Undeclared “meat glue” used in countless American products

First it was “pink slime” horrifying consumers in the US, now it’s emerged that millions of Americans are also consuming “meat glue” each week.

The additive is used to produce not only meats found in fast food outlets, but also supermarkets, local delis and restaurants.

Even vegetarian foods have been found to contain “meat glue.”

The two main types of "meat glue"

The “meat glue” is made up two major types, the first transglutaminase Activa, a white powder form of a natural coagulant-like enzyme called transglutaminase.

The other type is Fibrimex, which is made of enzymes extracted from pig or beef blood by a process developed in the Netherlands.

According to the companies who make the “meat glue” they were designed to bond pieces of protein or irregularly shaped meat so it can be cut and cooked evenly by the food-service industry.

Food scientists told Scripps News Network the two cold-binding agents are used to reduce the use of sodium phosphate, sodium alginate, carrageenan, sodium caseinate and other chemicals that had been used for decades to form and mold meat.

Despite US laws requiring labelling to disclose the inclusion of the two brands of protein adhesive are apparently being ignored, according to an investigation by Scripps Howard News Service, which found almost none of the companies tested declared the additive.

Over five months, Scripps examined over 130 meats and deli products in Seattle, Milwaukee, Omaha and Denver which food scientists found contained the adhesive mixtures, but only four of them had the word “enzymes” on the ingredients list.

No companies would discuss the use of the additive, but it is estimated by food scientists that it is found in up to 35 per cent of all sliced ham, beef, chicken, fish, pizza toppings and other deli meats.

Cold cut processors and fast food outlets including McDonald’s and Arby’s were contacted by Scripps to discuss the use of the additive, but all declined to comment, on whether they use transglutaminase or blood-extract products,  raising concerns over the use of processing products.

While the government regulates that the use of the product should be included on a product’s ingredient list, producers can use a loophole which defines binders as a “processing aid.”

Is this the next "pink slime?"

Similarly to the “pink slime,” which is used as a cheap ground-beef filler, meat glue is not considered a health risk by federal food watchdogs, but consumers are disgusted and frightened by the inclusion of such additives.

After much publicity in 2011 and 2012, the use of pink slime has fallen in the US, although there are reports it is still being used in school lunches.

Experts say the US food industry needs to be accountable for it’s actions and be more transparent with consumers.

“For decades, the meat industry has conveniently operated in the dark, not sharing the dirty details of their practices with the public, while the federal government looked the other way,” Michele Simon, a policy consultant for the Center for Food Safety, told Scripps.

“But now, consumers are demanding to know the truth about what they are.

"We need more transparency in a food system that puts profits before people.”

The impact on religion and diet

The undeclared use of Activa and Fibrimex can cause issues for people with beliefs or dietary restrictions.

Jewish or Muslim consumers could be eating pork products chicken or fish pieces without being aware and vegetarians could be unknowingly consuming meat in their apparently “meat-free” products.

“There may be economic adulteration going on here, and the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) or the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) needs to look at whether laws are being violated,” Tony Corbo, legislative representative for the national consumer group Food & Water Watch said.

“We are especially appalled that certain consumers’ religious beliefs may be unknowingly violated because food manufacturers are hiding what goes into the production of these binding agents.”

The Australian standards

A spokesperson from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) told Food Magazine in a statement that the use of the enzyme, transglutaminase, as a processing aid is permitted under the Processing Aids of the food standards Code.

“Like all processing aids, the safety and function of this enzyme was thoroughly assessed before it was permitted to be included in the Code,” the spokesperson said.

Clause 6 of the Meat and Meat Products of the Code states that “Where raw meat has been formed or joined in the semblance of a cut of meat using a binding system without the application of heat, whether coated or not, a declaration that the meat is either formed or joined, in conjunction with cooking instructions indicating how the microbiological safety of the product can be achieved must be included on the label; or if the food is not required to be labelled, must be provided to the purchaser."

“This mandatory information requirement applies to all raw meat that has been formed or joined and is available for retail sale,” the spokesperson told Food Magazine.

“Where there may be compliance concerns, for example raw meat that is joined or formed being sold without the required labelling, consumers can approach the relevant enforcement agencies with their concerns.

“In addition, where the physical form of the formed or joined meat is labelled in a manner that implies the meat is a whole cut (for example, raw formed or joined meat labelled as ‘steak’), such representations could be considered deceptive or misleading to consumers and would fall under  Australian Consumer Law.

“This legislation is administered and enforced jointly by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the state and territory consumer protection agencies.”

What do you think of these kinds of additives? Are they necessary? Should there be more stringent labelling rules?

220 000 cases of diabetes could be prevented by 2025

Australian researchers have examined three options for beating obesity and discovered they could prevent about 220 000 cases of type 2 diabetes nationwide by 2025.

The team from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute identified a high-risk prevention strategy to begin tackling the obesity epidemic and rise in the number of type 2 diabetes.

Over 11 per cent, or just over two million people, will have diabetes in Australia by 2025, if current trends continue, the researchers found.

They modelled future diabetes cases that could be averted using one of three strategies, the ‘junk food tax,’ counselling and gastric banding.

The junk food tax – or fat tax – as well as a tax on sugary drinks have all been suggested in the last six months as possible ways to curb obesity rates.

A nation-wide tax on unhealthy foods could lead to body mass index decreasing by around 0.5kg/m2.

Preventing diabetes in those at high risk of developing diabetes would include behavioural modification programs, which would include six counselling sessions to monitor a reduction of fat and saturated fat in the diet, an increase in fibre, participation in at least four hours of moderate physical activity per week, culminating in weight loss of more than five per cent over 8-12 months.

This strategy was found to be the most effective, averting 220,000 of diabetes cases by 2025, which equates to a 10 per cent reduction, meaning 10 per cent of the population would be sufferers, down from 11.4 per cent.

