Capilano Honey

Woolworths, Coles and Aldi running a scam selling imported food as organic

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?

Both Allowrie Honey, which is owned by Capilano Honey, and Aldi Honey have the same certification number which points to Capilano producing it for Aldi.

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 Honey – It says “less than 10% Australian ingredients” on the bottle.


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

Below is the legal threat sent to Simon Mulvany on the 6th March 2017 after he published a post on his Save the Bees Facebook page on the the 5th of March which started off:

“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.

Sent: Wednesday, 8 March 2017 10:00 PM
To: ‘’ ‘’ ‘’ ‘’ ‘’ ‘’
Cc: ‘’
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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. Are you aware the above conduct is a breach of Australian consumer laws?
  4. Can you advise what testing Australian Certified Organic has done regarding the Allowrie honey? If you haven’t done testing why not?
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.


Shane Dowling

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.

The above picture was taken at Woolworths and the same product is for sale on Coles website.

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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54 replies »

  1. Very interesting article about this sticky situation. We seem to worry too much about people security at the border and not enough about bio-security at the border … other than Pistol&Boo.

  2. Australian labelling laws are worthless … always have been.

    The halal certification scam is no different from products getting the ‘Heart tick of approval’ or the green kangaroo ‘Made in Australia’ logo …. manufacturers pay big money for them, and so do we. It’s one reason Australians pay some of the highest grocery prices in the world, and it isn’t only about our remote distance and comparatively ‘small’ market share.

    There are enough billions of dollars involved to make it worthwhile for homegrown and foreign retailers to build huge distribution centres around the country, and to put local butchers and greengrocers out of business.

    The ‘trusted’ brands we all grew up with now bear little resemblance to the products our parents knew – they’re generally owned by foreign corporations whose priority is market-share and profit. They change recipes, reduce product size (which doesn’t show up in inflation figures), and use the cheapest ingredients, all to increase shelf-life and extend the ‘food-miles’ of product.

    This commendable exposure of the Capilano honey fraud won’t make headlines anywhere because a real investigation will lift the lid on a massive Pandora’s box of bureaucratic and political corruption, huge bribes and pay-offs, while Australians are literally swallowing rubbish and paying handsomely for the ‘privilege’.

    Great credit to KCA for exposing this fraud … it’s now up to the Australian consumer to stop sleepwalking through our supermarkets, start asking questions and demanding some answers, as it’s certain neither our government nor its bureaucracy will protect our health or our best interests. It’s up to us.

  3. When I was a boy my mother had almost 50 fruit trees in our suburban garden. We went out and gorged ourselves on beautiful fresh produce for much of the year. I have recently planted many trees in my garden so that I can provide the same experience for my kids.

    But it’s not just the experience… we simply cannot trust ANY entity with providing our food, nor any entity giving some kind of label saying it’s healthy. Pesticides, GMOs, long term refrigerated storage, substituting imported and untested garbage, deliberate being vague/misleading on the labelling… IT’S ALL GARBAGE. Grow your own or buy from local farmer’s markets or local producers.

    I teach my kids when we go shopping: “Look, there is the cartel supermarket” (referring to Coles and Woolworths).

    • Totally agree. We purchase our fruit, vegetables, meat etc from a supermarket that only sells Australian produce. We travel for 3/4 of an hour to get there but it is well worth the effort. We believe in supporting our farmers and growers. We may pay extra but the quality of the produce is worth it. Jillaroo

  4. Interesting! Zero % is less than 10% so it is possible that their honey has no Australian content but would satisfy their label statement. Buy local or you risk exposing yourself to corporate greed and corruption. Labelling cannot be trusted in Australia particularly when regulated by a Liberal government.

    • Incorrect metadatalata, when regulated by any government representatives or other authority . The government are, in effect the citizens of the country, politicians are merely servants and elected representatives of ‘the government’.
      More satisfaction would be achieved if the purchasers of the said imported products regulated the imports by demanding the same products manufactured, grown, and produced in Australia.
      This is not difficult to achieve by taking a few minutes of every day to continually bombard the the management of the supermarkets etc; with complaints and refusing to buy any imported products if they are available in Australia.
      Complaints are useless unless action is taken to resolve the problem, usually named ‘apathy’.

