You would think that it was just obvious that if a business makes a claim or says something about the product or business on the packaging then it must be true. This “true” means that it is really happening and is how all others would actually see it. It does not mean that it is something open to interpretation. It must be what is. So, as an example, if a package were to say that the product is gluten free, then it must contain absolutely no gluten at all.
To ensure this, The Trade Practices Act, and other legislation in Australia (and similar in other countries), make this law.
So not only do businesses have a moral obligation to always ensure they tell the truth on their packaging and elsewhere, but they have a legal requirement as well.
So, if it is so obvious, why do we still have cases going to courts over this issue of food businesses being involved in false, misleading and deceptive conduct with what is stated or shown on their packaging and elsewhere?
Only this week, large poultry producers in Australia were found, by the Australian Federal Court, to have practised such conduct. It is not only food businesses that have had such findings against them. In a related case this week, the peak body for that industry has also been found to have engaged in such conduct as well.
In these cases, it was all about what is actually meant by the terms “free roam” and “roam freely”.
Another case related to such conduct was heard in January 2012 and the result was similar.
The truth is what the average person would consider it to be. It is not open to interpretation. If an average person, as an example, would consider that a bird having only a metre at the most to walk around in is not free roaming, then it simply isn’t something that a business can claim.
Sarah Court, ACCC Commissioner, said “Consumers must be able to make informed purchasing decisions. Promotional activities that convey an impression of farming practices are powerful representations that influence food choices. Misleading credence claims can also undermine the level playing field and disadvantage other suppliers. The Court’s decision makes it clear to producers and suppliers that any claims made in relation to farming practices must be accurate.”
This article was written by Rachelle Williams, The Green Food Safety Coach