Egg industry pressured to review free-range claims

Friday, 14 November, 2014

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is urging the egg industry to review its free-range claims after a free-range egg producer was fined $300,000 for falsely labelling its eggs as ‘free range’.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims says the ACCC will be contacting egg suppliers in writing.

“We are encouraging them to consider whether they should review the words and images used on their free-range egg cartons and any advertising claims about their free-range eggs,” said Sims.

“Some have expressed concern that there is no government standard that producers need to meet to be a free-range producer. We see no need for any standard.

“In the Pirovic case the court ruled that free range means the birds can and do go outside on most days. It is up to producers to determine how to meet this common sense definition.

“Any prescriptive standard beyond this would likely have requirements that are not relevant to what consumers understand free range to mean.”

Sims also said that the agricultural sector stands to gain from reforms proposed as part of the Harper Competition Review.

“I urge you to engage strongly with this reform agenda, and to push for other reforms that can improve how markets work to your benefit.”

He said three sets of improvements are needed around the collective bargaining and notifications process.

“First, there is a need to make collective boycott action possible; this is where, say, farmers could legally collectively withhold their produce from sale until they gain a purchase contract they are satisfied with,” he said.

“Second, we are conscious that small businesses do not use the simpler and faster notification process to seek protection under the Act as frequently as they use the authorisation process. We believe this is because of the lack of flexibility of the notification process.

“Third, we consider the maximum threshold to notify a collective bargaining arrangement should be reviewed to ensure that it is not restricting participation by small business.”

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