Philippines-based food group Monde Nissin and discount retail giant Aldi have agreed to test the contents of their herbs and spices in Australia after a probe by the country’s competition and consumer watchdog found the “substantial presence” of olive leaves in products supplied by the two companies.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said Monde Nissin, trading as Menora Foods, and Aldi have accepted “court-enforceable undertakings” to conduct the tests.
The ACCC said it had also “resolved concerns with three other suppliers about the composition of their respective products labelled as oregano.
The Aldi product in question was the firm’s Stonemill brand of oregano, sold exclusively at the retailer. The Menora brand of oregano, available at IGA and independent food services across the states of Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia, was also under scrutiny, the ACCC said.
According to the ACCC, its investigation found that during 2015, Aldi made representations through statements on the packaging of its Stonemill brand oregano product that the product contained 100% oregano. “These statements included the text ‘oregano’ on the front of the package and the ingredients list on the back of the package, which said – ‘ingredients: Oregano (100%)’.”
The ACCC’s probe into Menora found that between “at least October 2015 and March 2016, Menora made representations through statements on the packaging of its oregano product that the product contained only oregano, other than possible traces of tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, sesame seeds and soy”.
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ACCC chairman Rod Sims said: “By labelling their products as oregano, both Aldi and Menora represented to consumers that their products contained only oregano. Test results provided to the ACCC identified the substantial presence of olive leaves in both Aldi and Menora’s oregano products. Suppliers of food products have an obligation to ensure ingredients of their products are accurately labelled and should be able to substantiate any representations made on the packaging that they approve.”
The ACCC said after raising the issue with Aldi and Menora, both “took a number of steps to address concerns… and accepted their conduct was likely to mislead consumers and contravene the Australian Consumer Law”.
Both Aldi and Menora have agreed “to regularly obtain test reports which confirm the composition of their products labelled as oregano”, the ACCC said. “They have also undertaken to implement testing of the composition of a number of other herb and spice products.”
The ACCC’s investigation into a number of products labelled as oregano followed a complaint from the consumer advocate group Choice.
The ACCC said “to improve clarity in the industry”, it has also agreed to administrative resolutions with the smaller suppliers of G Fresh Oregano Leaves Mediterranean, Master of Spices Oregano Leaves and Spice & Co Oregano Leaves, “which ensure they cease supply of oregano products that contain contents other than oregano leaves and will take steps to confirm the authenticity of their oregano products for future supply”.
Meanwhile, the ACCC said it is continuing its investigation into other traders in relation to products labelled as oregano.