The third strategy, for those who are already morbidly obese and therefore at the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Gastric banding of those in the morbidly obese category who had newly diagnosed diabetes would see a 73 remission rate of type 2 diabetes, according to the study.

The surgically induced weight loss interventions prevented about 65 000 cases of diabetes in 2025 respectively. Combining the three interventions would avert around 253,000 cases.

On of the lead researchers, Dr Kathryn Backholer, said preventing the prevalence of diabetes would be more financially viable than continuing current treatments.

“Given the costly complications associated with diabetes, reducing the burden of diabetes by even 10 per cent is likely to have a profound influence on Australia’s health care system,” she said.

“The costs of managing diabetes are likely to increase over time as the population ages and people with diabetes are receiving better treatment and thus living longer.”

“We need to focus preventive efforts towards intensive lifestyle intervention programs to ensure the best success of reducing the future burden of diabetes.”

The findings will be presented today at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Obesity in Lyon, France.

Anti-obesity program fails to reduce BMI’s of girls in low-income areas

An Australian-based program to tackle obesity has failed to reduce the Body Mass Index (BMI)’s of adolescent girls in disadvantaged areas.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle conducted a year-long study with a trial group, which aimed to prevent girls living in low-income communities from becoming overweight.

Funded by a grant from the Australian research Council and published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the study included 357 girls aged 12 to 14 years.

Of those girls, 148 received a program that included increased school sport sessions, physical activity during lunchtime, nutrition workshops and text messaging for social support.

After 12 months on the program, BMI’s showed some positive changes, but were not statistically any different from those in the control group.

In March, a similar program was launched by the Murdoch Children’s Institute (MCRI), and tapped into the mobile and internet technology in an attempt to reach teenagers with the anti-obesity message.

The participants, aged between 12 and 17, will have their height, weight, blood pressure and waist circumference measured when they sign up, with follow-ups at three, six and 12 months.

They will undertake 12 one-hour online sessions which will include motivational messages, information on healthy lifestyles and also have access to a confidential chat room where they log their food diary and levels of activity.

Last month, a US study found conclusive evidence that the community where a child lives will impact their chances of becoming obese.

Lead author of the study, Dr David R. Lubans said this study resulted similar findings.  

 “The intervention effects on body composition were small and not statistically significant but have potential clinical importance,” he said.

“Girls in the intervention group spent 30 minutes per day less in screen-based activities than their control group peers.

“High levels of screen time are associated with a range of adverse health consequences, and our findings have important implications that may help address the increasing burden of pediatric and adolescent obesity observed in areas of social and economic disadvantage.”

Garlic compound can prevent food poisoning

An ingredient in garlic has been found to be 100 times more powerful than two popular antibiotics at fighting one of the most common causes of food poisoning.

The researchers from Washington State University had their findings published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, and believe the discovery could provide revolutionary approaches to food safety.

They say the diallyl sulphide compound in garlic could provide new, more natural, approaches to the way raw and processed meats and food preparation surfaces are treated.

Dr Xianon Lu and Dr Michael Konkel  examined how the compound could kill bacterium when it is protected by a slimy biofilm, which makes it 1000 times more resistant to antibiotics rthan a free floating bacteria cell.

It can easily penetrate the protective biofilm and kill bacteria cell by combining with a sulphur-containing enzyme, they found, which then changed the enzyme’s function and shut down cell metabolism.

They discovered diallyl sulphide is 100 times more effective than regularly prescribed antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin and could often would work in half the time.

The study’s co-author Dr Michael Konkel said the compound is extremely potent.

“This compound has the potential to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply. This is the first step in developing or thinking about new intervention strategies.

“This compound has the potential to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply,” Konkel said.

“This is the first step in developing or thinking about new intervention strategies.”

Konkel did caution people against getting too excited, however, as the work is still in early stages, and far away from actual application.

He also advised people not stuff themselves with garlic in the hope it will prevent all food poisoning, because while garlic is healthy for you, it will not necessarily prevent against Campylobacter-related food poisoning.

If the findings result in applications to ward against food poisoning, it will be in the form of a scientifically created products produced from the active compound.

Quarter of juice boxes contain 25 per cent real juice: Choice survey

A quarter of ‘poppers’ or juice boxes marketed as fruit juice in Australia actually contain 25 per cent or less actual fruit juice, a new Choice study has found.

The consumer watchdog examined the serving size, sugar content, additives, Vitamin C and percentage of actual juice of 100 juice box products available in Australia and compared the results.

Choice has recommended parents heed the findings of the research and think twice before buying the products for their children, as they may not be as nutritious as they assume.

The sugar content of many of the products tested should ring alarm bells for parents, who could unwittingly be providing their child an entire day’s worth of sugar in one box.

The research found, for example, that Golden Circle Pineapple and Golden Circle Sunshine Punch juice boxes each contain more than six teaspoons (30.5g) of sugars in a 250mL pack, a significant amount for a young child.

“Juice boxes definitely offer lunchbox convenience but many are packed with added sugars and deserve the status of a treat,” Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just said.

“While the 100 per cent juice poppers can give you valuable nutrients such as vitamin C and folate, they don’t have the fibre of fresh fruit.”

Choice also found the serving sizes of many of the drinks were too large for children, with three quarters of those tested double the recommended size of 125mL.

 “Many juice boxes offer a double serve which makes it easy for children to end up drinking more juice and more associated kilojoules and sugars, than what is generally recommended,” Just said.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that many beverages labelled as ‘fruit drinks’ are confusing consumers into thinking they’re healthy, when in reality many are worse than fizzy drinks.

In January, researchers in the United States began pushing for a tax on sweetened drinks, which they say could save 26 000 lives per year.

The team from the University of California, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Centre and Columbia University have found that increasing the cost of fizzy drinks and other sweetened beverages by a penny per ounce, would reduce consumption by 15 per cent in ten years.

