Bitter banana barney

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Carnarvon's Sweeter Banana co-operative wants strong action taken against supermarket chain IGA, claiming it misled thousands of WA consumers by incorrectly labelling their bananas as WA grown.

On Wednesday last week IGA promoted a special on bananas at $2.79 per 750g in its catalogue circulated Statewide.

The advertisement featured the Buy West Eat Best logo but the bananas advertised were sourced from Queensland.

WA's biggest banana supplier, Sweeter Banana, was outraged by the ad and immediately took the matter to the State Government.

Sweeter Banana general manager Bryce Guthrie accused IGA of deliberately misleading consumers and denting the reputation of WA produce.

"They have advertised the product as a Buy West Eat Best special in the hope of attracting buyers to bananas expecting to get WA bananas," he said.

"The problem is consumers will buy those bananas thinking they are WA grown but they won't have the same taste they get in buying our bananas.

"They will either make one of two decisions - that the bananas aren't from WA or that WA bananas no longer taste any good.

"It is that second assumption that we are really worried about - that they will associate these with WA bananas and think there's no reason to keep buying WA bananas if that's what they taste like."

In IGA's stores some of the bananas from the catalogue special were labelled Queensland grown and some as Australian grown.

IGA defended its actions to the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) by claiming they simply made a mistake by attaching the logo to the special.

Mr Guthrie rejected this claim and said the advertising was "a deliberate attempt to copy our brand and to cash in on the success we've had".

"We really support strong action on this," he said.

A recent Curtin University study found that 80 per cent of 119 people tested preferred the taste of WA bananas over those grown in other parts of the country.

Sweeter Banana stressed that it was not the individual stores that had done the wrong thing but IGA's distribution centre.

IGA Distribution, which trades under Metcash, refused to comment on the matter but acknowledged the error by printing a correction in The West Australian. Agriculture Minister Terry Redman referred the matter to his department which oversees the Buy West Eat Best campaign.

A DAFWA spokesman said the department was satisfied with IGA's response to the issue and would not take further action.

"DAFWA will continue to monitor IGA stores for Buy West Eat Best branding compliance for shelf labelling of bananas," he said.

"Retail members of the Buy West Eat Best program have rarely made errors applying the Buy West Eat Best logo in their catalogues - we do undertake regular checks. When we have contacted them about errors they have also publicly apologised and put in place measures to avoid any repeat error.

"This is the approach we prefer to take in the first instance with our retail members rather than pursuing legal action through the ACCC or Department of Commerce (Fair Trading).

"If consistent and deliberate errors are made when using the logo, then we have the option to revoke the member's right to use the logo and pursue these legal avenues."

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