THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released guidance for egg producers on the new free range labeling laws that take effect on April 26.
Consumer affairs ministers from around Australia signed on to a new National Information Standard in March last year, agreeing to change consumer law and create standard criteria for free range classification.
Producers cannot label their cartons ‘free range’ unless the eggs were laid by hens that:
- Had meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during the daylight hours of the laying cycle
- Were able to forage outdoors
- Were stocked to a density of 10 000 hens or less per hectare, and that stocking density is prominently displayed on packaging or signage
The ACCC’s guidance also explains producers’ obligations under the misleading or deceptive conduct provisions of consumer law, which includes representations made through marketing activities such as product packaging and advertising.
Government also intends to introduce a ‘safe harbour’ defence to shield producers that comply with the free range standards from misleading conduct charges.
“Shoppers are willing to pay a premium for free range eggs, but only if the chickens genuinely have regular access to an outdoor range. From April 26, free range must only be used by compliant egg producers so consumers can have confidence in the products they are buying,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
“If an egg producer’s hens are using the outdoor range on a regular basis and they satisfy the stocking density requirements, then the producer can call their eggs free range.
Egg producers who use images, pictures or words to falsely claim their eggs are free range risk breaching the law, Mr Sims said.
“The ACCC is monitoring the market to ensure that free range claims are truthful and accurate and will continue to take action against those that don’t.”