6 Aug 2014

$1m of cage eggs sold as free range

8:24 am on 6 August 2014

An egg farmer has been sentenced to home detention for selling $1 million worth of cage eggs that he pretended were free range.

Between April 2010 and November 2011 John Garnett's Forest Hill Farm packaged cage eggs in cartons labelled "free range" or "barn-laid" and sold them to shops and supermarkets in Auckland and Northland.

Garnett is estimated to have made an additional $376,000 from the sale of the falsely labelled eggs.

In the Whangarei District Court on Tuesday, he was sentenced to 12 months' home detention and 200 hours of community service.

Judge Duncan Harvey said he considered it to be very serious offending, resulting in the public being severely let down.

Commerce Commission Consumer Manager Stuart Wallace told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme he hoped the sentence would reassure buyers.

"You can never obviously be 100 percent certain of these sorts of labels," he said. "There is an element of trust involved but I think the response of the courts here would give consumers some reassurance that in fact these sorts of deceptions are taken pretty seriously."

Mr Wallace said the eggs were sold under a supermarket's own label.

The commission was tipped off by the Egg Producers Federation, which said the offending was a serious breach of consumer trust and industry integrity.

The federation's executive director, Michael Brooks, said the industry had taken steps to improve traceability processes to prevent this type of dishonest behaviour in the future.