One of WA’s largest egg producers has been handed a record $750,000 fine for making false or misleading representations regarding “free range” egg claims.
The Federal Court imposed the penalty on Snowdale Holdings Pty Ltd, which produces eggs under various labels including Eggs by Ellah, Swan Valley Free Range and Wanneroo Free Range. In May 2016, the Court found that Snowdale made false or misleading representations on egg carton labels that its eggs were free range, when in fact the hens lived in cramped conditions in industrial sheds (you can read our blog on the case here).
Said ACCC Commissioner, Mick Keogh, “This is the highest penalty that a Court has ordered in relation to misleading “free range” egg claims. It reflects the seriousness of Snowdale’s conduct and the importance of egg producers being truthful about marketing claims they make”. Acknowledging that consumers are prepared to pay a higher price for ethically produced eggs, Mr Keogh further stated that egg producers which have altered their farming practices to ensure they can validly state their products are free range deserve protection from those producers making false claims.
The Court also ordered Snowdale not use the words “free range” in relation to its eggs unless those eggs are produced by hens which are able to go outside, and do actually go outside, on most days. Snowdale was further ordered to pay a contribution towards the ACCC’s costs and implement a consumer law compliance program.
Lesson learned: the chicken does indeed come before the egg.