Food labelling standards slammed

The W.A. government has said the national food standards for labelling must improve, with Australia’s standards on GM food labels, in particular, lower than in China.

Changes are being demanded to labelling practices so consumers can read whether their food contains GM ingredients.

Commercial GM crops are still banned in Western Australia, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Kim Chance said Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) must lift its game.

“In China, not only is labelling compulsory, it is also a requirement on the provincial governments that they test the compliance with the labelling system,” he said.

“So they go in and take food off the shelves and run it through their testing process to make sure that there is nothing on the shelves in that label product which isn’t disclosed on the label.

“We don’t have that in Australia.”

For further information contact:

Kim Chance

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry

kim-chance@dpc.wa.gov.au

Bean there, doing that

Starting this week, McCafé will exclusively serve coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.

In a move that will make choosing a sustainably grown cup of coffee easier for Australian coffee lovers, McDonald’s Australia has announced that every bean used to make the 50 million cups of coffee served annually at its McCafés, will come from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.

With 484 counters across the country, McCafé is the first major coffee chain in Australia to source 100% of its coffee beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. The decision will benefit the environment, as well as coffee growing communities in Colombia, Costa Rica and Brazil where McCafé sources beans.

To be awarded the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, farms must meet specific standards balancing all aspect of production, including protecting the environment, the rights and welfare of workers and the interest of coffee-growing communities. The standards were developed by the Rainforest Alliance, an independent, international environment organisation, and other conservation groups that comprise the Sustainable Agriculture Network.

Speaking in Sydney on a visit from New York, Rainforest Alliance Senior Marketing Manager, Sabrina Vigilante, said: “McDonald’s Australia is making a huge commitment to coffee communities and the environment they depend on by embedding sustainably grown coffee into their business strategy.”

“Farms that have earned the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal are better managed, use less pesticides, offer better working conditions such as decent housing and access to clean water as well as education and medical care for farmers and their families. Wildlife and water, forests and soils must also be protected.”

The decision to source all McCafé coffee beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms means that in 2008, McDonald’s Australia will purchase 468,000 kilograms of certified beans.

“We believe that sourcing and serving coffee from sustainably managed farms is the right thing to do,” McDonald’s Australia COO, Catriona Noble, said.

“For our customers, the decision means they can feel even better about the great tasting McCafé coffee they love, while for our business it marks another important step forward in realising our commitment to sustainability and sustainable business practices.

“While in the first instance we will be sourcing only our McCafé coffee beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, it’s our intention that from March next year we will begin sourcing our entire coffee bean buy of around 1.2 million kilograms from farms certified under the scheme. This will mean the coffee beans used to make every cup of espresso and filter coffee served at McDonald’s will come from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.

“We’re committed to working with experts, as well as our suppliers and licensee community, to find better, more sustainable ways of doing business. In the same way we have improved our menu and included healthier options over the last five or six years, you can expect us to look to increase the sustainability of our menu — from farm, through supply chain, to customer,” she concluded.

Coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms will be launched across McDonald’s Australia McCafés, following successful launches in other McDonald’s markets including the UK and parts of Europe.

For more information contact:

Rainforest Alliance

info@ra.org

www.rainforest-alliance.org

www.mccafesustainablecoffee.com

WorkSafe blitz on manual handling

A state-wide campaign targeting manual handling safety begins on 1 July when food manufacturers and processors will be visited by WorkSafe Victoria inspectors.

Improvement and Prohibition Notices will be issued where safety issues are found.

Prosecutions will follow if serious breaches are identified.

WorkSafe’s Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture Division Director, Trevor Martin, said the industry needs to do more to improve safety.

“There were more than 12,000 workplace injury insurance claims as a result of manual handling injuries in 2006-07.

“More than 900 were in the food manufacturing sector, accounting for 3% of the state’s total injury claims.

“Along with repetitive bending and twisting, the lifting of boxes, drums and bags of ingredients cause nearly 40% of manual handling injuries in the food manufacturing sector,” Martin explained.

“The average cost to treat and rehabilitate each of these manual handling injuries exceeds $9,000.

Martin said business’ health and safety obligations are well known, as are the means of preventing injuries.

“Materials-handling equipment such as a pallet lifter with a turntable will cost between $1,000 and $3,000.

“Mechanical aids can increase productivity while the business costs associated with managing claims and potential legal and reputational issues can be minimised.

“Creating a safer, more productive workplace requires thought and action. Once the process has begun, it needs to be followed through.

“Too often WorkSafe inspectors find that plans have been developed, but not put into effect,” Martin concluded.

For more information contact:

The WorkSafe Advisory Service

info@worksafe.vic.gov.au

www.worksafe.vic.gov.au

The future is tech

Food prices are soaring, wealthier Asian consumers are westernizing their diets, and farmers, let alone the nations of the third world, cannot keep up the pace. With the world population set to hit 9 billion by 2050, the urgency for another Green Revolution is becoming more and more pressing.

According to the UN, global food prices rose 35% last year, noticeably accelerating an upturn that began in 2002. To date however, prices have risen by 65%, bringing much needed attention to the crisis facing world food production and consumption. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s world food index, dairy prices rose nearly 80% in 2007 alone, while grain prices rose by 42%.

What is interesting about these statistics, secondary to the alarming prospect of food availability that they imply, is their divergent trend. The phenomenal growth in dairy prices, that are nearly double that of grain, illustrate the impact of changing Asian diets on global demand. The emergence of China’s middle class has massively increased demand for not only basic commodities, but also high protein foods, such as meat and dairy products, as well as luxury processed products, like soft drinks and chocolate and confectionery.

