A major organic food scam has been exposed which involves Woolworths, Coles and Aldi selling cheap imported food as organic food and when I asked the certifier, Australian Certified Organic (ACO), questions they refused to answer. ACO have already started with the legal threats in an attempt to cover-up what is happening as per the legal letter sent to Save the Bees publisher Simon Mulvany below.
Most Australians would think they are buying Australian produced food when they buy food labeled as organic and they shouldn’t have to read the fine print to work out they’re not. The old saying “always follow the money” comes to mind when looking at this scandal and trying to work out who’s doing what and why. E.g. How much is Capilano Honey paying ACO to use the certification label?
The scam is quite simple. Import food, in this case honey, say it is organic and pay an Australian certifier to give you a label to prove it is organic and then have the major grocery stores stock the product. A lot of Australians will buy it thinking they are buying Australian organic honey given the labels and the fact that is being sold in a major grocery store they trust.
At the moment it is not known how widespread the scam is as it is still under investigation but I would suspect it will ultimately be shown to spread across numerous food sectors. But it does involve the likes of the major grocery stores, Australian Certified Organic and Capilano Honey and their Allowrie Honey brand.
I wrote to Capilano Honey’s Mr Trevor Morgan (Chairman) and Ms Annette Zbasnik (Company Secretary) in September 2016 asking questions about Capilano Honey and their CEO Ben McKee lying about the quality of their honey etc and they refused to respond. (Click here to read more)
One example is Aldi selling its own brand honey as organic which most consumers would think was Australian honey but the small print on the label reveals it is less than 10% Australian. It has the same Australian Certified Organic certification number (472) as Allowrie Honey, that also claims to be 100% organic, which points to the fact that Capilano Honey who own Allowrie are producing honey for Aldi.
The Chinese sell their low quality honey to Australia and then import Australian honey back to China which tells the story by itself. On what basis the imported honey is being called organic no one seems to know and if they do know they’re not telling anyone and how reliable would their answers be anyhow?
Capilano Honey have a huge financial interest in imported honey
The Australian reported in February 2017:
Australian beekeepers have called on the federal government to investigate the risk posed to the local $100 million honey industry and bee population by the recent jump in honey imports.
The Australian Honey Bee Industry Council is concerned imported honey from countries such as China and Mexico could contain live viruses and bacteria that cause bee disease and threaten the survival of Australia’s introduced honey bee population and 1500 species of native bees.
Australian honey imports have more than doubled in the past three years, with nearly 10,000 tonnes bought by Australian honey processors and food manufacturers in 2015-16.
Australia’s biggest honey processor, Brisbane-based ASX-listed Capilano — 19 per cent owned by Kerry Stokes through his family investment vehicle Wroxby-ACE Investments — last year imported about 4000 tonnes of honey into Australia from a small processing plant it owns in Argentina and also from China.
These imports added to the 10,500 tonnes of pure Australian honey Capilano bought from its 600 supplying beekeepers, about 70 per cent of all local production. (Click here to read more)
Aldi Honey – made by Capilano – Less than 10% Australian but apparently organic
If the Aldi honey is less than 10% Australian honey, how much less? Is it one percent? And what percentage of Australian honey is Allowrie Honey?
It’s scandal by itself that a company can get away with saying a product is less than 10% Australian? They should be forced to say exactly what the percentages are. 1%, 2% or 3% etc.
Aldi say on their website:
Proudly Australian made
Since our first store opened in 2001, ALDI has played an important role in the Australian community. Each day, our operations improve the livelihoods of local businesses, create employment opportunities and deliver high quality products to Australian families at everyday low prices.
We have worked closely with Australian farmers, producers and manufacturers to establish long-term relationships. The majority of ALDI’s exclusive brands are sourced from Australian suppliers, and we only source products from overseas when we can’t find the product, quality, efficiency or innovation we seek, here in Australia. (Click here to read more)
Aldi’s claim of “Proudly Australian made” is looking like a major league lie. Are they claiming they can’t find any quality Australian honey?
