Home detention and community service for eggceptional $376k gain

The owner of a now-defunct Northland egg company has been sentenced to 12 months home detention and 200 hours community service for falsely packaging and selling cage eggs as free range or barn-laid eggs. 

In June, Mr John Garnett of Forest Hill Farm pleaded guilty to 20 Crimes Act charges brought by the Commerce Commission. 

W.E. Garnett Ltd, trading as Forest Hill Farm, produced only cage eggs. As part of its supply contracts with some supermarkets, it was also required to provide free range eggs.

To do this, it bought some free range eggs from free range egg suppliers. However, during the period of offending, there was a substantial shortfall in the free range eggs purchased by Forest Hill Farm compared with the free range eggs the company sold. 

The 20 charges are one charge per month for the period from April 2010 to November 2011. 

The commission estimates that Forest Hill Farm made an additional $376,000 from the sale of over 206,000 dozen falsely labelled eggs with a retail value in excess of $1 million. 

In sentencing, Judge Harvey said he considered it to be very serious offending and had resulted in the public being severely let down. He indicated public confidence would be diminished by this deliberate offending over a considerable period of time which was done to deceive customers. 

“We considered the conduct in this case to be very serious as it was calculated and deliberate. We only became aware of Mr Garnett’s actions after members of the egg producing industry made a complaint to the commission,”  Commerce Commission consumer manager Stuart Wallace says.

“The conduct was also particularly deceptive because it was impossible for the public to detect – you can’t tell the difference between a cage egg and a barn-laid or free range egg by looking at them.”

“The commission is pleased by the sentence handed down in the case as it sends a clear message to the business community that those intending to defraud the public will be caught and the penalties can be serious,” Mr Wallace says.

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