Celebrity chef Maggie Beer’s company – Maggie Beer Products Pty Ltd – has been reprimanded by the consumer watchdog for falsely representing a number of gourmet products as having been manufactured in South Australia, when they were in fact made in Queensland.
A number of products, including ice cream, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, all carried the “Maggie Beer” logo which depicts a pheasant with the words “Maggie Beer A Barossa Food Tradition”. The products also included a South Australia address, and the words “Made in Australia” or “Product of Australia”.
Following an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the company was found to have misled consumers. The watchdog considered the likely result for any reasonable customer reading the labels to deduce that the product was South Australian.
In addition, the company was also found to have made false representations to the public during a “Local Fair” held at a Woolworths supermarket in Mitcham, South Australia in April 2013. Namely, that its Ice cream and Rosemary and verjuice biscuits were “local” products, when that was not the case.
“Consumers are often willing to pay premium prices for local products and businesses are following consumer demand by stocking local goods. Protecting the integrity of credence claims made about food products is a priority enforcement area for the ACCC,” Chairman Rod Sims said.
“The Barossa Valley is a nationally recognised premium food and wine destination, and businesses in that region use place of origin claims to promote or distinguish their product from others in the market.”
“Misleading representations about the origin of products to capitalise on this demand undermines the integrity of credence claims which are relied on by consumers and, equally important, can harm competing producers whose products are made locally,” Mr Sims said.
Maggie Beer Products has cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation and, as part of the undertaking, will amend its labelling so that the place of manufacture for products made outside of South Australia is made clear to consumers. It will also shortly publish an educative article in Food Magazine.
The matter reportedly came to the attention of the ACCC as a result of a separate but similar matter concerning Maggie Beer’s daughter Saskia Beer and her company Barossa Farm Produce.
Maggie Beer Products released a statement in response to the matter, and said it has now removed the tagline from its logo, and modified labelling on its 200 products to include the state in which they were made.
Maggie Beer said she supported the ACCC’s “interpretation on provenance in food labelling”.
“Maggie Beer customers can be 100 per cent sure on the provenance of the food that we offer,” she said. “I apologise to anyone who may in the past have been misled in any way. It’s the last thing I would want to do.”
Ms Beer added that the four product lines were originally made in South Australia, but that the company changed suppliers as it expanded.