Hoyt's Food fined by ACCC over oregano claims

Hoyt’s Oregano Leaves rubbed

Hoyt's Food has agreed to pay an AUD$10,800 penalty for misleading oregano statements.

Hoyt Food Manufacturing Industries Pty is a distributor of oregano and supplies to retailers across Australia.

The firm has changed supply arrangements and said it would test oregano products in the future.

The development is the latest as part of an investigation into products labelled as ‘oregano’ following a complaint from Choice, the consumer advocate group, which showed that of 12 samples tested, only five were 100% oregano.

Testing finds 50% olive leaf

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued the infringement notice because Hoyt’s Food made false or misleading representations in contravention of Australian Consumer Law.

Payment of a penalty in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the law.

The ACCC considered that statements ‘Oregano Leaves’ and ‘Oregano has a strong aromatic camphor like scent’ on product packaging misrepresented it as only oregano, except for trace ingredients.

Testing commissioned by the authority from a batch of the 25g net variety of “Hoyt’s Oregano Leaves rubbed” indicated it contained 50% olive leaf.

Consumer expectations

Sarah Court, ACCC commissioner, said suppliers of food must ensure the accuracy of representations about the ingredients on labelling and any other packaging.

“Consumers use labelling on food products to make their purchasing decisions and are entitled to expect accurate labelling.”

In earlier moves, Anchor Foods Pty trading as Spencers Gourmet Trading (Spencers) agreed to have one sample of its oregano tested annually for three years by an internationally accredited lab as part of a court enforceable undertaking.

ACCC also took action against two retailers, Aldi and Menora , who must regularly test to prove products labelled as 'oregano' are what they claim.

Choice found oregano from brands Master of Spices, Hoyt's, Stonemill (Aldi), Spice & Co, Menora, Spencers and G Fresh contained ingredients other than oregano, including olive leaves and sumac leaves.

Ingredients other than oregano made up between 50% and 90% of the adulterated samples.

The organisation tested products in late 2015 and a sample from a single batch of each was analysed using Fourier Transform Infrared(FT-IR) spectroscopy and chemometric modelling.

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