'Heart Smart' branded eggs will disappear from Australian shops following a settlement between their producers and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Hindmarsh Valley Enterprises Pty Ltd, Egg Industry Co-operative Ltd, Wallace Bros. Eggs Pty Ltd and Agricultural Business Research Institute have provided enforceable undertakings to the ACCC in relation to Heart Smart Omega 3 enriched eggs.

As a result, the parties today asked the Federal Court in Adelaide to dismiss the proceedings which had been instituted by the ACCC against the parties on 9 February 1996 because the Heart Smart group had refused to withdraw its claims.

Other producers of Omega 3 fatty acid enriched eggs, The Safe Egg, Omegga Egg and Megga, had previously 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.

The ACCC had alleged that the Heart Smart egg producers had made false or misleading claims about the health benefits of consumption of the eggs and that ABRI, the owner and licensor of the trademark 'Heart Smart' was knowingly concerned in the offences.

It had sought permanent injunctions restraining the producers from misleading consumers as to the health benefits of the Heart Smart eggs and to make orders requiring the producers to correct the misleading information promoted in the Heart Smart literature.

The ACCC alleged that the use of the name Heart Smart was 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 hearts.

In addition, the ACCC claimed that while the eggs may contain increased levels of Omega 3, this increase does not overcome the fact that the cholesterol content is the same as ordinary eggs and should be consumed at the same rate as ordinary eggs.

The ACCC also alleged that the promotional literature and radio advertisements breached section 52 and 53 of the Trade Practices Act in that they misrepresented:

  • that Omega 3 is lacking in most Australian diets;
  • the extent of research into the effect of the Omega 3 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 Heart Smart producers have now undertaken to:

  • change the name of the eggs;
  • adopt a standard testing procedure to determine the Omega 3 content of the eggs;
  • immediately abandon current advertising;
  • cease making misleading health benefits claims;
  • engage in advertising to correct the misleading information promoted in the Heart Smart literature; and
  • pay the ACCC's costs.

"The effect of this action is to send a clear message to producers that they must not make claims in respect of products that mislead consumers especially where the claims made relate to the health and welfare of consumers", ACCC Chairman Allan Fels said today.