The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [ACCC] has created a new set of guidelines for Australia’s egg producers, aiming to clarify which eggs can be advertised as free-range. The Federal Government has also released a consultation paper which may lead to firmer regulations than the ACCC currently promotes.
The new ACCC guidelines are designed to illuminate their existing stance on the labelling of free range eggs rather than change it amid claims that consumers are being mislead by unregulated packaging.
“The Australian Consumer Law requires that any statement or representation a business makes when advertising or selling free range eggs must not be misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive,” says the ACCC’s chairman Rod Sims.
Yet which types of egg farming are considered free-range are still considered to be unclear.
Sims draws the line along common sense rather than legal strictures. “If it is not normal for most of the hens to leave the barn and to move about freely on an open range on most days, making a free-range claim is likely to be misleading,” he says. “This approach accords with common sense. The ACCC acknowledges that laying hens may spend periods indoors and we do not expect to always see hens on the range or expect every hen to be outside every day.”
Whilst federal consultation is underway, animal activists are vying for stricter rules that will more closely define what makes an egg free-range. Many are also hoping to see a clearer set of standards in labelling to assist consumers with egg purchases.
The ACCC is still investigating and prosecuting over a number of previous cases in which the ACCC asserts egg suppliers have falsely been labelling their products as free-range.