  5. Ok, but on the point of the honey being labeled ‘organic’, this would still be valid even though 90% of the honey came from China. I am using the appropriate definition of ‘organic’ in this context as: “of or relating to foodstuff grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides or hormones”. I can’t see how any honey can be ‘inorganic’?

    • Then so too is a wheat crop sprayed with glyphosate to dry it out quicker before harvesting.

      The term “organic” is meant to be for produce grown without any chemicals, and in a way which is controlled, monitored and tested to be produced in such a manner. I cannot see how honey imported from China, WITHOUT ANY CONTROL, MONITORING, OR TESTING that can be verified by us, can be labelled as “certified organic” by an Australian body.

      • Why do you think Chinese bees are grown with chemicals, I thought they grew through the same natural process as any bee, involving queen bee fertalization, larvae, etc.?

      • Ben, you are trying to redefine the term organic with respect to labelled foods. “Organic” in this regard means that it is GMO free, pesticide and chemical free. And “certified” means that it is checked and verified by a reputable and trustable body. You are confusing that with the “organic” meaning that it is a living organism.

        If we muddy the waters like you are trying, we can also call dolly the (cloned) sheep organic, and we can also call GMO foods organic… because they all grow.

        Sorry, I’m not buying your story.

      • No, I am a very logical person, by your logic, if cows are fed on GMO lucerne, that means their milk can not be considered organic. Do you see where I am coming from?

      • Concerned Aussie: There can be a clear definition between the two, eg. bees working in commercial (non-organic) fields, crops, etc., as opposed to always exclusively working in controlled (defined) non-inorganic environments like distant State Forests. Bees have a limited flight-range fr the hive. Such genuine operations must go thru the proper (full) Certification channels in the Application and later required Auditing processes.

      • Ed, ok I accept the distinction you explained, However from a practical pov, unless you went out and ‘ground’ truthed the actual pastures where the cows of organic labeled milk fed, you could never really know if it really was. Belief or faith in the validity of each producer’s labeling is not sufficient evidence that it is so, and even then, if it were true the day you actually witnessed, the next week it may not be. The best you can do if you want truly organic, is to take reasonable steps to mitigate against the more egregious claims.

      • Those are the very reasons that producers are certified. They follow regimes of Organic Produce legislated Orders, and are monitored by qualified Inspectors from one of the accredited Certification agencies, who use inspection auditing techniques, soil and produce laboratory testing and monitoring including random end product testing, to ensure that Organic standards are maintained. In turn, the Federal Government overseas the Organic Certifiers.

      • I don’t doubt that, that’s what I mean by mitigation, for despite all these government bureaucrat procedures, I doubt they are followed to the letter, even without the inevitable degree of corruption to some extent. However if you want to disagree, that’s fine, I don’t want to go back and forth on this, consider me a cynic when it comes to believing everyone does the right thing according to the law and/or moral principles..

      • How do you know where the bees go to get the pollen for honey?? they fly randomly from the hive for many kilometres and cannot tell the difference between gmo/pesticide or organic crops….

      • They fly less than 3 miles from their nest according to many studies, and beekeepers are adept at watching the directions they fly, placing them in appropriate positions, and recognising the style of honey produced. Thus inappropriate sources can be avoided by professional site selection. However, if a farmer decides to use insecticide or other chemicals and overspray or grow GM within flight distance then contamination can happen. This is why Organic farmers are so worried about conventional farm activities nearby,

      • Here is a published paper putting the range up to 9.5 Km from the hive…reference paper. Long-range foraging by the honey-bee, Apis mellifera L. by M. Beekman, F.L. K. Rahnieks First published: August 2000 DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2435.2000.00443.x

        “The median distance foraged was 6·1 km, and the mean 5·5 km. Only 10% of the bees foraged within 0·5 km of the hive whereas 50% went more than 6 km, 25% more than 7·5 km and 10% more than 9·5 km from the hive.”

      • Even this paper notes less than 20% would travel past 3 miles, but that would be in exceptional circumstances of scarcity. Beekeepers locate their bees in crops or close to flowering forests, where the bees habitually travel less than a km, and they produce a varietal honey.

      • Totally correct at most you can label it as pure honey.But not organic and you cant control the bees gathering nectar,pollen.Plus other chemical to control fowl brood.

