Fight against misleading claims

Dreamz Pty Ltd (trading as GAIA Skin Naturals) has been fined $37,800 for misleading consumers that some of its products are free from synthetic chemicals “when they are not,” says Australia’s organic industry group, Australian Organic.

The group welcomes the ACCC action to impose penalties, saying the toiletry items in question were marketed as ‘organic’ to parents for use with babies, yet they contain two synthetic chemical preservatives: sodium hydroxymethylglycinate and phenoxyethanol.

“We fully support the ACCC in targeting misleading organic claims and welcome the news that this company has been called to account for its behaviour,” Australian Organic General Manager Sue Willis said.

Marg Will, Secretary of the Organic Industry Standards and Certification Council, which maintains the National Standards for Organic and Biodynamic Produce in Australia, said: “Australian Organic should be commended for its work in bringing this case to action. The ACCC decision is the best thing to happen in the organic industry in the last 20 years and represents a watershed moment.”

All certified businesses must follow a stringent auditing process, over several years, run by accredited certification bodies such as Australian Certified Organic, to earn the right to display an organic certification logo on their products and to genuinely claim their product is organic or biodynamic.

“When other companies trade off the value of the term ‘organic’ without being able to validate their claims, it undermines authentic organic products and the hard-won reputation our industry has earned,” Ms Willis said. “We think it’s important for those producers and growers out there who do not play by the rules, to know that Australia’s consumer watchdog will not hesitate to take action against these businesses.

“As an industry, we need to be able to safeguard the integrity of our organic certification, to remain competitive in the global organics marketplace. We pledge to continue working with the ACCC and all organic-certification bodies to put a stop to deceptive marketing like GAIA’s, so that consumers can continue to have confidence in the bud and other valid certification marks”.

Ms Will said: “It’s impossible to quantify exactly but somewhere in the order of $500 million is lost every year because of products falsely claiming to be organic. This affects everyone, from consumers right through to primary producers.”