19 May 2017

'From NZ' bee pollen seller stung with $500,000 fine

1:34 pm on 19 May 2017

A health supplement company that claimed China-made bee pollen was from New Zealand has been ordered to pay a $500,000 fine.

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Photo: Flickr

The Commerce Commission took Topline International - which sold pollen under the NatureBee brand, mostly for export - to court.

It said Topline's promotional material had attempted to take advantage of New Zealand's clean green reputation, and it went on for four years.

NatureBee labels stated the pollen was "Made in New Zealand", its website said it was from "hardworking bees of New Zealand's pristine wilderness".

In sentencing at Auckland District Court, Judge Dawson said "the untrue statements are blatant fabrications and lies", and the defendants needed to be held accountable for misleading people.

Topline director, and principal shareholder, Jeffrey Bernard Cook was fined over $121,500 on 22 charges, and Topline was fined $405,000.

Commissioner Anna Rawlings said Topline has sold NatureBee potentiated pollen - which claims to make the pollen more digestible for humans by crushing it - since 2000.

She said Topline initially sold bee pollen which was accurately described as coming from New Zealand.

"Around 2005 Topline began using Chinese pollen and it altered its labelling to remove any reference to New Zealand. Then in 2011 the New Zealand-made claim was added back to the NatureBee labelling, although the pollen continued to be sourced from China.

"It was simply untrue that the products were New Zealand-made and there was no way consumers could tell the Chinese origin of the pollen from the labelling," said Ms Rawlings.

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