      • Ben D. Your Cows would not be producing Organic milk, as it would be contaminated by GMO, INSECTICIDES OR HERBICIDES, from their grazing. Certification of Organic produce is for audited producers complying with Federal Organic Produce Orders, which stipulate Organic standards.Bees collecting pollen and nectar from areas that are not organically certified will most probably be harvesting agricultural chemicals that contaminate the honey, many of which are proven mutagens, cancer forming agents, and healthrisks of many kinds. Some of these cancer type agents have been clearly shown to take a long time to develop, and it has taken very much research to prove, while agent orange type herbicides like 24D, were more easily recognised for their deleterious health effects resulting from the Viet Nam war. Many similar chemicals are used widely in China and Mexico and the third world where cheap honey is produced.

    • Most disappointing.. they fail to answer questions and then say that you failed to check the fact.
      And they declare that producing an image of a container with a logo, is a breach of copyright..
      It seems that we, the public, will need to start our own lobbying of all concerned… as well as avoiding the products and the stores..

  6. ‘Member of the Qld law Society’ must be the same crowd that has had so many members disbarred. (see Legal Services Commissioner`s Annual Reports).

  7. Regardless of honey, these retailers sell products of imported fish from Australia and other areas that are processed in China where food standards are a lot less than here. One supplier claimed organic chicken at one stage, and has now changed that to free range, Much of our food contains GMO ingredients, as GMO corn and non GMO corn are mixed and fed to livestock. Beef, pork and possible lamb is known by the meat processors to contain corolozol an anti-depresant, sedative drug used for transporting animals by the producers. Most American imports are full of GMOs and that”s a non no, but the government agencies don’t give a stuff. GMO salmon got out of enclosures some years ago and mixed with wild salmon stocks in NW America, and now they have high radiation levels to boot, thanks to nothing being done of any significance to contain Fukushima, without all the extra chemicals and pesticide levels in everything. In fact most fish from N. America is radioactive and most imports from Japan the same. But do our watchdogs care to do anything but ignore or cover up,and control what’s imported ? Because trade is all that matters, and profits, human health is insignificant because big pharma and it’s Md adherents are making huge amounts of money off of food created illness. It’s all money, so it’s up to the lazy consumer to stop using these foods and take the time to grow their own and leave meat and fish out of the picture and not support anything but local produce.

  8. Goodness, it is such a worry – takes hours to shop at a supermarket now as have to read every label – and boy, do the manufacturers make that hard – we despair at the chemicals in our food now –

  9. AS someone mentioned earlier, 0% is less than 10%.
    A question arises “How is an Australian certifier (ACO) able to apply certification for a foreign product (as it is possible there is no Australian content in the product)” ?

  10. The ‘shams’ will continue when information on food packaging is believed by the majority of shoppers. Most organic standards in Australia and USA allows for 5 percent of the product to come from a list of about 200 approved substances that are not organic.
    People power can stop the shams in many ways but apathy rules when the quality of food is the least important part of most people’s daily/weekly schedule.

  11. Any reasonable person would assume that the ACO label – which stands for AUSTRALIAN Certified Organic – would mean the product was AUSTRALIAN. I don’t like being lied to.

  12. Would be useful to test various samples of ACO certified honey for pesticides, and compare with non certified honey of dubious origin.

  13. “Organic” is not synonymous with the word “Australian”. If something is “organically grown” that infers nothing about its point of origin. It’s simple semantics. I would prefer to buy Australian all year, but bees have a dormant season. My hope is that the honey doesn’t come from China, which seems to have no interest whatsoever in workers rights, OH&S, copyright or food contamination. (eg Mattel toys with lead paint). I agree with your sentiment, but your primary assertion is flawed.

  14. Passionate Certified Organic Farmer who's intimatley aware of food production, processing and labelling issues in relation to Certified Organic goods! says:

    ACO, Australian Certified Organic… is the name of the certification agency. Perhaps an unfortunate choice of name considering they certifiy for companies using imported ingredients… When Country of Origin Labelling laws were introduced they had to alter their logo to say “ACO Certified Organic” to comply, whereas the logo used to read “Australian Certified Organic”. They had to drop the word ‘Australian’. Its this element I suspect leads to the notion of being deceived.

