Fruit Shops selling 'rotting' fruit

What are the legal ramifications of fruit shops bundling produce into buckets, obscuring rotten items at the base, and pressuring customers to retain the undesirable produce without swapping it?

Background: A local fruit shop presents “cheaper than average” fruit on display in black plastic buckets outside their premises, accompanied by a “Full Buckets only” sign. The price of these fruits is typically a few dollars lower than those sold inside the store, but not at an extreme discount. For instance, bananas may cost $3.50/kg outdoors versus $5/kg indoors. Savvy shoppers who do not mind ripe fruit are likely to choose the less expensive option.

Unfortunately, the buckets are packed with overripe and decaying fruit at the base, while the upper layer appears fresh but not rotten. Depending on the produce, each bucket may contain 1-1.5 kg of product.

Previously, signs prohibited customers from exchanging fruit from one bucket to another, but now they merely state “Full Buckets only.”

Last weekend, I witnessed a shop employee, who claimed to be the manager and proprietor, intimidate an elderly customer while they inspected the buckets for spoiled fruit.

Therefore, I am curious whether there are any consumer laws that prohibit this type of fraudulent activity. Is there legislation or a code of ethics that asserts fresh produce can be examined and that rotten items must be excluded from unpackaged products?

It is apparent that the shop desires to sell the unusable fruit and profit from it, and is attempting to deceive customers by concealing the rotten fruit at the bottom of an opaque container. As consumers, do we retain the right to refuse to pay for visibly unusable produce?


The practice would be seen as being legal if the items being sold didn’t have a useby date which was expired. Loose fruit/veges doesn’t come with a useby dates, but may have best before dates as a guide for when the product is at its peak.

When living in Brisbane, there were an increasing number of green grocers selling product in buckets significantly cheaper than for loose fruit/vege in the same stores. Second grade fruit was used as it is often bought cheaply from wholesalers/suppliers and often boxes contained pieces which may have started to go off.

Where an issue may lie is that under the Australian Consumer Law, products should be of acceptable quality (especially if there wasn’t information at the point of sale to indicate otherwise). If the buckets or fruit aren’t labelled as being defective (e.g. ‘only suitable for saucing’ or ‘for use as animal feed’ for example which indicates the items are well past their best) and aren’t of acceptable quality on purchase, then under the ACL one could rightly return the product for a refund or replacement, or refuse to pay for it.

A consumer should also have the right to inspect goods at the time of purchase so that they can refuse receipt of the goods are not of acceptable quality.

The business not allowing customers to inspect contents of the bucket before purchase means that the business would be subject to product being returned for a refund/replacement soon after purchase has been made. I suspect that the same green grocers may argue when such refunds/replacements are sought.

I personally would be avoiding such green grocers that don’t allow customers to inspect products before purchase…and think they can get rid of unsalable products by hiding them at the bottom of buckets.


Thank you for such a considerate reply.


I sometimes find when buying say strawberries on a recent occasion they looked in good condition when buying but i opened them up a, few days later and decided to use them only to find approximately half of the package was going rotten. Its hit and miss sometimes. Other places i have purchased seems to last longer.