Australian Company Fined for Deceptive Olive Oil Labeling
By Julie Butler
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Barcelona
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims
A product prominently labeled ‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil’ and ’100% Olive Oil’ — but that was 93 percent canola oil — has resulted in two fines totaling AU$20,400 (US $19,850) for misleading claims by MOI International, an Australian subsidiary of Malaysia-based MOI Foods.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Queensland-based MOI International imported the ‘Mediterranean Blend’ oil from Malaysia and sold 3L tins of the oil in 2012 and 2013.
Fine print on the side of the container revealed the oil was 93 per cent canola oil and just seven percent extra virgin olive oil.
Consumers should be able to trust label
“The term ‘extra virgin’ is widely understood by consumers to mean a premium product. Consumers should be able to trust that what’s on the label is what’s in the bottle when making purchasing decisions,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“Traders who mislead consumers in this manner leave themselves wide open to enforcement action from the ACCC,” he said.
“Although there is no mandatory standard for extra virgin olive oil in Australia, it is widely accepted that it is the highest grade oil obtained from the first press of the best quality olives, it is not blended with other oil and that there are no solvents or refining in the manufacturing process,” an ACCC press release said.
Concern that Australian standard not mandatory
According to Australia’s Weekly Times, Australian Olive Association (AOA) chief executive Lisa Rowntree said the AOA brought the olive oil to the attention of the ACCC after a concerned consumer sent in a container of it.
Rowntree was quoted as disappointed that more was not being done on olive oil adulteration and that the ACCC did not recognize the Australian Standard for Olive Oil (AS5264-2011) as mandatory.
MOI touts its oil as ideal for shallow frying and salads
MOI International has yet to respond to requests from Olive Oil Times for comment. Its website says its ‘Mediterranean Blend’ oil is “a blend of canola and olive oil, packed in a 3L tin that is easy to handle and can be poured with one hand. Ideal for shallow or wok frying and salads.”
MOI International paid the fines on May 30. The payment of infringement notice penalties is not an admission of contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
MOI Foods launched its Australian subsidiary in June 2000 and its New Zealand branch in July 2009. It is part of the palm oil giant Mewah Group.
In May last year, The Big Olive Company, in South Australian, paid two infringement notices totaling AUD$13,200 (US $12,850) for labeling products as ‘extra virgin olive oil’, which the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission considered was misleading.
This article was last updated June 4, 2013 - 3:03 PM (GMT-5)