Research on the hidden additives in foods has led to the government tightening up restrictions about health claims made on packaging, and as more people become informed about the impacts of unhealthy diets and obesity, consumers are turning back to basics and demanding healthier fruit juices.

Check out our feature on this trend towards health here.

When it comes to juice, keep it simple, stupid

Fruit juice used to be simple. You got some fruit, squeezed it until liquid ran out and then drank it. But then, things got complicated.

Somewhere along the way, juice producers realised they could make those expensive fruits go further: put less of it in the bottle, but sell it for the same price. Genius!

Often additives like water, sugar and orange flavouring are mixed with the real stuff that looks like juice, and is stocked in supermarkets with all the other juices, but can only technically be called a "fruit drink."

Then there's "reconstituted" juice, which is a way of adding water to dry solids from which the water has been evaporated.

Taking the moisture out of the fruit, by using heat, is a way to make transportation easier and ensure availability all year round, but can result in many of the nutrients being extracted.

But as people become more aware of the impact of obesity and the part that food and drink consumption plays in that, there is more demand than ever for proper, traditional fruit juice.

Its juice like it used to be, only better.

When nudity is perfectly acceptable

Ten years ago, Nudie Juice was launched by a man affectionately known as 'Tall Tim," and since its initial days, which came off the back of Tim Pethick's obsession with making fresh juices for his family, it has grown into a well-known and trusted brand with state-of-the-art juicing facilities, thousands of stockists and countless "Nudie addicts."

"Our proudest moments are often the unprompted bits of feedback that we receive from our consumers," Richard Glenn, Nudie's National Sales Manager told Food Magazine.

"We are continually amazed by the amount of people who take the time to contact us and tell us how much they love Nudies, their experience of their first nudie, or what they think of our new products.

"We call these people 'Nudie addicts'.

"Last week we even received a picture from a lady who had embroidered a quilt with pictures of all of our nudie characters on it, impressive stuff!"

The ever-increasing number of 'Nudie addicts,' is clear evidence that consumers are looking for quality products, free from preservatives but full of goodness.

Before Nudie entered the market, there weren't any mainstream juicers doing what Pethick was in his kitchen each morning, when he rose early to make up fruit juice and smoothie concoctions for his wife and daughters (and of course, himself), and so an opportunity was born.

After some deliberation, Pethick decided the best name for his company was one that summed up what his fruit was all about: nothing but the fruit, hence 'Nudie.'

From little things, big things grow

In 2003, when the company launched, there were only three people, including Pethick, one stockist, one blender and one small office in Sydney's Balmain.

They went through 256 pieces of fruit in the first week, and sold 40 bottles, mostly to family and friends.

They even went doorknocking, gave out samples and delivered Nudies personally so people could taste the goodness for themselves.

Now, more than 70 people are employed by the company, and it has over 5000 stockists throughout the country, including supermarket, cafŽ and convenience store chains, as well as independent retailers and food service operators.

Nudie goes through about 3 000 000 pieces of fruit per week these days and has a state-of-the-art juicing facility in South East Sydney.

And they're not stopping there.

"Within the last 18 months we've delivered some really strong innovation to the market," Glenn said.

"We spend a lot of time speaking to consumers and identifying trends to ensure that our product offering remains relevant.

"Our Nothing But range which was launched to address the growing consumer concerns around the use of concentrates and added ingredients in many of the other juice products on the market at the time.

"We launched with Nothing But 21 Oranges and Nothing But 20 Apples, taking nudie into the larger 'take home' segment of the market for the first time.

"In addition to the Nothing But message, we are also able to make the claim that we can get the product from farm to bottle in 72 hours, and that it is 100% Australian.

"For every 2L bottle, our farmers in regional NSW pick 21 oranges (give or take a few) and squeeze them, they then deliver this juice to our factory in Sydney where we lightly pasteurise the juice and bottle it.

"We add nothing else to the juice and the whole process from beginning to end takes no more than 72 hours.

"We believe that the quality of the fruit we use and our strict discipline around this process allows us to have such a great tasting juice, which is currently the most popular chilled juice in the Australian grocery market.

"Based on the success of these lines we have since expanded the range into a 1L and 500ml offering and have also added 3 new variants to the range."

A more informed consumer

Glenn told Food Magazine the company is always looking to innovate their products and ensure they are delivering what consumers want.

"We then became the first beverage company in Australia (and possibly the world) to add chia seeds to a beverage," he continued.

"As well as being the highest plant based source of Fibre and Omega 3, chia seeds also help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

"We saw this as a great opportunity to create a nudie with chia seeds as a way of providing breakfast for people on the go, and have partnered with The Chia Co in Kimberley, WA to create the product."

Glenn believes the always-increasing demand for Nudie products is proof that consumers are becoming more educated about additives and their negative impacts, and turning towards healthier options.

"There has certainly been a lot of media coverage surrounding some of the added ingredients which exist in the market, and consumers seem to be better educated when it comes to choosing beverage products.

"A lot of food brands do seem to be increasing their focus on communicating what their products do not contain, which tends to suggest that this message is resonating with consumers across many areas of their grocery shop."

Keeping the good stuff

Another juice producer that is listening to the consumer demand for more fruity goodness and less additives is the Wild About Fruit Company, which produces two ranges of Low GI juices that are free from any nasties and full of flavour and health benefits.

The Wild Child "super-juices" and Wild About Juice ranges are based on apple juice sourced from orchards in the Yarra Valley and created with a "pure fruit" philosophy.

"There are no preservatives, no added sugar or water and no trendy boosts," the company told Food Magazine.

A few years ago a third generation orchardist in Victoria's Yarra valley, Ben Mould, wondered:  "Could an apple juice be made that actually tasted like a crisp orchard fresh apple, and also contain as much of the nutrients from the apple as possible?"

Knowing that crushing the apple caused oxidization, damaging the apple's delicate nutrients, which are found mainly in the skin, Mould had to develop something pretty clever.

