Spice merchants slapped with $11k fine over fake oregano

Lemon and oregano skewers with cucumber yoghurt.
Lemon and oregano skewers with cucumber yoghurt. Photo: William Meppem

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has fined one of Australia's major spice suppliers with an infringement notice and penalty of $10,800 after finding its packets of rubbed oregano leaves were roughly 50 per cent olive leaves.

Hoyt's Food is the fourth supplier to feel the rub over fakes following a Choice investigation in 2016

Oregano choice investigation
Oregano choice investigation Photo: Choice

Only five out of 12 major brands tested by Choice were actually 100 per cent oregano, with many listing the herb as a the sole ingredient, and failing to declare major amounts of olive and sumac leaves.

Spencers Gourmet Trading was found to have a "substantial presence" of olive leaves, and got off with a court-enforable commitment to undergo annual and random testing of their oregano and other products for three years. Stonemill (Aldi's in-house brand) and Menora brands have also committed to regular testing. 

A statement released by the ACCC said that the fine had been paid in full by Hoyt's Food, and the company advised the consumer watchdog that steps to change suppliers had been taken. 

Oregano choice investigation
Oregano choice investigation Photo: Esther Han

"Consumers use labelling on food products to make their purchasing decisions and are entitled to expect accurate labelling," the ACCC statement said. 

"The ACCC issued the infringement notice because it had reasonable grounds to believe that Hoyt's Food had made false or misleading representations in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law, after it tested the composition of a sample from a batch of the 25g net variety of 'Hoyt's Oregano Leaves rubbed'."