Product advertised as New Zealand-made was from China.
Lies about the origin of the bee pollen inside NatureBee products has seen the company behind it and its director fined $526,500.
Judge Nevin Dawson said Jeffrey Cook and his company Topline International used “blatant fabrications and lies” when it claimed the Chinese bee pollen was New Zealand-made.
Cook was fined $121,500 on 22 charges under the Fair Trading Act and Topline was fined $405,000.
The charges were brought by the Commerce Commission. Commissioner Anna Rawlings said the lies about the origin of the pollen went on for 4 years. Initially the bee pollen had been from New Zealand and when Topline started sourcing its pollen from China in 2005, it took references to New Zealand out of its promotional material. However, in 2011 the New Zealand-made claims returned despite the product still being from China.
It was estimated using Chinese pollen instead of New Zealand pollen saved the business nearly $700,000.
“There was no way consumers could tell the Chinese origin of the pollen from the labelling,” Ms Rawlings said.
Claims included the website stating the pollen was from “the hardworking bees of New Zealand’s pristine wilderness” and an infomercial stating the pollen was “collected from the wilderness of New Zealand’s pristine South Island”.
Most NatureBee products are exported and Judge Dawson said the lies had the potential to damage other exporters using Made in New Zealand labelling.