Darling Downs fined for false free range egg claims by Court and ACCC
Darling Downs has conceded from December 2013 to October 2014 it had falsely labelled its eggs as “free range”. Photo: Justin McManus
Egg producer Darling Downs has been fined a quarter of a million dollars for labelling a product as “free range”, when it came from hens that never stepped foot outside.
The Federal Court has declared Queensland-based RL Adams, trading as Darling Downs Fresh Eggs, had engaged in misleading conduct and made misleading claims in regards to its “free range” egg lines.
The eggs were sold under Darling Downs’ Mountain Range and Drakes Home Brand’ labels, sold in Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took legal action, as part of its broader crack down on free range credence claims, in December last year.
“It’s clearly misleading to claim your eggs are free range when the hens that laid the eggs didn’t roam freely outdoors,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.
Darling Downs mountain range free range eggs were from hens permanently confined in barns. Photo: ACCC
“People are willing to pay a premium for free range eggs which they believe meet ethical or welfare standards. Businesses should not be benefiting financially from misleading claims about farming practices.”
Darling Downs conceded from December 2013 to October 2014 it had falsely labelled its eggs as “free range”.
The family-owned business admitted the doors to its barns were kept shut at all times so that none of the laying hens were able to access or use the outdoor range.
The Court found that by labelling and promoting eggs as “free range”, Darling Downs Fresh Eggs represented to consumers the eggs were produced by hens which were able to move about freely on an open range each day, and most of the hens did in fact do so on most days.
The Court also ordered that Darling Downs Fresh Eggs implement a compliance program and publish corrective notices in major metropolitan newspapers and on its website, and contribute to the ACCC’s costs.
Darling Downs Fresh Eggs has been contacted for comment.