green Zoo, Green Monkey wanted to recall products after the first complaint was made, but Aperio said it was a once-off. Once more complaints were made, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product were recalled and Aperio then avoided absorbing responsibility or costs, Rebbeck said.

At the time of the recall, Green Monkey had distributors in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, while also supplying to Woolworths supermarkets in Australia. The company lost all its international customers at the time and the recall meant Green Monkey effectively had a six month gap in supplying products to distributors that still wanted the products.

"This completely ruined our brand, but left Aperio completely undamaged,” Rebbeck said.
 

Taste Master fined for failing to maintain extruder machine

Taste Master has been prosecuted and fined after a worker sustained serious and permanent injuries when working on an extruder machine.

Taste Master manufactures flavours for use in the manufacture of food and beverage products and also fragrances used in cosmetics, hair care products and candles.

SafeWork SA prosecuted Taste Master and Andrew Fotheringham, the sole director and responsible officer of Taste Master, for failing to provide and maintain the plant in a safe condition; and also failing to ensure that the plant was operated safely.

The South Australian Industrial Court fined Taste Master $41,250 plus legal fees for an incident which occurred in March 2011 at Lonsdale in South Australia.

The court heard that the extruder machine used to melt sugars and mix flavours comprised of a cutter component with four fan-like blades.

When it was installed the cutter had an interlock device fitted which prevented the blades operating unless the cutter head was closed. At some point the interlock device was disabled and was no longer operational during the manufacturing process.

The employee released the clip which secured the extrusion head against the cutter blades to clear a blockage. The cutter blades continued rotating at 4500rpm whilst the employee attempted to clear the blockage with heat from a propane torch and then a scraper.

The employee sustained a complex injury when using the scraper in his right hand and his left hand came into contact with the spinning cutter blades. Injuries to the workers hand included skin lacerations, the loss of soft tissue and tendon as well as bone fractures.

The employee’s ring finger was nearly amputated and his little finger sustained severe tendon damage. The employee underwent reconstructive surgery and has been left with a permanent impairment.

The second defendant, Andrew Fotheringham, was fined $11,250 plus legal fees for failing to ensure that the plant was not being operated when the safety interlock supplied with the cutter was disabled.

Bryan Russell, Executive Director of SafeWork SA responded that “a major cause of workplace injuries in South Australia arise from the lack of adequate guarding that enables people to remain safe when working with moving parts”.

“It is the responsibility of employers to be vigilant in checking that safeguards manufactured to protect employees are in place and are well maintained”.

[Image: Taste Master]

Veuve to sue over wine label colour

Iconic French champagne brand, Veuve Clicquot, is taking a small Italian winery based in Campania to court based on the colour of one of its labels. 

According to Italian website WineNews.itVeuve Clicquot believes Ciro Picariello winery’s bright orange Brut Contadino label is too similar to that of its Yellow Label Champagne.

The champagne producer, which is owned by French luxury goods house LVMH, believes the label similarity could cause confusion and potentially impinge on its profit-making potential.

LVMH has subsequently ordered its lawyers to take action against the family-owned winery, which produces a mere 3,500 bottles of the wine each year.

Ciro Picariello’s total annual production is around 50,000 bottles of wine; meanwhile Veuve Clicquot produces up to 18 million bottles per year. 

While the Veuve Clicquot label is technically Pantone 137C, it appears more yellow than orange when printed, reports wine-searcher.com.

People are taking to social media to support Ciro Picariello’s cause, creating the Twitter hashtag #boicottalavedova ("boycott the Widow").

Compare the pair: Ciro Picariello's label alongside Veuve Cliquot's

Image: wine-searcher.com

Fonterra worker reinstated after Harlem Shake dismissal [video]

A New Zealand Fonterra employee who was dismissed for performing the Harlem Shake dance while at work has had his position permanently reinstated.

Craig Flynn was fired last year after his employer discovered videos of himself and six others performing the Harlem Shake while working at Fonterra’s Takanini plant.

