Aldi and Menora assure the ACCC they will no longer sell oregano mixed with other leavesAldi and supermarket supplier Menora have admitted to selling nearly 190,000 units of adulterated oregano products over a one-year period and have promised never to do it again.
The budget grocery chain and Menora have signed court enforceable undertakings with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, committing to conduct annual testing of the composition of their herb and spice products.
How much oregano is in your ‘oregano’?
Research by consumer advocacy group Choice in April 2016 revealed as little as 10% real oregano is contained in oregano products from major Australian supermarket brands.
Aldi sold more than 126,800 units of its Stonemill oregano across its 400 stores in 2015, documents show. And 61,480 Menora-branded products were sold at IGA and independent food services in NSW, Vic, WA and SA in the same year.
They claimed the products were 100 per cent dried oregano leaves, despite a “substantial presence of olive leaves”.
“This is extremely bad behaviour. I don’t think it’s in anybody’s head that you’re getting anything other than pure oregano and our message to retailers is: Check the products you’re selling,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.
“The offer of refunds is there. If you take back the empty container you’ll get a refund, take back proof of purchase, you’ll get a refund.”
The undertakings follow an investigation by consumer group Choice, which in April said laboratory tests showed seven out of 12 popular oregano products were less than 50 per cent oregano leaves. They were instead bulked out with olive and sumac leaves.
The worst offender was Master of Spices, which was only 10 per cent oregano, followed by Hoyt’s, at 11 per cent, and Aldi’s Stonemill, at 26 per cent.
Choice’s investigation found seven out of 12 oregano products were less than 50 per cent oregano leaves. Photo: Supplied
The test results showed Spice & Co and Menora’s products were only a third oregano, Spencers was 40 per cent and G Fresh was 50 per cent.
Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said as dried oregano was a fixture in most kitchens across the country, the undertakings were a real win for Australian consume
Aldi’s Stonemill-branded oregano contains olive leaves.
“We need be able to trust what is written on the labels of the foods we purchase in our supermarkets,” he said.
“With so many consumers getting less than they bargained for with this popular herb, we hope the ACCC action will go some way to restoring trust in the nation’s spice racks.”
The ACCC went after Aldi and Menora because they were major players in the market.
It said it had agreed to “administrative resolutions” with the smaller suppliers – G Fresh, Master of Spices and Spice & Co – to ensure they stop selling adulterated oregano and take steps to confirm the authenticity of their oregano products for future supply.
An Aldi spokesperson said when the oregano problems were brought to their attention earlier in the year, they pulled the product from shelves and offered refunds.
“If products sold in Aldi stores do not meet our stringent quality specifications, we have strict quality assurance policies in place to address any issues in a timely manner,” she said.
“The product has returned to our shelves and we work closely with our supplier to ensure it undergoes regular testing.”
In good news, Choice’s tests found MasterFoods, Woolworths Select, Coles and Herbies Spices products were found to contain 100 per cent dried oregano leaves.
Australians splurged $115 million on herbs and spices last year, according to the Retail World Annual Report. Oregano has found new favour in Australian kitchens, with the growing popularity of mediterranean cooking.
“Suppliers of food products have an obligation to ensure ingredients of their products are accurately labelled and should be able to substantiate any representations made on the packaging that they approve,” Mr Sims said.