Two Australian poultry firms are rolling out new labels and bags for their products that no longer use the claim ‘not genetically modified’, after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that such a claim could be potentially misleading or deceptive even if it was technically true. 

“Packaging claiming ‘not genetically modified’ could mislead consumers in this case given that feed which is genetically modified may be being used,” said ACCC deputy chair Louise Sylvan.

“Genetic modification in relation to food is an important emerging issue for consumers.  The ACCC aims to ensure that consumers can be confident in the accuracy of information on products in this regard,” she added.

Baiada Poultry, the third-largest poultry producer in Australia, has begun relabelling its Lilydale Select Free Range chicken products following discussions with the ACCC.

The ACCC has also been in negotiations with Bartter Steggles, Australia’s second-largest producer of poultry, regarding similar statements that currently appear on Steggles packaging. Both companies use feed that may contain genetically modified material.

Bartter Steggles has told the ACCC that a complete rollout of new packaging without the ‘not genetically modified’ statements will take place by May 2005.

“The ACCC is watching ‘GM-free’ claims closely in the market and reminds food producers more generally that within the strong wording of our misleading conduct laws, ‘free’ has to mean ‘free’,” Sylvan added.

Australia’s largest poultry producer, Inghams Enterprises, does not make claims on its packaging that its chickens are ‘GM-free’.