CHOICE finds fraudulent oregano products on supermarket shelves

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 6th April 2016

Oregano 2Australian consumer advocacy group CHOICE has discovered that only five out of 12 supermarket dried oregano products contained 100 per cent oregano when tested by the group.

One brand, Master of Spices, consisted of less than 10 per cent oregano.

CHOICE’s investigation found that this product and the other not 100 per cent oregano products used olive and sumac leaves alongside the oregano herb.

“There is clearly a major problem in the oregano supply chain in Australia, which also raises the question about other herbs and spices entering the Australian market,” said CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

The consumer advocacy group decided to investigate dried oregano products in Australian supermarkets after a similar UK study in 2015 discovered 25 per cent of oregano samples were not 100 per cent oregano.

“With consumers spending AUD$115m on herbs and spices last year, we were concerned that Australian consumers might also be affected by the same issue, so we decided to carry out a spot check on the authenticity of oregano being sold here,” said Godfrey.

“We purchased a selection of dried oregano products from supermarkets, grocers and delis in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth – 12 different brands in total – and had a single sample of each product analysed,” he said.

Oregano product that passed the test:

–       Masterfoods

–       Woolworths Select

–       Coles

–       McCormick

–       Herbies Spices

Oregano product that did not contain 100 per cent oregano: 

–       Master of Spices (less than 10 per cent)

–       Hoyt’s (11 per cent)

–       Aldi’s Stonemill (26 per cent).

–       Spice and Co (35 per cent)

–       Menora (36 per cent)

–       Spencers (40 per cent)

–       G Fresh (50 per cent)

CHOICE says it has referred its findings to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Aldi has now removed its Stonemill Oregano and is offering consumers a full refund on the product if it is returned to stores by 31 May 2016. The supermarket said it only recently became aware that its Stonemill product was not 100 per cent oregano between January 2015 and March 2016 and that it was working to ensure the product returns with 100 per cent oregano only.

Masters of Spice responded to the CHOICE investigation by saying it has since cut all ties with its original supplier and it is now confident the oregano it is selling on supermarket shelves are 100 per cent oregano only. It said it was shocked to find out its supplied oregano was not pure oregano and have passed on this information to the relevant authorities.

Spice and Co said it was also horrified by the news that its supplier had not being providing 100 per cent oregano and that it is taking steps to secure a new supplier.

Spencers said it was in talks with its supplier over the matter and that that it may have unknowingly on sold a product that was not to specification. It apologised to its customers and will be replacing oregano products with best before dates of 12 August 2017. It has withheld any further sales of Spencers Oregano pending further testing and certification to guarantee its promise of authenticity.

Hoyt’s said it was co-operating with ACCC investigations in regards to batch number 19615, date of packaging 17 July 2015 for its Hoyts Oregano 25g sachet. It said there was nothing to lead them to believe that their supplier was providing them with anything but 100 per cent oregano. It said it was now in talks with its supplier over the matter. Since being informed of the matter it has acted to ensure it is providing 100 per cent oregano.

G Fresh said it in no way deliberately intended to mislead its customers. It said that the oregano tested was not from its usual supplier and it was unaware it was not pure oregano. G Fresh will be conducting independent testing to avoid the same issue occurring again and it is also offering a full refund on the impact product, batch number 270515.

Menora did not respond to Australian Food News’ request for comment before the publication of this article.