6 April 2016
An investigation by consumer advocacy group CHOICE found samples of a number of oregano products sold in Australia were adulterated with olive and sumac leaves, with one product containing less than 10% oregano.
CHOICE commissioned testing of 12 brands and found only five were 100% oregano. The worst offender in the spot check was Master of Spices (less than 10%) followed by Hoyt's (11%), Aldi's Stonemill (26%), Spice & Co (35%) Menora (36%), Spencers (40%) and G Fresh (50%).
"Dried oregano is a fixture in most kitchens across the country but many consumers will be surprised to learn they may be getting less than they bargained for with this popular herb," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.
CHOICE's spot check found the seven adulterated samples contained varying percentages of olive leaves and sumac leaves used to bulk out the products.
"There is clearly a major problem in the oregano supply chain in Australia, which also raises the question about other herbs and spices entering the Australian market," says Mr Godfrey.
CHOICE's findings come in the wake of a food fraud study last year in the UK which found 25% of dried oregano samples were adulterated.
"With consumers spending $115m on herbs and spices last year, we were concerned that Australian consumers might also be affected by the same issue, so we decided to carry out a spot check on the authenticity of oregano being sold here.
"We purchased a selection of dried oregano products from supermarkets, grocers and delis in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth – 12 different brands in total – and had a single sample of each product analysed," Mr Godfrey says
CHOICE's spot check found products from MasterFoods, Woolworths Select, Coles, McCormick and Herbies Spices had 100% oregano leaves.
With the results indicating that seven products were adulterated, and appear likely to have breached provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), CHOICE has referred its findings to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
"While it is unclear as to why the alteration has occurred, the fact is you shouldn't need a lab test to tell you what herb you're actually buying. Consumers should be able to trust that if a product is labelled as 'oregano', it's actually oregano."
Information about CHOICE's food fraud investigation can be found here: choice.com.au/oregano
 Retail World Annual Report 2015.