A company that claimed Chinese bee pollen it was exporting was made in New Zealand has been stung with fines of more than $500,000.
Topline International, which sold its pollen under the brand NatureBee, and its director Jeffrey Bernard Cook were handed $526,500 for a total of 44 charges at the Auckland District Court this week.
Cook's $121,500 personal fine is among the highest-ever fine imposed on a director under the Fair Trading Act, the Commerce Commission says.
The commission said the pollen, mostly for export, was pitched as New Zealand-made, but actually produced and processed in China.
"There was no way consumers could tell the Chinese origin of the pollen from the labelling," commissioner Anna Rawlings said.
Topline started in 2000 and initially did sell New Zealand potentiated pollen. In 2005 it began using Chinese pollen instead, but in 2011 put labelling back on its products saying it was New Zealand made.
Handing down the sentence, Justice Nevin Dawson called the claims "blatant fabrications and lies" and said the defendants needed to be held accountable for their "blatantly misleading and knowingly untruthful promotion".
The company and Cook were given reduced fines due to guilty pleas.
"Topline's promotional material attempted to take advantage of New Zealand's 'clean green' reputation, and it went on for four years," Ms Rawlings said.
"Topline only stopped mis-labelling NatureBee products when it became aware the commission was investigating."