ACCC stings 'honey' importer for false claims

Product of Turkey. Hi Honey features a map of Australia on its green and gold label. PICTURE: Justin Whitelock
Product of Turkey. Hi Honey features a map of Australia on its green and gold label. PICTURE: Justin Whitelock

HONEY importers are on notice after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission fined a Mediterranean and Turkish food supplier for misrepresenting a "honey" product as originating from Victoria.

Melbourne-based Basfoods Pty Ltd was made to pay fines totalling $30,600 for three offences relating to a product labelled "Victoria Honey".

The three infringement notices were issued on the basis the labelling contained false or misleading representations about the composition and place of origin of the product. Victoria Honey was a product of Turkey and was mainly comprised of sugars from corn and sugar cane rather than honey produced by honeybees.

"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.

"False claims of this kind not only mislead consumers but can also disadvantage competing honey suppliers, particularly those who source honey locally within Australia.

"Honey suppliers should now be on notice 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. The ACCC is aware of concerns in relation to other suppliers and products labelled as honey and will pursue these further with the benefit of the outcome in this matter."

Basfoods supplied 180,649 one kilogram tubs and 1126 four kilogram tubs of Victoria Honey to independent supermarkets, retailers, restaurants and cafes in Australia from July 2011 to December 2013. The company has since undertaken to regularly test its products and only sell product as honey if it is produced entirely by bees.

On June 17, The Courier reported Sebastopol beekeeper Gavin Jamieson had discovered another product of Turkey labelled "Hi Honey", featuring a map of Australia on its packaging. The importer Bera Foods withdrew the product from sale earlier this year, according to the company's general manager, following complaints about the quality.

An ACCC spokesman said the organisation was aware of complaints about other products labelled as honey bout would not comment on potential investigations.