On 26 April 2018, the Commonwealth Government introduced an Information Standard under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) prescribing obligations for egg producers when promoting or selling free range eggs.
Under the new standard, producers are obliged to substantiate any claims that their eggs are free range. This information helps buyers make more informed choices.
How consumer laws apply
The ACL obliges businesses not to mislead or deceive consumers, or make false or misleading representations, in promoting their goods and services. Therefore, any claims that eggs are ‘free range’ means they must come from hens that a reasonable consumer would consider are in a free range environment.
If an egg producer can demonstrate that they have complied with all the requirements of the Information Standard, they will be protected from court proceedings in relation to the labelling or displaying of eggs as free range eggs under these ACL provisions.
This protection does not apply to any other words or pictures egg producers use. It is important that egg producers carefully consider any additional claims they make to ensure they are accurate and not likely to mislead.
Egg producers must, if required, be prepared to point to information that shows they are complying with the Information Standard.
What is required when using the term ‘free range’?
The Information Standard prescribes the following requirements to apply in the production of eggs if the term ‘free range’ is applied to the labelling or promotion of those eggs.
- Eggs are laid by hens that had meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during daylight hours across the laying cycle.
- Hens were subject to stocking density of 10,000 hens or less per hectare.
The requirements for the labelling of eggs produced as free range are:
- The stocking density must be prominently displayed on the packaging.
The requirements for the display of eggs produced as free range if they are not packaged are:
- The display sign must use the term ‘free range’ prominently.
- The stocking density must be prominently displayed on the signage.
When are free range egg claims made?
A free range claim is made under the new standard if producers:
- Use the words ‘free range’ on packaging or in any advertising or promotion.
A producer is in breach of the Information Standard if they do not comply with the requirements for using the term ‘free range’. It is clearly misleading to claim eggs are free range when the hens that laid the eggs have never left the shed or are significantly restricted from doing so.