Mould said that while most people have experienced the taste of commercially made apple juice – sickly sweet confectionary flavour that leaves a nasty after-taste, few had experienced good quality, sustainably juiced, delicious tasting real apple juice.

Even many home juicers damage the cells of the fruit and remove a lot of the apple's antioxidants.

Then, Mould's patented juicing process, which uses the whole apple, maintains the antioxidants of the fruit and has a low glycemic index (GI) was born.

Well, an apple a day does keep the doctor away!

The company says its Wild about Juice contains twice the nutritional value of the fruit than any other fruit juice on the Australian market and an independent nutritional analysis on apple juices and apple-blended products in Australia confirmed that the unique processing method employed by Wild about Juice which processes the whole fruit retains the naturally occurring phytonutrients and flavonoids contained in apples.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

The company's  Wild about Juice  range of healthy juices straight from the Yarra Valley are 100 per cent Australian, with absolutely no additives and is the first and only juice in Australia to be given a low GI rating.

The GI rating refers to the different ways certain carbohydrates behave in the human body and their effect on blood glucose levels.

Low GI foods and drinks  produce only small fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels,  which  helps people lose and manage weight,increase the body's sensitivity to insulin, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve blood cholesterol levels.

They also leave you feeling fuller for longer, give added endurance for exercise and help re-fuel following exercise.

This 100% Australian, family-owned and operated business has been growing apples & cherries in the Yarra Valley since 1930.

Owner-operator Mould said the patented juicing process is healthier and more environmentally friendly than other juicing techniques.

"This special process extracts and retains the goodness from the fruit by also juicing the skin which contains more fibre and antioxidants than the flesh," Mould Explained.

"Wild about Juice promotes natural nutrition, as it has no preservatives or additives, and this juicing process also leaves minimal waste, making it highly sustainable."

The four powerful antioxidants that remain in the fruit through the revolutionary juicing process are catchins, a potent form of antioxidant which are good for coronary and cardiovascular health, flavanols that help in the protection of cancer and supports cardiovascular health, chalcones, known for their anti-inflammatory attributes and Phenolic Acids (Chlorogenic),  one of the most potent natural antioxidant groups known.

The Wild Child flavours consist of Green Cleanse; Antioxidant Energy; Mango Passion Veggie Detox, which are all made with using nature's own superfoods, and nothing else.

The Green Cleanse, for regeneration and rejuvenation contains apple, mango, banana, spinach, wheatgrass and spirulina to naturally detox and cleanse the body, while the Antioxidant Energy contains apple, pomegranate, blackcurrant, acai, and goji berries, in what the company describes as "the ultimate blend of the world's finest super-fruits and a natural source of antioxidants to boost energy and fight free radicals."

As these companies continue to grow, and the demand for proper, healthy juices increases, the market will see more innovation and creative combinations, and as Glenn told Food Magazine, the most important aspect for Nudie moving forward is commitment to what they do and why they do it.

"As a relatively young business just in our 10th year now, it's hard to say what the next 10 years hold in store.

"We will just make sure that we stick to the values which have got us to where we are today and continue to do what's been working for us so far."

As people become more aware of the impact of obesity and the part that food and drink consumption plays in that, there is more demand than ever for proper, traditional fruit juice.

Organics could feed the world: expert

Organic food will play a large part in feeding the growing world population, according to an expert.

TM Consultants director Tim Marshall told the ABC that families with small amounts of land in developing countries will find the greatest success by embracing organic produce.

Listen to the interview on ABC Radio here.

Burger King to use roam free eggs and pigs by 2017

Burger King has announced it will only use animal products that come from free-range farms by 2017.

The global fast food giant announced the decision to only serve humanely bred and grown animal products in it’s US outlets within five years, but has not said whether the remainder of its 12 500 outlets throughout the world will also do the same.

Food Magazine has contacted Australia’s version of Burger King, Hungry Jack’s, to ask whether local outlets will be following in the footsteps of the American stores, but calls have not yet been returned.

Use of gestation crates a complicated issue

The company’s statement says it will only use accredited free range eggs and pork from suppliers who do not use gestation crates.

The gestation crates used to breed pigs have been getting a lot of attention in recent weeks, with welfare groups in Australia calling on producers to stop the use before the 2017 deadline set down voluntarily by the industry.

But a spokesperson from Australian Pork Limited told Food Magazine earlier last week that the use of the crates is for the best interests of the animals, to protect them from attacks due to increased hormone levels during the early stages of pregnancy and ensure proper nutrition.

The 200 centimetre long and 60 centimetre wide metal-barred crates are used to hold all sows for at least part of their 16-week pregnancy.

Almost 18 months Australian after pork producers agreed to ban the steel pens, a third of pregnant sows are no longer confined to the small stalls.

Recent Australian Pork Limited findings showed that 67 per cent of pregnant sows were still housed in the stalls one to four weeks after mating, while the remainder where not in the stalls at any stage of pregnancy.

Animals Australia’s Lyn White, believes that while it is ”pleasing” that some pig producers are no longer confining the pigs to the cages, the ban should be introduced sooner than first decided.

”The two-thirds of pigs who remain subjected to the cruelty of sow stalls won’t be alive to receive the benefits in 2017,” she said.

”It is clearly within the ability of the pig industry to alleviate their suffering now.”

But the Australian Pork Limited spokesperson told Food Magazine that many people don’t understand why the stalls are used and how it ensures the safety of the sows.

“As an agricultural group, we are looking at ways to please the consumers and also ensure the safety of the animals, because there are a lot of pictures out there that make it look bad, but in reality it is in the wellbeing of the animal and her piglets.

In response to questions about the Animals Australia’s calls to introduce the ban sooner than 2017, the spokesperson said it is not as simple as some people think.

“The problem we have is you can’t liken this move to walking into a room and turning off a light, it’s far more complicated that that, and we always have the welfare of animals at heart.

