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Organic means 100% organic

15 June 2006/138

Organic means 100% organic, and fresh means 100% fresh

In the second case of its kind, an Auckland butcher has been fined for falsely labelling products as certified organic when they were not.

Ron Ross and Ross’s Super Meat Store Ltd were fined a total of $3,700, and ordered to pay costs of $390, in the Auckland District Court yesterday for claiming products sold through the Mt Eden butchery were certified organic when they were not.

Ross and the company pleaded guilty to four charges, including falsely advertising chicken as “certified organic chicken”. Although the chickens were sourced from certified organic farms, they were butchered onsite at Ross’s butchery in Mt Eden, which had never been certified by either Bio-Gro or Agriquality New Zealand (formerly CERTENZ), two leading certifiers of organic producers in New Zealand.

Ross’s also advertised honey soy chicken nibbles as “organic” when the marinade was not, and sold turkeys as “fresh” when the turkeys had been supplied frozen and thawed at the butchery.

Commerce Commission Director of Fair Trading Deborah Battell welcomed the strong deterrent effect of both this fine and that in the recent case of Clark’s Organic Butchery. “These two recent judgments send a very clear message to those involved in the organic industry: that consumers expect both “organic” and “certified organic” products to be 100% organic through the entire chain, from farmyard to shop shelf. This includes any ingredients that are added to products.

“Consumers should also be able to expect that products advertised as “fresh” are 100% fresh. It is a complete abuse of trust, and potentially dangerous, to provide consumers with thawed frozen products, particularly meat products, and claim that they are fresh.

“Consumers pay a premium for organic and fresh products and must be able to trust the integrity of these labels. Ross and his company were more than aware of their obligations under the Fair Trading Act from previous dealings with the Commission, but chose to continue to mislead the public. By doing this, they have not only affected their own reputation but potentially undermined consumer trust in other “organic” businesses.”

This is the second time an organic supplier has been sentenced by the courts, after Jason Arthars, the former owner of Clark’s Organic Butchery, was found guilty and fined $10,000 for claiming products were certified organic when they were not.

Background

Section 10 of the Fair Trading Act 1986 says that no person shall, in trade, engage in conduct that is liable to mislead the public as to the nature, manufacturing process, characteristics, suitability for a purpose, or quantity of goods.

Section 13(a) of the Fair Trading Act relates to false or misleading representations that goods are of a particular kind, standard, quality, grade, quantity, composition, style or model, or have had a particular history or particular previous use.

ENDS

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