Supplement company fined for misleading consumers
Products touted as “100% New Zealand” were sourced from overseas.
New Zealand Health Food Company has been fined $377,000 for advertising its royal jelly products as “100% New Zealand” when the key ingredient came from China.
The Christchurch-based company pled guilty to misleading consumers about the origin of royal jelly supplements marketed under three of its brands – New Zealand Health Food, Manuka South and Kiwi Natural Health.
Despite the company’s “100% New Zealand” claim, the royal jelly in the products came from China, royal jelly processing took place overseas and most of the other ingredients were sourced offshore.
The company’s advertising also claimed:
“Our product range is a selection of some of the finest bee products that New Zealand’s wild and rugged landscapes have to offer.”
“The New Zealand Health Food Company is dedicated to bringing you premium quality products which have been sourced from the pristine environment that is synonymous with New Zealand.”
Images on product packaging included a silhouette of a kiwi and map of New Zealand. The offending took place from December 2015 to December 2020.
In sentencing, Judge Ruth said: “What the company knew at the start was that its royal jelly was from China … to not say where it came from was at best careless and at worst done deliberately”.
New Zealand Health Food Company had previously received a guidance advice letter from the Commerce Commission about place of origin labelling on dietary supplements. It had also been involved in the commission’s investigation and prosecution of Topline International, which was fined $405,000 in 2017 for misleading country-of-origin claims.
Judge Ruth said it should have been “glaringly” obvious “to anyone with any business acumen that it needed to look at its labelling, its marketing and ask what might need to be fixed and go about doing so”.
Bogus New Zealand-made claims have also landed other supplement traders in court.