The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted legal proceedings against some producers of Omega 3 fatty acids enriched eggs, alleging false or misleading claims made by them about the health benefits of consumption of the eggs.

In documents filed in the Adelaide Federal Court, the ACCC seeks permanent injunctions and corrective advertising orders against Southern Egg Pty Ltd, Hindmarsh Valley Enterprises Pty Ltd, Egg Industry Co-operative Ltd, Wallace Bros. Eggs Pty Ltd, all producers of Heart Smart Omega 3 fatty acids enriched eggs, and also Agricultural Business Research Institute, the owner and licensor of the trademark Heart Smart.

The ACCC alleges that the use of the name Heart Smart is misleading because medical research to date does not substantiate claims that the long term consumption of Omega 3, in the form of Omega 3 enriched eggs, has a beneficial effect on human heart function. In addition, the ACCC claims that while the eggs may contain increased levels of Omega 3, this increase does not overcome the fact that the cholesterol content of Heart Smart eggs is the same as ordinary eggs, and should be consumed at the same rate as ordinary eggs.

The ACCC also alleges that the promotional literature and radio advertisements breach sections 52 and 53 of the Trade Practices Act in that they misrepresent:

  • that Omega 3 is lacking in most Australian diets;
  • the extent of research into the effect of the Omega 3 enriched eggs on the human heart;
  • the ability of the Omega 3 enriched eggs to reduce blood pressure;
  • the effect of Omega 3 in reducing the risk of arthritis and asthma;
  • that various heart foundations around the world encourage the increased and regular use of all types of eggs; and
  • that the consumption of Heart Smart eggs is beneficial for pregnant and nursing mothers.

The ACCC has asked the Court to grant injunctions restraining the producers from misleading consumers as to the health benefits claims.

The ACCC has also asked the Court to make orders requiring the producers to correct the misleading information promoted in the Heart Smart literature.

"The ACCC has a primary responsibility to protect consumers from false or misleading claims made about products particularly where those claims relate to the health and welfare of consumers," Acting ACCC Chairman, Mr Allan Asher, said today.

The ACCC moved to obtain the injunction after the parties refused to offer an acceptable undertaking to cease making the representations.

Other producers of Omega 3 fatty acid enriched eggs, The Safe Egg, Omegga Egg and Megga, have offered the ACCC enforceable undertakings about any health claims made and also adopted a standard testing procedure to accurately determine Omega 3 fatty acid content in the eggs. The producers of The Safe Egg have also undertaken to change its name to ensure that there is no likelihood that consumers could be misled.

But after protracted discussions with the Heart Smart parties, the ACCC was not able to reach agreement with them as to health benefit claims and was therefore forced to institute proceedings.

A directions hearing will be held in Adelaide on 5 March 1996 at 9.15am.