Melbourne-based Basfoods, a distributor of Mediterranean food products, has been forced to pay penalties totalling A$30,600 (US$28,670) after the ACCC found that its Victoria Honey was neither honey nor was it made in the state.
The company had suggested through its marketing and labelling that the honey been been produced by honey bees, when in actual fact it was mostly made sugars from plants including corn and sugar cane.
Moreover, the ACCC also considered that by naming and labelling its product “Victoria Honey”, Basfoods had represented the product as originating from Australia when it was really a product of Turkey.
The three infringement notices were issued to Basfoods because the ACCC had reasonable grounds to believe that the labelling of Victoria Honey and Basfoods’ website contained false or misleading representations about the composition and place of origin of Victoria Honey, in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
Basfoods has since admitted that its conduct contravened the law, and has undertaken only to sell a product as honey if it is entirely produced by honey bees, and to regularly test its products, including honey. Basfoods will also publish a range of corrective notices.
“It is difficult for consumers to test claims by traders that a certain product is actually honey or is from a certain place of origin,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
Tip of the iceberg
False claims like this not only mislead consumers but can also harm competing honey suppliers, particularly those who source honey locally within Australia.
The Australian Honey Bee Industry Council has recently complained about five other suppliers, which it says have been importing honey from Turkey, Italy and Serbia. Independent testing showed the honey contained varying levels of what was most likely to be corn syrup.
“Honey suppliers should now be on notice that they must have a basis for selling a product as ‘honey’, which likely should include tests to confirm the product is in fact honey produced entirely by honey bees,” Sims added.
Basfoods supplied Victoria Honey to independent supermarkets, speciality retailers, online stores, delis, restaurants and cafes, as well as through its own retail stores and via its website.