Another crackdown on free-range egg claims
The Australian Federal Court has ruled that RL Adams Pty Ltd, trading as Darling Downs Fresh Eggs, engaged in misleading conduct and representations when labelling and promoting its eggs as ‘free-range’.
Darling Downs Fresh Eggs admitted that between the 31 December 2013 and the 6 October 2014 that its hens were kept indoors at all times despite free-range packaging claims.
In a media release on the Darling Downs Fresh Eggs webiste RL Adams Pty Ltd said it was so focused on protecting its birds during an influenza outbreak it inadvertently broke the law.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims however said Australian Consumer Law requires egg producers to be honest at all times.
“The issue of free range is very important to many consumers and the Australian Consumer Law requires egg producers to make truthful, and not misleading, claims,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“It’s clearly misleading to claim your eggs are free range when the hens that laid the eggs didn’t roam freely outdoors.”
“People are willing to pay a premium for free range eggs which they believe meet ethical or welfare standards. Businesses should not be benefitting financially from misleading claims about farming practices,” Sims said.
Darling Downs Fresh Eggs was fined AUD$250 000 for its misleading conduct and representation. The court also ruled that the company must introduce a compliance program and notify consumers of the breach via newspapers and its website.
R.L. Adams Pty Ltd Executive Geoff Sondergeld said that animal welfare was the company’s main priority and he used the ruling as a chance to call for better synergy between consumer and animal welfare laws.
“We are concerned other egg producers could be taken to court inadvertently unless we have a national code covering all issues of the production of eggs that includes both consumer and hen welfare,”said Sondergeld.