According to stuff.co.nz, the dairy giant said Flynn had put himself and others at risk by "dancing with a shovel between his legs, hosing water where another employee was dancing, and splashing a pallet endangering himself and others", but Flynn argued the actions were simply “horseplay” and that his dismissal was unfair.

In June last year, Flynn and a colleague, Henry Taufua, successfully appealed the company’s decision, with the Employment Relations Authority arguing that there wasn’t suitable grounds for dismissal.

"Their individual actions do not seem factually similar to the facts alleged in the respondent's [Fonterra's] authorities. Hosing an area of floor then cleaning the water up prior to employees dancing around indicates preventative steps to ensure employee safety. Falling or tipping the paper trolley may have resulted in minimal (if any) injury or damage or none at all," the ERA stated.

It ruled that Fonterra’s claim that the Harlem Shake re-enactment was dangerous was contradicted by videos showing all the employees wearing hairnets or head gear, with the exception of two employees wearing buckets on their heads. Water sprayed by Flynn was also cleaned up before the dancing took place.

Flynn’s reinstatement has now been made permanent, however Taufua’s future at the company is unclear.

ERA member Tania Tetiaha said a reasonable employer couldn’t have found that Flynn’s conduct justified dismissal, adding that Fonterra didn’t follow fair process in the dismissal. Despite this, the ERA didn’t awards costs because Flynn’s behaviour was “blameworthy.”

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Danone initiates legal proceedings against Fonterra

Dairy giant Fonterra has today confirmed that Danone has launched legal proceedings following last year’s whey protein contamination scandal.

The scandal, which ended up being a false-alarm, saw widespread recalls of Danone’s Karicare infant formula product after Fonterra issued a warning that they whey protein in the formula could contain a bacterium known to cause botulism.

Thirty-eight tonnes of the protein were believed to have been contaminated by an unsanitary pipe, however it was later uncovered that the bacteria wasn’t clostridium botulinum as originally thought, but was identified as clostridium sporogenes, which doesn’t lead to any known food safety issue.

A statement issued by Fonterra states that the business has been in ongoing discussions with Danone and is “disappointed that they have resulted in legal action” but will “vigorously defend any proceedings.”
 

Melbourne infant formula maker in $4m legal battle

Milk Powder Solutions, an infant formula manufacturer in Melbourne’s south east, will fight a $4 million lawsuit claiming it was misleading about where it sources its milk.

Hong Feng Investments is suing the company, arguing it was told by a Milk Powder Solutions employee that its milk came entirely from the Tatura region in Victoria, when in actual fact the company sources predominantly from Australia, but occasionally from New Zealand too.

According to The Land, Simon Hansford, director of Milk Powder Solutions, said the employee – a clerical assistant and interpreter – was pointing out the seasonal implications of the dairy industry and claims the company never said it sources exclusively from the Tatura region.

Hansford's lawyer said Hong Feng’s claim has come almost six months after the dismissal of another claim made by the Chinese investors, with Hong Feng ordered by the South Australian District Court to pay Milk Powder Solutions’ costs.

 

Coke loses to Pepsi in high court hearing

Frucor, owned by the Japanese beverage and food company Suntory Group, has won an intellectual property battle with beverage giant Coca Cola in New Zealand over the design of one of its bottles.

Frucor, which bottles and distributes Pepsi in NZ, was taken to court by Coke on the grounds that the design of it 300ml Carolina bottle was too similar to that of Coke’s, and may cause confusion amongst consumers -potentially mislead them into thinking they were purchasing Coca Cola, stuff.co.nz reports.

However the High Court of Auckland ruled yesterday that the bottle was unlikely to deceive or mislead, with Judge Edwin Wylie stating that there was no evidence of confusion between the two products in the four years that both products have been available for sale next to each other.

Judge Wylie questioned why the Coca Cola company had taken almost a year to launch a complaint and also why proceedings were only being issued in Australia, New Zealand and Germany considering the bottle in question has been available for sale in many other countries since 2005.

Another point that Judge Wylie noted was that the Frucor bottle had actually won a design award in the UK which attracted no complaints from Coca-Cola.

