Food businesses reminded of organic and free-range expectations

Posted by Isobel Drake on 26th November 2009

The Tasmanian Minister for Corrections and Consumer Protection, Lisa Singh, today issued a warning to businesses regarding advertising for ‘free-range’ or ‘organic’ products that may be false or misleading.

“Whilst there is currently no legal standard or definition of the term free-range, there is a common understanding and expectation from consumers about what that means,” Ms Singh said. “People have an understanding of what they believe free-range means.”

‘‘Consumers purchase products such as free-range eggs or free-range pork on the assumption that the birds or animals have been treated in a certain manner, such as not being held in cages and having access to pasture and shelter.”

As for organic food, Ms Singh noted that most purchasers of this type of product would understand that the food is produced without the use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides.

“Consumers choose to buy these types of products over others, often paying a premium price and are entitled to receive what they paid for,” she said. “Businesses making claims about products being ‘free-range’ or ‘organic’ may be asked to provide evidence to support their claims.”

“If they are unable to substantiate their claims, prosecution action may follow.”

Ms Singh advised that the penalties for false or misleading representations under the Fair Trading Act are up to $24,000 for an individual and $120,000 for a corporation.