The news that supermarket giant Coles was recently fined $60 000 for labeling imported fruit as ‘Australian Grown’ has reinforced the position I’ve long held about the importance of honest labelling. Two years ago Coles received small fines after I raised the issue of mislabeled fruit back then and while it’s disappointing that the company has repeated its past mistakes I’m heartened to see the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission take the matter seriously by handing out much larger fines for these follow-up offences.
I’m passionate about the issue of honest labeling because of the damage mislabeled produce does to people’s ability to make ethical purchasing decisions. Ethical purchasing is one of the most effective and easy to execute forms of activism – almost everyone buys things and changes to purchasing practices have a clear and immediate financial effect on the organisation they’re aimed at.
People make ethical purchasing decisions for a wide range of reasons, such as to support local economies, reduce the ‘food miles’ of the produce they consume or to protest the actions undertaken by the producers of certain goods. Many people are prepared to pay premium prices to support their decisions and mislabeled produce means they can’t be sure they’re getting what they paid for. Local farmers also feel they were disadvantaged by the move that damaged the competitive edge many people give to Australian products.
Council inspectors can take action against retailers who falsely label their produce so I’d encourage anyone who thinks that stores in the City of Sydney may be doing the wrong thing to get in contact with me for a hopefully swift resolution.