    If an Australian company certified by the agency seeks to use imported organic ingredients in their products, they need to provide international certification documentation (and sometimes testing) as part of their certification as a producer or processor. In this case that would be the certificates of authenticity from the Chinese organic certification agency (of which there are many). ACO and all Australian certifiers have policies around recognition and acceptance of various certification bodies standards from around the world. You can download them from their website. The question is whether one believes the bona fides of the Chinese certification agency and producers…? Considering the likely scepticism of the Australian consumer, to what degree should ACO and other certifiers be conducting additional costly vetting (either on site inspections in China and/or chemical testing locally to verify)? And how transparent should the decisions to conduct tests and results found be, to consumers in these circumstances when imported ingredients are used? (100% transparent!!!)

  15. A simple solution to buy fair dinkum Australian honey.

    Available in all major Supermarkets – Coles, Woolworths, Costco, IGA & Foodworks.

    “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

  16. We purchased Aldi organic honey as we are big users of Australian organic honey and it was terrible. It was nothing like the quality organic honey that we usually purchase. It went into the rubbish bin. Shame on Aldi and and other large chain stores and an explanation is required from the ACO

  17. So the difference between ACO certification and Halal certification would be what?
    Seems you simply pay money for both and you can pretty much do as you please.

  18. And just what do our worthless politicians do about this situation and White Spot for another….nothing….far too busy shouting insults across the floor of Parliament, and fiddling their perks….I hope they will all be swept away at the next election, but I fear they will be replaced with the same kind of dilettantes.

  19. I have received the below response from Australian Certified Organic

    From: Ausorganics Reception []
    Sent: Friday, 17 March 2017 9:47 AM
    To: Shane Dowling

    Subject: Response from Australian Certified Organic

    Mr. Shane Dowling

    We received your correspondence and questions relating to products in the organic marketplace, specifically relating to honey.

    The majority of these issues are most appropriately and relevantly directed to the owner of the product in question.

    We do note the following points which are of relevance to our domain as managers of integrity in the organic marketplace.

    In relation to testing, ACO tests above and beyond the regulatory minimum as specified by the National Standard and the Federal Government’s requirements, and has a particular focus on testing imported products.

    Our organic certification programs only certify products that meet internationally-recognised standards, and are additionally certified by industry-recognised and appropriately-accredited third-party certification agencies, all in compliance with specifications laid out in the National Standard.


    Joe Siegel

    Australian Certified Organic
    Ph: 07 3350 5716 | Fax: 07 3266 5996

  20. I am so angry right now..
    my husband and ai have decided that although we are struggling financially right now, we would invest on our family’s health as priority and we have made big changes to our diets and lifestyle to protect our us from poisonous chemicals and toxic ingredients in our diets. It is such a good feeling to think we are getting our money’s worth buying organic products even though our shopping dollars total always double than it used to because we will be healthier. Little did we know we are being ripped off not only paying double price at times for products but we are also consuming products we could contain as many chemicals poisons pesticides fungicides and the rest.. all I can say is that woolies will not be getting my money anymore and I will make it my business to spread the word widely of the fraudulent approach to making money of the community but putting people’s health at risk by lying and mis leading consumers.

  21. The Honey Farce..I have just read this website this afternoon .I did not realise the extent of the problem with honey untill now..
    This Morning I sent Coles an email worded thus: Four months ago I started to get persistant headaches, each week they got worse and more permenant.
    I had about three visits to cairns emergency hospital .with xrays, ct scans and mri scans looking for more blood clots tumours and internal bleeding in the brain ,fortunetly I was cleared by the week 16 I was frantic much time soent resting in bed with life wasting away..Last Saturday morning the pennies dropped, I then remembered five years ago I had been using coffee essences made from macadamia nuts and another bought from coles.using these in my coffee resulted in severe migraine headaches ..
    Ihad been putting Coles Australian Honey in my coffee the past 16 weeks.
    Resulting in making my self very sick.I suggested to to coles the honey was most likely burnt or scaldes in process to cause toxins or even contamination from other sources.
    I have fully recovered from migraines and neck Pain probrblems after a week of stop using the Honey. ,gave me a reference number and asked me to take what was left of the Honey back to the store,,
    End of story.

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