“And for producers to make changes within their own infrastructure, they need authority approval, from local councils and state regulatory services, and that takes time.

“Then need finances to undertake the changes.”

The spokesperson explained that the readily available horror stories and images of animals housed in the stalls during pregnancy are not painting a realistic picture.

“People are under the false impression that every pig is in a cage, but these sow stalls are only relevant to pregnant pigs, and they are placed in there for safety reasons,” the spokesperson told Food Magazine.

“What it means is that they are mated and within 5 day period are moved to groups.

“Depending on the operation, each producer will decide the size and location of the group and when they’re nearly ready to give birth they are moved to a farrowing stall, a birthing stall, which is a spring-loaded contraption to prevent her suffocating the piglets by lying on them.

“This alone saves about 1 million babies per year.”

The latest trend for retailers?

Coles has pledged to only stock fresh pork meat supplied by producers who have abandoned sow stalls by 2014 and experience would indicate Woolworths would quickly follow suit.

Burger King’s statement was made in a joint statement with the Humane Society.

"For more than a decade, Burger King Corp. has demonstrated a commitment to animal welfare,” Jonathan Fitzpatrick, chief brand and operations officer said.

"We continue to leverage our purchasing power to ensure the appropriate and proper treatment of animals by our vendors and suppliers.”

Animal rights group the Humane Society welcomed the decision by Burger King.

"These changes by Burger King Corp. will improve life for countless farm animals and encourage other companies to abide by animal welfare principles up and down their supply chain,” said Wayne Pacelle, head of the group.

Airplane food tastes strange … and here’s why

Many people find being high up an unpleasant experience. This is not just mountain sickness or acrophobia – it turns out our taste buds too have no head for heights.

Taste is not just determined by the gustatory qualities of the food. It is also substantially influenced by the state of your mouth. Transient changes in our sense of taste are quite common.

This can occur with gum and dental disease and mouth problems such as thrush and mucositis associated with a cold/flu or chemotherapy. Some medications can also alter taste sensation including some anti-hypertensive drugs, antibiotics and antihistamines.

Contaminated pine nuts may also trigger a persistent unpleasant taste, known as pine mouth.

Low zinc levels can also alter our sense of taste. Most Australians don’t receive their recommended daily intake (RDI) of zinc. This can be a particular problem as, unlike iron and other trace metals we need for health, we don’t store zinc in our bodies, so we need a daily fix to maintain healthy levels.

The best dietary sources of zinc are crustaceans, meat and poultry. Many cereals and other products are now fortified with zinc. Zinc is also present in many nutritional supplements and multivitamins.

Strict vegetarians are at increased risk of low zinc levels, partly as they avoid zinc-rich meat and partly as fibre in plants reduces zinc absorption. Alcoholics and those with digestive diseases are also more likely to become zinc-deficient.

Changing tastes

So what about the food served on a plane? Actually, there may really be a reason why meals doesn’t taste any good at altitude (beyond the fact you are flying cattle class).

As most commercial flights go up, the atmospheric pressure is slowly reduced, on average, to the equivalent of standing on the summit of Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 metres or 7,310 feet above sea level).

That’s why ear-popping occurs on take-off, as air within the middle ear expands, builds up pressure and eventually pops out through the Eustachian tubes into the nose.

Newer aircraft, such as the Airbus A380, keep a lower cabin pressure (1,500 metres), equivalent to standing at Falls Creek, Victoria, at about 1,780 metres.

It is well known that reduced atmospheric pressure and lower oxygen levels dull the appetite. But even the modest changes in altitude associated with plane travel may be sufficient to change sensitivity for some tastes.

One small study showed that the threshold for tasting sweet or salty tasting substances increased when you go from sea level to 3,500 metres, while thresholds for sour and bitter went down. In other words, really sweet things didn’t taste so bad, but slightly acidic or bitter things, such as a sauvignon blanc or coffee, tasted a whole lot worse.

High and dry

The dry atmosphere inside a plane’s cabin also dries out the mouth. Typically relative humidity is very low at less than 10%. The only place on the ground that gets this low is in Death Valley, California. By comparison, average humidity in the Sahara Desert is about 25%.

Although most people notice dry, sore eyes and dry, itchy skin after long flights, progressive drying of the nose and mouth also occurs, producing an unpleasant “pastie” sensation (much like cotton in the mouth).

In particular, saliva reduces its water content to become more concentrated and more viscous. This can leave a salty taste in the mouth and affect the level at which salt can be tasted in food. An increased concentration of glutamate (which naturally occurs in saliva) can also produce an unpleasant taste.

More importantly, taste in food is a function of its solubility in saliva. Taste molecules must dissolve in the salivary fluid layer to reach and stimulate taste receptors.

Again, a dry mouth makes this more difficult for some tastes, especially sweet and salty. At the same time the buffering capacity of saliva falls, increasing the intensity of sour tastes in food and drink.

When you are dry, almost any cold drink tastes good, even those that would be distasteful when you are well hydrated. This fact, in combination with aforementioned changes in taste sensitivity, may partly explain recently publicised reports by Lufthansa scientists that tomato juice is more popular on flights, while few people touch the stuff on the ground.

A rational response would be to serve more sweet and spicy food on planes and less astringent wine, to be as appetising as food tastes on the ground.

But because of the noise, the vibration, the cramped conditions, and re-heated mass-produced food, eating on planes won’t ever make for a pleasurable dining experience – so just keep coming round with the cold water, thanks!

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Merlin Thomas is a Professor of Preventative Medicine at Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute.

KFC chicken paralysed girl, court finds

A judge has ruled that fast food chain KFC is responsible for the brain damage of a young girl who was left paralysed by food poisoning.

In a judgement made on Saturday, Judge Stephen Rothman said Monika Samaan, who was seven years old when she got salmonella poisoning from chicken Twister wrap, was permanently disabled through negligence by KFC.

