ACCC uses Consumer Rights Day to warn food industry of need for honest communication

Posted by James Ferre on 16th March 2009

On World Consumer Rights Day 2009, held yesterday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reminded the food and beverage industry that its marketing must be accurate and truthful.
“It doesn’t matter how you communicate with consumers – whether it is through advertising, sponsorship, packaging, logos, or nutritional claims – the information provided must not mislead and it must not deceive,” ACCC Deputy Chair, Mr Peter Kell said.

World Consumer Rights Day is an international day of action and awareness, observed by consumer organisations and civil rights groups around the world. This year’s theme was a continuation on last year’s campaign, which focussed on the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

Mr Kell said the ACCC plays an important role in ensuring food marketing does not breach the Trade Practices Act 1974.

“In Australia, there are laws in place to protect consumers from false, misleading, and deceptive marketing practices,” he reminded businesses. “The ACCC has taken a number of successful actions in relation to misleading or deceptive claims in the food and beverage industry including court actions against Arnott’s Biscuits and Nudie Australia.”

“With so many choices and so much information available, it can be quite confusing for consumers to make decisions,” Mr Kell stated. “Even if a consumer knows they are looking for a ‘healthy’ food, an ‘organic’ food or a product which is prepared in an ‘environmentally friendly’ way, the messages put out there by industry can sometimes be confusing.”

“Companies should carefully consider what claims are being made about a product and give thought to how a consumer, particularly a young consumer, may interpret the representations,” he added.

The ACCC acknowledged, however, that members of the food industry have sought to address food labelling issues.

“It is important from the ACCC’s perspective that we continue to have constructive engagement with the food industry on these important consumer issues,” Mr Kell concluded.

More information about the Consumers International Junk Food Generation Campaign is available at junkfoodgeneration.org.