Farmland Foods has been fined $180,000 for misleading customers about country of origin. The smallgoods producer was found to mislead consumers when it came to the labelling on packaging of three sizes of its 'Heritage Cooked on the Bone' ham products, which were sold between 1 October 2015 and 1 September 2018.

"We accept the sentence imposed by the Court on the Commerce Commission's charges," said Eddie Davis, managing director, Farmland Foods Limited. "We are pleased the judge recognised our good character, contribution to the community and reputation for trading with integrity. We're sorry this has happened and want to apologise to anyone potentially affected by this issue."

The packaging labels contained numerous claims such as:

•    “100% NZ owned, Farmland Fresh, made in the country”

•    “It’s made in the country in our on-farm processing facility located in the ‘untouched’ Rangitikei region, adjacent to the Santoft forest and within the Pukepapa rainfall catchment area.”

•    “Our products are made in the country on our family farm in select batches ensuring freshness every time …”

•    “If it’s Farmland you can be sure it comes from the best nature has to offer. Made by New Zealanders, for New Zealanders … it’s where good things grow”

•    “Gluten Free Produced in New Zealand.”

The combination of imagery, choice of words and overall presentation of the Farmland Foods' packaging in close proximity to references to New Zealand(ers), the country farm and a Bulls address on the packaging, gave consumers the false impression that the products were made from New Zealand reared pork, when the majority of the pork was actually imported.

“We have undertaken a full internal review of our design processes to ensure our packaging meets the required standards and clearly shows the origin of our ingredients," said Davis.

“This includes our full commitment to the new Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Act so people can continue to have confidence when buying our products.  We will update our packaging to ensure it meets the Consumer Information Standards made under the Act as soon as they are published.”

Commission Chair Anna Rawlings says country of origin claims are very difficult for consumers to verify, so businesses must ensure references made on food packaging are clear and not misleading.

“Accurate information on packaging is important for consumers who rely on the information. Some people are often willing to pay a premium for products they believe are New Zealand made, and for some this also represents an important ethical decision," said Rawlings.

“Country of origin claims are also important for local manufacturers who want to protect the high value placed on genuinely New Zealand made products."

Judge Rowe acknowledged the extent of Farmland Foods' cooperation, remorse and remedial action taken.  With a resolution now reached, Farmland Foods continue its focus on producing safe, outstanding meats for Kiwis to enjoy. He also said Farmland Foods had a high standing in the community and had not deliberately mislead its customers. "A company does not get through 40 years of business, with no criminal convictions, and have a reputation like that without earning it," said Rowe.

“People can expect to see our updated packaging on shelf for the upcoming season," said Davis.