When she ate the food in October 2005, Samaan suffered salmonella encephalopathy, – a brain injury linked to food poisoning – and subsequently ended up with a blood infection and septic shock.

The girl suffered cognitive, motor and speech impairment, and went into a coma in hospital, which the family says is the direct result of the chicken chain’s actions.

They say several other family members also fell ill as a result of eating food from the Villawood KFC the same day.

The Supreme Court ruled in the family’s favour, after it concluded "a KFC Twister… consumed predominately by Monika and in lesser quantities by her family," made her ill.

According to Justice Rothman the chicken was contaminated "because of the failure of one or more employees of KFC" to follow preparation and handling rules.

He labelled the actions of these employees as "negligent,” but acknowledged they were not aware of how they could impact consumers.

"There is some evidence, which I accept, that some employees were unaware of the full consequences of a breakdown in the system that was to be implemented," Rothman said in his judgment.

"Nevertheless, the conduct of the employee was negligent and KFC, as the employer, is vicariously liable for the negligence."

Rothman referred to an assessment conducted at the premises prior to Samaan’s illness, which criticised the hygiene and food preparation standards, and testimonies by some staff members that they would throw food around as a joke, drop chicken on the ground and handle food without gloves on, in his findings.

"The evidence was consistent that the standards set by KFC were not met during the latter half of 2005," Rothman said.

"The contamination has occurred because of the failure of one or more employees of KFC to adhere to that procedure."

Compensation will be determined in a separate hearing, with Rothman saying the fallout from the food poisoning was “most rare.”

"She is now intellectually disabled, is unable to function independently, she needs total care and she will be unable to live a life filled with normal activities, relationships, milestones and achievements," he said.

"The plaintiff has been severely disabled at a very young age and as a result of her injuries, it is clear she will never enjoy the normal life that was expected of her prior to this catastrophic event."

KFC has confirmed it will appeal the decision.

"We believe the evidence showed KFC did not cause this tragedy and, after reviewing the judgment and seeking further advice from our lawyers, we have decided to appeal Justice Rothman’s decision," KFC Australia spokeswoman Sally Glover said.

"We feel deeply for Monika and the Samaan family however we also have a responsibility to defend KFC’s reputation as a provider of safe, high quality food."

Image: The Samaan family. Credits: Adam Ward, Herald Sun.

China’s Coca-Cola Shanxi denies workers’ claim of contaminated products

Chinese authorities have denied there are any problems with it’s locally-manufactured Coca-Cola Shanxi Beverages, after an employee claimed mass chlorine contamination.

An anonymous employee told local media on Tuesday that routine pipe maintenance work had resulted in nine batches of products becoming contaminated with chlorine.

Many retailers and individual consumers stopped buying the products as a result of the alleged contamination, leading Coca-Cola Shanxi to test the products in question.

According to the Shanxi Province Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision, 121 058 cases of the potentially contaminated beverages were produced between 4 February to 8 Fenruary.

Of these, more then 76 000 had been sold by Tuesday and the remainder are still in the company’s possession.

Tests of the products resulted in the Food Quality Safety Supervision Testing Institute of Shanxi Province and the Shanxi Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Technology Centre declaring the products safe to consume, despite chlorine being identified in the samples.

They maintain that chlorine levels in the drinks are less than purified drinking water and therefore safe to drink.

“Drinking small amounts of chloric beverages won’t hurt people, but large amounts can,” Fu Yingwen, director of the inspection and quarantine centre said.

Salt levels in fast food varies between countries

It’s pretty common knowledge that the salt content in fast food is high, but new research shows that the exact level varied between countries, even if it’s the same chain.

Researchers compared the same food items, bought in six different countries, and found that overall the UK foods had less salt that the US and Canada, and Australia was somewhere in the middle.

They bought foods like McDonald’s nuggets, burgers and pizza from global chains to conduct their research.

In the UK, McDonald’s nuggets had 240mg, or 0.6 grams of salt per serving, compared with 1.7 grams – which equates to 600 milligrams – found in the same item sold in the US.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Heart Foundation advise the average person should limit their salt consumption to about 2000 mg, or 4 to 6 grams per day, so depending what people in the US pair their nuggets with – salty fries, for example – they could be at risk of consuming more than half their recommended daily salt intake in just one meal.

Most people in Australia today consume eight to twelve grams of salt each day, mostly from processed foods.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that while most Australian fast-food options are somewhere in the middle of the salty US options and less salty UK variations, we do have one burger on offer which tips the scales in all the wrong ways, according to lead author Elizabeth Dunford, a PhD student at theGeorge Institute in Sydney.

Hungry Jack’s Ultimate Double Whopper has 6.3 grams, or 6300 milligrams, of salt in each serve, almost triple the recommended daily salt intake.

Closely following that is the Burger King Angus bacon and cheese burger from Burger King in the US, which contains 5.2 grams of salt per serve.

This week a study was published which found the chances of a child being obese greatly depends on their neighbourhood, while earlier this month other researchers discovered that a “low salt” label on food will make a consumer experience a decreased level of taste, even if it is not in fact any lower in salt than other varieties.

High consumption of salt has been proven to raise blood pressure, increase the chances of diabetes and stroke, and cause weight gain.

The Heart Foundation, doctors and health organisations are constantly recommending low-salt diets to improve health and life expectancy.

"The main outcome of high salt is high blood pressure levels and that is the leading risk factor for cardio vascular disease and stroke, which is the number one cause of death in Australia," Dunford said.

Only last week there were fresh calls for a “fat tax” in Australia, following its introduction in Sweden and the UK, and Dunford believes part of the reason for the lower salt content in food bought in the UK is the awareness of fat and salt on health.

"We think the reason for [the low salt levels in the UK] is that they have a national salt reduction campaign," she said.

"In Australia we started that process with some processed foods, but we’re a little behind in other foods.

