ACCC publishes free-range egg guide
The guide, which sets out the ACCC’s approach to enforcing misleading conduct, has been published simultaneously to a consultation on the introduction of a national standard for free-range egg labelling in Australia.
Egg producers have spoken about the desirability of a national standard to ensure against inadvertent mis-claims of ‘free range’, which can lead to fines and reputation damage.
“The Australian Consumer Law requires that any statement or representation a business makes when advertising or selling free range eggs must not be misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
In the guide, the ACCC sets out what it considers to be a free range claim, including:
- Using the words free range on packaging or in advertising material
- Using words that mean the same thing as free range on packaging or in advertising material
- Using pictures of hens ranging freely, including in a grassy field.
“If it is not normal for most of the hens to leave the barn and to move about freely on an open range on most days, making a free range claim is likely to be misleading. This approach accords with common sense”, Mr Sims said.
“The ACCC acknowledges that laying hens may spend periods indoors and we do not expect to always see hens on the range or expect every hen to be outside every day.
“Indeed, the ACCC does not expect farmers to use a precise approach of tracking hens or head counts. A common sense approach of simply observing that the range is in regular use by a significant proportion of hens on most days is likely to be sufficient.
“On the other hand, we reject claims that it is acceptable to tell consumers that eggs are from free range hens when the outdoor range is not regularly used by the hens – whether this is the result of farming practices or for any other reason.”
The ACCC has previously undertaken a number of investigations and taken court action against some suppliers it alleged were misleading consumers with free range claims. Some investigations continue and a number of cases remain before the Court.