The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has negotiated with seven bottled water manufacturers to remove the “organic” claims on their products.
According to a media release , the suppliers have agreed with ACCC on the removal of the word “organic” from labels and marketing materials in order to avoid court action. The labels have been renamed and new products will soon be sold in stores.
The manufacturers and brand names affected are: Active Organic Beverage’s Active Organic and Organic Nature’s Best, Lithgow Valley Spring’s Lithgow Valley Springs Organic, Water Wine & Juice’s Nature’s Best Organic, DJ & A’s Organic Australia, Intertrading’s Organic Falls, and Sternwin / First Water Springs’ Organic Springs. Mt Aqua Distribution has since withdrawn its product Aqua Organic from sale.
While the manufacturers have asserted that the word “organic” is part of the brand name and not a representation of the product, ACCC has rejected the argument citing organic standards that says water cannot be labeled as organic. Any claim of that nature would be considered misleading or deceptive, says ACCC.
“The word ‘organic’ in the context of food and drink refers to agricultural products which have been farmed according to certain practices. Water is not an agricultural product, and cannot benefit from such practices so it is not appropriate to use ‘organic’ to describe it,” according to the ACCC website.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard says credence claims, which imply that a product possesses a premium attribute, are closely monitored by ACCC, particularly those which have the potential to influence consumers and disadvantage competitors.
“Credence claims such as “organic” can be used to justify higher prices and create a competitive advantage for the user. As such it is essential that they are only used correctly,” says Rickard.
“Consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions that value the types of claims that directly affect the integrity of the product, such as where or how something was made, grown or produced.”
“Consumers must be able to trust that products match descriptions on labels so they can make informed purchasing decisions,” she said.
Meanwhile the Australasian Bottled Water Institute (ABWI), a division of the Australian Beverages Council, has supported ACCC’s move on the issue.
“ABWI members acknowledge and support a need for truthful labelling and believe the term organic should only be used on a food label in accordance with the Australian Standard 6000-2009 Organic and Biodynamic for products to ensure the integrity of the term,” says Beverages Council’s CEO, Mr Geoff Parker, in a statement.
“As per that Standard (section 6.2.3) natural products such as minerals, salt or water shall not be collected or harvested or processed and labelled as ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’.”
ACCC says consumers should get in contact with the commission if they see other brands of bottled water that feature organic claims. Retailers who still have stocks should contact their distributor.