“We’re heading in the right direction."

Fresh calls for a “fat tax” in Australia

Another Australian health group has joined the chorus of organisations demanding better initiatives to encourage healthy eating.

Public Health Australia believes a “fat tax,” similar to the one introduced in Denmark last year, would enable the food industry to reverse the current discrepancies in price between junk foods and healthier alternatives.

It believes the tax on foods with a high level of saturated fat would raise money which could be used to subsidise healthier foods.

One of the problems with the current pricing of foods is that junk food manufacturers are able to mass-produce unhealthy foods for an extremely low price – burgers at McDonald’s for example, cost as little as $2 – while sourcing quality ingredients and producing healthy foods costs the manufacturer more and therefore retails at a much higher price.

This is part of the reason the peak industry body rejected the original calls for the fat tax last year.

“There is already a 10 per cent tax on processed foods – the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which came into effect in 2000,” Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) chief executive Kate Carnell said.

“Australia has had a GST on processed foods – not on fresh foods or staples – for the past decade yet obesity levels have continued to rise.

“Food taxes are regressive as they penalise people who can least afford it – fat taxes were also dismissed by last year’s Henry Tax Review.

But Public Health Australia’s chief executive Michael Moore says a tax on sugar would be no different to the tax on tobacco.

"In the end, whilst the industry is making big profits out of junk food, it’s actually the taxpayer that’s paying for the results," he said.

"And you only have to look at the health costs, and the skyrocketing health costs, relating to obesity and other dietary related diseases to realise it’s just a transfer of money from the taxpayer to big industry."

The health impacts associated with obesity have earned it the title of ‘the new smoking’ amongst many experts, and as society becomes more informed about the detriments of being overweight, behaviours are beginning to change.

The tax has been introduced in parts of the UK already, and Greggs bakery will take the Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to impose the Value Added Tax (VAT) on its hot products to court in the next six weeks.

The bakery chain, which has 1500 stores across the UK, has lost £30 million value in its shared after being reclassified as hot food, but it argues that because it makes no effort to keep the foods warm, they should be exempted from the tax.

Australian doctors are also calling for warning labels on energy drinks, while a US study found a tax on sugary drinks could save 26 000 lives per year.

Health ministers and industry rejected the compulsory traffic light labelling on the front of packaged foods, suggested by Choice, last year, but have pledged to introduce some other form of simple, front-of pack nutritional guides within the next year.

John West tinned tuna variety recalled after glass fragments found in product

A line of John West tinned tuna sold in Australian supermarkets, after glass fragments were found in the product.

The 95 gram tins of John West Tuna Tempters Sweet Seeded Mustard with the batch code ‘4ER12’ are sold in Woolworths, Coles, IGA, Franklins and other independent supermarkets.

The product, produced by Victorian-based Simplot Australia, a subsidiary of American food company Simplot, can be returned to the point of purchase for a full refund.

It is not clear at this stage how the glass fragments ended up in the tuna tins.

“Reduced salt” label reduced taste perception: study

A “reduced salt” label on a food product will make a consumer experience a reduced level of taste, even if it is not in fact lower in salt.

A Deakin University study, which recruited 50 participants to taste soups with the same salt content, but it labelled some as “reduced salt.”

Those labelled as low sodium actually had the same salt content as the other soups, but participants reported that they found them less tasty.

After the initial tasting of each soup, participants were could add salt to all the soups they thought needed it.

“We found that when a product was labeled as ‘reduced salt’, people believed the food was not as tasty as the unlabeled version, despite it having the same salt content,” Deakin health expert Dr Gie Liem.

“This negative taste experience resulted in more people adding more salt to the soup, than when such a label was not present.

“Interestingly, the Heart Foundation tick did not influence taste perception.”

As cardiologists and nutritionalists keep advising low-salt diets as the ideal way to curb the ever-increasing rates of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, the findings from this study could impact the way salt reduced products are marketed, according to Liem.

“The reduction of salt in processed foods is needed and highly encouraged.,” he said.

“Often consumers can hardly taste the difference between salt reduced and non-salt reduced products.

“However, the results of our study indicate we need to be careful about how salt reduced products are marketed, so that consumers will not be turned off these products from a taste perspective.”

Most people today consume eight to nine grams of salt each day, while the recommended dose is no more than four grams daily.

“This study highlights that promoting salt reduction as part of front-of-pack labeling can have a negative effect on how consumers perceive the taste of the product and on salt use.

“Therefore it’s important for researchers, public health professionals, industry and governments to work together to carefully consider how best to communicate this message to consumers.”

Duncan Hines recalls two cake mixes over undeclared allergens

Two variations of cupcake mixes have been recalled over undeclared allergens in the product.

Duncan Hines is recalling its Moist Deluxe Devil’s Food Cupcakes mix in 255g red cardboard boxes, with all ‘best before’ dates, as it contains tree nuts.

The Moist Deluxe Confetti Cupcakes mix in 255g red cardboard box from the same company with all ‘best before’ dates is found to contain tree nuts and milk.

The products of concern have been sold at Woolworths, Food for Less and Flemings supermarkets in throughout the country.

The allergens, which can cause illness for some people, did not have the required declarations on the packets.

Anyone who is allergic or intolerant to milk products or tree nuts have been advised not to consume the product and return it to the store where it was purchased for a full refund.

New application could reduce risk of Listeria

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) wants submissions on an application for a processing aid which reduces the risk of Listeria.

Only yesterday Food Magazine reported on a new study which found that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, who avoid foods likely to cause Listeria, as advised by the government and health experts, would be missing out on important nutrients.

The authors of the study believe that instead of eliminating all foods which may cause listeria, new guidelines which promote a moderate intake of foods such as deli meats, fresh fruits and vegetables and some cheeses when pregnant would be a better approach.

The application currently under review by FSANZ could change the safety of such foods if it is passed.