Legal threats to try and hide the truth
“Australia’s reputation as an organic producer is at risk because of deceptive organic certification on Capilano Honey subsidiary Allowrie brand.
Health conscious Elisa purchased this Allowrie Organic honey because being Australian certified organic honey gave Elisa the impression the honey was 100 percent Australian. She was shocked when told by Australian Certified Organic that the imported honey was not tested by them and could have come from several countries including China. Australian Organic has partnered with the Chinese and other countries.”
Threatening Simon Mulvany on behalf of the Australian Federal Government
The below letter is written by lawyer Trent Sleeman who works directly for ACO and the most disturbing part is when he says:
“We have also advised the Federal Government and our client depicted in the post of its presence; some of these parties have indicated that they will be taking legal action.”
It is not for any company or corporate lawyer to threaten a party with legal action on behalf of the Federal Government or one of its departments. Australian Certified Organic should sack Trent Sleeman summarily.
I emailed the below questions to Mr Sleeman and the Directors of ACO and they have refused to answer.
From: SHANE DOWLING
Sent: Wednesday, 8 March 2017 10:00 PM
To: ‘Trent.Sleeman@austorganic.com’ ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ ‘email@example.com’ ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ ‘Martin@unitedorganics.com.au’ ‘email@example.com’
Subject: Suspected corrupt conduct by Australian Certified Organic
Dear Mr Sleeman – General Counsel – Australian Organic Group
I have read the legal letter (Concerns notice) that you sent Simon Mulvany and read the so called offending Facebook story. I will be publishing an article on my website and have some questions.
- Allowrie Honey, which is owned by Capilano Honey, is a mixture of honey including imported honey from China, Mexico and Argentina etc. How can you allow your ACO Certified Organic label to be used on Allowrie Honey when a large proportion of it is imported from overseas and it is clearly not Australian honey which the consumers would assume it is?
- Given the “ACO” part of the Label stands for “Australian Certified Organic” which clearly states and implies the labelled product is a 100% Australian product do you agree that you are aiding and abetting Allowrie Honey (Capilano) to deliberately deceive Australian consumers?
- Are you aware the above conduct is a breach of Australian consumer laws?
- Can you advise what testing Australian Certified Organic has done regarding the Allowrie honey? If you haven’t done testing why not?
- If Australian Certified Organic have done testing can you supply me with a copy of the test results as I am sure consumers would be interested.
- You say in your letter to Simon Mulvany “We have also advised the Federal Government and our client depicted in the post of its presence; some of these parties have indicated that they will be taking legal action.” Can you name exactly which parties will be taking action and give me their contact details? Is one of the parties Capilano Honey and/or Ben McKee?
- Can you advise which Australian Government agency you deal with and the contact name and details?
Please respond ASAP as I may have follow-up questions.
Below are pictures that show Allowrie honey uses the same ACO certification number as Aldi honey which shows that Allowrie’s owner, Capilano Honey, makes both.
Allowrie only says that their honey is packed from quality local and imported ingredients. If they can put less than 10% Australian on the Aldi Honey bottle how come they can’t say what Australian honey percentage is in Allowrie?
Capilano Honey have been suing Simon Mulvany for defamation since February 2016 (Click here to read more) and have been playing the go slow routine with the case. They have also been suing me since October 2016 but have since refused to give me a statement of claim after a number of requests by me which shows they have no confidence in winning either case.
I have no doubt the above scandal will explode into a major internet / social media battle if Australian Certified Organic do sue Simon Mulvany for defamation. ACO would better advised to start doing the right thing by consumers instead of aiding and abetting companies fooling consumers.
The issue of dodgy labeling of food as organic won’t go away as producers and importers see it as a way of increasing their sales. The government needs to stop turning a blind eye to it and step up and take this battle on because if they don’t the public will. Woolworths, Coles and Aldi all have some serious questions they need to answer and there obviously needs to be something like a Senate inquiry to try and shine a light on the truth.
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