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Noantibiotics claim costs chicken producer $10,000

'No antibiotics' claim costs chicken producer $10,000

Misleading claims that its chickens were fed ‘no antibiotics’ have cost Medallion Trading Limited $10,000 plus costs after it pleaded guilty to breaching the Fair Trading Act in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday.

The Commerce Commission laid charges against the company following an investigation into claims made from October 2001 to April 2002, when it was trading as Rangitikei Game Birds Limited, that its chickens were not fed any antibiotics. The chickens had in fact been fed coccidiostats, a type of antibiotic, and some had also been fed a mix of other antibiotics.

Earlier this year the company changed its name to Medallion Trading Limited and sold the assets of its business including the trading name ‘Rangitikei Game Birds’. The company now using that product name is not implicated in these breaches of the Fair Trading Act.

Director of Fair Trading Deborah Battell said that the Commission considered the offending to be serious because it was very difficult for consumers to verify the claims being made.

“People are prepared to pay a premium for chicken with special characteristics and in this case were utterly reliant on the claims being made by the company that the chicken was antibiotic-free.”

“Whether there were issues relating to the classification of coccidiostats as antibiotics, or systems failures relating to the feed formula used, the company failed to accurately represent to consumers the characteristics of the chicken they were buying.

“This is inconsistent with the aims of the Fair Trading Act which requires and promotes an informed market place.” Ms Battell added, “the simple message is inform consumers, don’t mislead them”.

Background Previous prosecutions taken by the Commerce Commission in the industry:

In October 2002, Willem Klaas Stolte, owner/operator of Masterton Poultry Farm, was fined $10,000 in the Masterton District Court after pleading guilty to breaching the Fair Trading Act in relation to the sale of free-range eggs sold under the Hen House brand.

A Commerce Commission investigation revealed that Stolte was selling barn eggs as free-range over a period of seven months in 2001. During that period over 17,000 dozen more ‘free-range’ eggs were sold, at a price premium, than were actually produced.

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