Micreos B.V (previously EBI Food Safety Ltd) has applied for permission to use the bacteriophage preparation, P100, as a processing aid for ready-to-eat foods to reduce levels of Listeria monocytogenes.

FSANZ wants the chemical approved for use on the surface of meats, cheese, fish and fruit and vegetables.

“Processing aids can’t be used in food production without a rigorous safety assessment by FSANZ,” FSANZ Chief Executive Officer, Steve McCutcheon said.

When P100, which is a bacteriophage, is applied to foods, it identifies the food poisoning bacteria, Listeria, and destroys it.

It’s believed to be harmless to plants, animals and humans and does not alter the properties of food or impact compounds like amino acids.

Bacteriophage preparations to treat food has been used United States, Canada and the Netherlands.

Submissions will be considered around July this year.

SPC Ardmona changing strategies to stay afloat

In response to the difficulties Australian food manufacturers face, including the supermarket price wars and the high Australian dollar, SPC Ardmona is embracing new packaging technology to reduce costs.

The iconic Australian brand has long been famous for the tins its foods, including fruits and vegetables, have always been available in.

But to keep up with the big guys – the major supermarkets – SPC had to re-evaluate how to stay afloat in the market.

"We have no choice. We have to work around the high dollar; accept that house brands are a growing reality of food retailing and lift productivity so we can absorb rising food commodity costs," Pinneri said.
The company also got a leg up in the industry when it introduced fruits in plastic containers and screw-top bottles, which provided an easier alternative to the traditional tins.

The company was losing its place in the market as, like so many other sectors, it was being pushed out by cheap imports and private label products sold at a lower price.

Last August it announced it would cut 150 jobs and close its Mooroopna manufacturing plant due to a slump in trading as a result of the strong Australian dollar.

Together with parent company Coca-Cola Amatil, it worked hard to source local ingredients for its operations, with only five per cent of its products made from foreign components, usually only used during shortages in local supply.

SPC’s exports suffered a 25 per cent slump over the last five years, largely due to the high Australian dollar.

But Pinneri pointed to the predicted 70 per cent rise in global food demand in the next 40 years as a great opportunity for food processors.

"Now we’re committed to getting out of the minor league and staying the course," he said.

"We’re getting on with investing in new opportunities in this industry.
"You’ll hopefully see a change in our products in store – what we produce will be more consumer-centric.

"We’re no longer a canned fruit business – those are Nanna’s products – we’re about new technology and product lines.”

"Well make this investment in Australia work.

"We’re commited to achieving phase one of our transformation by 2015."

The company is also examining possible plans to develop specific supermarket house brand lines.

"I take a different approach to a lot of thinking on private labels – I’d rather leverage my infrastructure by producing private label products than see them imported from somewhere else," Pinneri explained.

He also believes more cooperation between government and industry is needed if the Australian food manufacturing and packaging industries are to survive the changes to the market.

Governments need to encourage scale and capital investment, he said, to help companies lift productivity at the rates needed to compete with China.

"We must reduce the burden on local manufacturers, accelerating tax depreciation allowances on re-equiping costs and investments in carbon reduction and water saving technology," Pinneri said.

Pregnant women avoiding “risky” foods lacking proper nutrition: study

An Australian study has found women who are pregnant or trying to conceive are not getting adequate nutrition because they’re avoiding potentially “risky” foods.

The University of Newcastle study has led to questions about whether the warnings about which foods to consume and avoid during pregnancy need a review.

Published in Public Health Nutrition, the study is the first to look at nutrient intakes of pregnant women who abided by warnings about Listeria and avoided foods including soft cheeses, pre-packaged salads and cold meats.

Listeria is linked to still birth and premature birth and those who eat foods potentially containing the bug face a 20 per cent higher chance of miscarriage.

But, the problem is that women who do consume these foods and therefore run the risk of pregnancy complications, also have the highest intake of nutrients essential for a healthy pregnancy and baby.

“This is quite a dilemma,” lead researcher, Professor Clare Collins said.

“It is important for pregnant women to achieve a balance between an adequate intake of nutrients such as folate, iron, zinc and protein, and reducing their risk of Listeriosis.

“In our study, moderate or low consumption of foods at risk of contamination by Listeria was not associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, suggesting that a balanced consumption of potentially risky foods with foods containing essential nutrients may be the best approach.”

She said the findings from the study suggest a more detailed set of recommendations might be needed, as the current Australian Government may be too simplistic in its warnings about Listeria and food avoidance.

“The recommendations need to include the list of ‘risky’ foods, but should focus on giving women low-risk alternatives to help them meet their optimal nutrient targets,” Collins explained.

“Women need to know how to balance opposing risks.

“We want them to feel confident about the foods they choose, so they minimise the risk of Listeriosis while giving their baby the best possible start to life.”

Listeriosis is relatively rare in Australia today, as regulations around food preparation and storage are improved.

In 2008, there were about 65 cases of Listeriosis reported in Australia.

Of those, 12 of occurred during pregnancy and one case was fatal.

“Our findings suggest that a moderate consumption of potentially risky foods may be the optimal approach,” the authors concluded.

The strangest toothpaste flavours ever invented

Dentists are always telling us to brush our teeth after we eat, but does following up a can of Coke with some Coke-flavoured toothpaste count?

A series of the weirdest toothpaste flavours posted on Buzzfeed shows the imaginative thought processes of creators around the world.

Sick of mint flavoured toothpaste? Maybe try Oreo flavour, or even get the taste of cupcakes while you brush.

Big night out with the girls, and in desperate need of a hair of the dog? Well, brush with champagne-flavoured toothpaste and maybe follow it up with the flavours of a greasy breakfast, without the calories, by reaching for the bacon flavour.

The full list also includes pickle, blueberry and whickey flavours.

Have you seen any weird toothpaste flavours? If you have, take a picture and share it with us on our Facebook page.