The only similarity that the court noted between the two bottles was that they both featured a waist, however when the two bottles were compared as a whole, “there was no misrepresentation,” and that there was "nothing to support the assertion that sales have been or are likely to be diverted".

"On the [Pepsi] Carolina bottle it is more gentle and the deepest point is higher. On the [Coke] contour bottle it is lower and more abrupt. Moreover, a waist is a shape in common usage in many bottles. There is no other relevant similarity between the registered trade mark and the Carolina bottle," said Wylie.

"[Coke] is in a unique position. One would expect that it would readily have been able to find out whether any retailers anywhere in the country are aware of any instances of confusion arising from the presence in the market of the defendants' Carolina bottle.'

 

Dick won’t fight for OzEmite trademark

Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith could have his OzEmite spread removed from supermarket shelves should an alleged trademark infringement be ruled against him.

Roger and Elise Ramsey, owners of a competing spread, Aussie Mite, are seeking to have Smith’s OzEmite brand – which is run for charity- removed from the trademarks register. If successful the Ramsey’s may be able to sue Smith’s charity for trademark infringement if he continues to use the name, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Smith registered the OzEmite trademark back in October 1999 with the product officially launching mid last year, while on the other side, the Ramsey’s registered the Aussie Mite trademark 18 months later than Smith in May 2001, however their product hit shelves 12 years earlier than OzEmite with a launch date of May 2000.

Since the OzEmite spread hit shelves in June last year, the product has sold 500,000 units, generating over $150,000 for charity. Although Smith says that the legal battle could be a ‘catastrophe’ for the charity, he is refusing to fight the application.

"We’re not even going to appear,’’ said Smith.

‘‘This is ridiculous. We’re doing this for charity.''

The Ramsey’s state that Smith’s OzEmite is tarnishing the reputation of their ‘premium’ product, stating that Smith’s spread is an ‘ocker’ version and want his trademark removed from the register due to ‘non-use’ between 2008 and 2011.

‘‘Basically he’s come along and launched a product called OzEmite made by our original manufacturers. It’s really frustrating,’’ she said.

Smith said that the loss of the trademark would be ‘‘a catastrophe for us and for Dick Smith Foods’’, however he has stated that the product could be re-launched under a name he registered in October 2011 – Dinky Di-Nemite – the Ramsey’ original name for Aussie Mite.

The hearing is due to take place in Canberra next Tuesday.

 

Game Farm fined $20,400 over false ‘range reared’ claims

Multi-species game bird producer, Game Farm, has paid two infringement notices totalling $20,400 and has provided a court enforceable undertaking to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The penalties relate to claims on Game Farm’s packaging and website stating that its birds are ‘range reared’, which in fact they were grown in commercial sheds and had no access to the outdoors.

The ACCC considered that the ‘range reared’ representation was likely to lead consumers to believe that birds were allowed to spend a substantial amount of their time outdoors on an open range.

“The ACCC continues to warn the poultry industry that claims made on packaging and in advertising must be true and accurate and not mislead consumers,” ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said.

The ACCC issues two $10,200 infringement notices to Game Farm, which supplies quail, spitchcock, duck, chicken and turkey to supermarket chains, wholesalers, restaurants, hotels and specialty butchers. The first infringement was for the ‘range reared’ representations on the packaging of Game Farm’s Gourmet Quail product, and the second was for the ‘range reared’ representation on its website.

As part of the court enforceable undertaking, Game Farm will send a corrective notice to its major customers and will establish and implement a trade practices compliance program to ensure this type of conduct does not occur again.

The ACCC has cracked down on credence claims this year, with a number of other companies receiving similar penalties. Earlier this month Luv-a-Duck was ordered to pay $360,000 for also making false representations about how its ducks are reared, and at the end of October, Baiada Poultry and Bartter Enterprises, the suppliers and processors of Steggles chicken products, has fined $400,000 over misleading ‘free to roam’ claims. Pepe’s Ducks had to pay a similar amount in January and was ordered not to use the phrases ‘open range’ or ‘grown nature’s way’ on its packaging or marketing material for the next three years.