Celebrity cook Maggie Beer has apologised over misleading labelling in her product range following an investigation by the consumer watchdog, just months after her daughter was reprimanded for deceiving customers.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said place of origin labelling on four Maggie Beer product lines gave the impression they were manufactured in the Barossa Valley in South Australia, when in fact they were produced in a different state.
Maggie Beer-branded ice-cream, extra virgin olive oil, and rosemary and verjuice biscuits are made by third parties in Victoria, and the company’s aged red wine vinegar is produced in Queensland.
But since at least 2011 labelling on the four product lines - which comprise about 200 products - has included “A Barossa Food Tradition” tagline inscribed at the bottom of the company’s logo, as well as the the company’s South Australian address on the packaging.
The ACCC said Maggie Beer Products also told Woolworths the four products were made in South Australia, and made representations to the public at a local fair in South Australia last year that the ice-cream and biscuits were made locally.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said consumers were prepared to pay more for local products, such as those from the Barossa Valley region.
"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," he said.
“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."
Maggie Beer Products admitted the labelling was likely to be in breach of consumer laws and gave an undertaking to change the packaging and review its compliance with consumer laws.
On Tuesday the company released a statement that said it had removed the tagline from its logo and modified labelling on the 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Ms Beer said the four product lines were originally made in South Australia, but that the company changed suppliers as it expanded.
In June the ACCC accused Ms Beer’s daughter of misleading conduct in relation to product labelling.
The ACCC claimed Saskia Beer breached consumer laws between 2010 and 2013 by stating on product labels that pork in her Barossa Farm Produce range was from heritage Berkshire pigs, when this was not the case.
At the time Saskia Beer said there was no intention to mislead consumers, but accepted responsibility and apologised. She was forced to publish a corrective notice on the company’s website and agreed to attend trade practices compliance training.