Grant Eastwood, the owner of Wild Things Food in Fitzroy North, has put up signs warning customers he does not believe Milla’s juice to be organic. Photo: Jason South Milla’s “organic” orange juice
When “organic” is in the name, it’s reasonable to think the folksy-looking orange juice you’re paying a premium price for is just that.
But in the case of Milla’s organic orange juice, the farmer who grows the oranges and squeezes the juice says it can’t be organic.
Philip Williamson, from Murray River Farm Kurrnung Citrus, even sells the exact same juice he supplies to Milla’s Farm Direct under his own brand, the Great Australian Squeeze, and he doesn’t label it organic.
That’s because even though he tries to avoid harsh chemicals where possible he does use herbicides on his NSW property. And just last year he had to spray “poison on the trees” when there was a fruit fly outbreak in the region.
Although he opts for biological pest control it would be economically impossible for him to never use chemicals, Mr Williamson said.
“Milla’s would like people to believe it’s organic but I can’t grow certified organic oranges on my farm,” he said.
“I wouldn’t dare to put the word organic on our own brand, which is the same juice as Milla’s. We promote Australian grown product and are proud of our juice.”
The discovery so incensed a health food shop owner in Melbourne’s inner north that he took to the issue with a permanent marker, crossing out the word “organic” on each individual bottle of Milla’s in his shop.
Grant Eastwood, the owner of Wild Things Food in Fitzroy North, later put up a sign to warn customers that although it’s still the “best tasting, pure OJ available” it is not organic.
“They are doing a lot of the right things on the farm but I hope that they just drop the false label and rely on the fact that they have a really good product,” Mr Eastwood said.
Organic Federation Australia chairman Adam Willson said the industry body was lobbying the government to introduce a domestic regulation for the industry, under Standards Australia.
“We’re facing the challenge that the word organic isn’t covered by legislation in the Australian market at this point, but [it] is a huge marketing advantage on a product,” Mr Willson said.
“Under AS6000, the minimum standard we want to introduce to the domestic market, the term organic would be legally enforceable through the ACCC.”
NASAA chair and owner of Karra Organic Farm Jan Denham said people need to look out for a Certified Organic logo to be sure it was the real deal.
“It’s especially important that companies that make organic claims must be able to substantiate those claims,” she said.
An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission spokesman refused to say if it was investigating Milla’s organic claims.
But the spokesman did say that Australian consumer law requires businesses to not engage in conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive; or make false or misleading claims or statements.
“Products labelled as organic generally attract a premium price compared to those produced using artificial fertiliser, chemicals or pesticides and non-essential food additives or processing aids,” he said.
“Businesses that make organic claims must be able to substantiate those claims.”
A Milla’s Farm director declined to comment.