Labelling breach: pricey premium imports cost beer retailer

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 21st September 2010

A Sydney bottle shop chain, Chambers Cellars, has found itself on the NSW Food Authority’s Name and Shame list for twelve labelling breaches, including the failure to declare the number of standard drinks contained in imported beer products.

“Food labelling, whether it relates to food or alcohol, is an important tool for the consumer in terms of understanding exactly what the product is they intend to consume,” Minister Whan said.

“There are serious health and safety implications when it comes to knowing exactly how many standard drinks you’re consuming.

“In addition, it creates an unfair advantage to a retailer who is cutting corners and not complying with Australian labelling requirements under the Food Standards Code.”

The practice, known as parallel importing, is where retailers bypass the local franchised supplier/importer of a product and source them from third parties. Parallel imports are legitimately produced and compliant in the country of production, but may not be compliant with the local labelling requirements.

“In this situation what it means is that the products sampled were labelled to suit the original country distributed to, and for the most part the majority of the beers were not labelled in English,” Minister Whan said.

“Competing industry have a financial interest in these products, as they are authorised domestic distributors, and have costs associated with ensuring imported products are labelled to comply with the Food Standards Code.”

Australian labelling law requires that an Australian supplier contact name and address is provided to effect efficient recall of products and for the consumer to ensure their ability to seek recourse if required.

Chambers Cellars outlets in Penrith, Blacktown, Parramatta, Liverpool and Kur-in-gai, all owned and operated by Steven Chambers Pty Ltd, were issued a combined total of twelve penalty notices by the NSW Food Authority for failing to label their beer with standard drinks information and supplier names and addresses.

Each penalty notice carries a fine of $660 with total fines of $7,920 issued to Chambers Cellars.

The non compliant products seized included imported premium brands including Asahi, Becks bier (bottle/can), Carlsberg, Heineken, Kingfisher, Miller Genuine Draft, Peroni Nastro, Peroni Red, Stella Artois (bottle/can), Grand Imperial Porter, Martens, Perla Export, Warka Beer and Zlote.