MasterChef referred to ACCC over ‘experimental’ cooking product claims

MasterChef has been referred to Australia’s powerful consumer law watchdog over claims made on the show about a new “experimental” product being used during Season 16. The complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) relates to the show’s promotion of biomethane gas — a fuel made from rotting waste which Network 10 says is currently being used to power stoves.

While MasterChef franchises elsewhere have switched to electrical induction cooking, producers in Australia have controversially stuck with gas. And the show’s end credits include the “Renewable Gas” logo as part of a sponsorship deal.

This logo is associated with Australian Gas Network (AGN), a company that operates gas lines which primarily distributes methane — a gas 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Because of the environmental footprint of methane gas, new homes in Victoria, where MasterChef is filmed, cannot be hooked up to gas lines and must instead be hooked up to electric appliances.

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  1. Renewable hydrogen — created by separating hydrogen from water.

  2. Biomethane — gas captured from decomposing waste.

AGN responded by telling Yahoo News it has been “clear” about the nature of its sponsorship on the program.

“(AGN) is providing biomethane and hydrogen to MasterChef Australia to practically demonstrate that customers can cook with a low carbon solution that can be delivered by existing gas networks to support Australia’s transition to net zero,” it said in a statement.

“Throughout the MasterChef Australia sponsorship, we have been clear about the nature of the sponsorship and the gas used on set. “We have taken care to ensure we accurately described the gas we were supplying.”

Network 10 has been contacted for comment.

CommsDeclare alleges MasterChef has made headline statements which give the impression that its gas is ‘renewable’. Source: Network 10/MasterChef

The complaint to the ACCC was filed by lawyers at Environmental Justice Australia on behalf of CommsDeclare, a group that advocates against marketing of fossil fuels like gas and coal.

The ACCC confirmed it received the allegations, but declined to say whether it was pursuing them. “The ACCC doesn’t comment on potential investigations or individual businesses,” it told Yahoo.

The 20-page complaint letter sent to the ACCC, and seen by Yahoo, raises 41 concerns and asks it to investigate.

A key concern of the complainants is a statement made by a MasterChef presenter during episode 4. “I’m excited to say this year, MasterChef is going greener with renewable gas,” he says.

CommsDeclare alleges MasterChef has made headline statements which give the impression that its gas is “renewable” and this obscures a practical need to combine it with a fossil fuel to distribute it into homes.

It also claims the manufacturing of both fuels have associated emissions that render them “non-renewable and carbon positive”.

CommsDeclare founder Belinda Noble said she believed thousands of MasterChef fans are being “deceived” into believing biomethane is good for the planet. “The biomethane and gray hydrogen used in the MasterChef kitchen is not renewable, not low emissions, not commercially viable and not available in ordinary Australian homes,” she said.

Fossil fuels are amplifying extreme weather events associated with climate change. Source: Getty (File Image)

While there are start-up projects in South Australia and NSW that can deliver small amounts of these gases, methane is still the dominant fuel burned in gas lines.

One of these projects is Jemena’s biomethane “demonstration” plant in Sydney’s south that scrapes gas from wastewater. Another is AGIG’s plant in SA which is blending 10 per cent hydrogen with the greenhouse gas methane.

Environment Victoria, which has been outspoken against MasterChef’s gas deal, claimed biomethane is nothing more than an “impractical fantasy”. “We couldn’t make anywhere near enough biomethane to cover our needs,” its Climate Campaign Manager Joy Toose said.

She said other gas alternatives like hydrogen remain too expensive for regular household use. “It would require a complete overhaul of the gas network and the replacement of every single gas appliance,” Toose added.

When Yahoo contacted AGN about Environment Victoria’s concerns in April, it responded by saying “Australia needs more, not fewer, renewable energy options” and that biomethane and hydrogen are a “low carbon solution” that can be delivered using existing gas networks.

“This means Australian customers from households to large industry can retain the choice of an energy fuel that suits their needs with fewer emissions than natural gas,” it said.

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