The past five years have seen rapid growth in the contribution of Asian nations to the Global Fluid and Powdered Milk Manufacturing industry, which now account for more than 30% of production, while China alone accounts for more than 10% of Global Fruit and Vegetable Processing and Preserving industry production and consumption. The trend is similarly evident in industries such as Soft Drink and Bottled Water Manufacturing, as well as Global Cocoa, Chocolate and sugar Confectionery Manufacturing, forecast to grow by 5.7% and 10.0% respectively during 2008 in response to soaring demand in China and Southeast Asian markets.

www.ibisworld.com.au

Nanofood for the future

Once a far-fetched fantasy a long way into the future, nanotechnology is set to have a huge impact on our lives in the here and now. With developments of materials and devices that can monitor blood, detect environmental pollutants and store energy better, nanotech is becoming an integral part of our ever-changing world.

One of nanotech’s most immediate effects will be felt in our food with companies worldwide conducting research using nanotechnology to develop foods with new possibilities in tastes, textures, packaging and enhanced nutrient absorption.

A recent report by International lobby group, The Friends of the Earth (FoE) found that 104 foods, food contact materials and agricultural products containing nanomaterials are now on sale internationally.

Nanotechnology is now used to manufacture some nutritional supplements, flavour and colour additives, food packaging, cling wrap, containers and chemicals used in agriculture.

Some products containing nano-sized particles are already on the market. In America and Europe, nano-sized ingredients have been added to some fruit juices, processed meats, diet milkshakes and baby food.

“We know manufactured nanomaterials are already in some products found on Australian supermarket shelves and used in Australian kitchens,” FoE Nanotechnology Project’s report co-author Georgia Miller said.

“Packaging for Cadbury chocolates, antibacterial kitchen wipes and cleaning sprays, and refrigerators sold by Samsung, Hitachi and LG Electronics now contain manufactured nanomaterials.”

The nanofood sector is led by the US, followed by Japan and China. Asian countries, particularly China, are expected to be the biggest market for nanofood by 2010.

Food packaging using nanotechnology is more advanced than nanofoods, with products on the market that incorporate nanomaterials that scavenge oxygen, fight bacteria, keep in moisture or sense the state of the food.

Plastic incorporating nanoparticles of clay or oxides of metals such as zinc and titanium have already been used to package meats, cheese, confectionery, beer, fruit juice and soft drink overseas.

The fact that nano additives are already part of our products is leading to growing calls for better safety assessment and regulation of nanotechnology in food.

According to report co-author Dr Rye Senjen, the worry is that “Australian laws do not require manufacturers to declare whether or not their products contain manufactured nanomaterials, or to conduct new safety tests on nano ingredients.

“Australian regulators have no way to know how many nano foods may be on Australian supermarket shelves and no way to check whether or not they are safe.”

The UK government’s Central Science Laboratory’s Dr Qasim Chaudhry, says engineered nanosized particles and other structures are used to develop new tastes, textures, and nutritional qualities, as well as improving shelf life and traceability of food products.

The main concern to consumers from nanoparticles in food packaging is through their migration into food and drinks, says Dr Chaudhry. Currently, however, there is not enough information to adequately assess the risk of these additives and ingredients.

With this uncertainty in mind, hasty action should be avoided, especially where food and drinks containing nano-ingredients are likely to be consumed in large quantities by a significat proportion of the population.

Size counts

Complicating the issue is an ongoing debate about the exact size of particles that have the potential to cross into the body’s cells.

While the nanoscale usually refers to structures under 100 nanometres, FoE points to evidence that structures of 300 nanometres can actually also present risks and should be checked for safety.

It has also been shown that particles smaller than 70 nanometres can reach the nucleus of the cell and possibly disrupt the DNA.

Gut reaction

Because current regulations do not fully cover nanotechnology in food, the European food science professional body, the Institute of Food Science and Technology, recently recommended that nanoparticles be treated as new, potentially harmful materials, until testing proves otherwise.

An expert in international nanotechnology regulation, Monash University Professor Graeme Hodge, warns against a “gut reaction” to nanotechnology without considering and assessing all the evidence.

“Don’t panic up front,” he says, adding that the use of nanotechnology in some areas will be “quite benign.” According to the Professor, a host of standards guarding food safety are already in place. “We’re not coming at the question of nanotechnology from a blank slate,” he explained.

Professor Hodge has helped the Australian government to prepare a report on nanotechnology to identify possible gaps in Australian regulations. Australia is one of the few countries to have done this.

However, he does say that it is too early to know if new regulations are really required, especially since international standard-setting bodies are only now officially defining the characteristics of nanomaterials.

A federal health department statement on behalf of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) said that “no policy has been developed in regards to a specific regulatory response to nanotechnology.

“FSANZ is not aware, nor has it been made aware, of any commercially sold foods in Australia that have been developed using nanotechnology.”

The statement says FSANZ is gathering information and discussing the food safety implications of nanotechnology with international bodies and is yet to determine if a risk assessment is required for nanotechnology in foods.

The statement continues by confirming that “robust regulatory arrangements to ensure the safety of food” are in place.

To nano or not to nano?

Few studies have been carried out on the toxic effects of nanoparticles, and most deal with the risks of breathing them in, rather than consuming them, says Dr Chaudhry.

Although one of the benefits of nano-technology may be to increase absorption of nutrients from food, there are infinite unknown consequences, such as a possible change in the balance of nutrients in the body.

“It is also of concern that the introduction into foods of nanoparticles designed to carry dietary supplements could lead to the introduction of foreign substances into the blood,” he explained.

An example of this problem is Nanosilver which is good at killing bacteria. However, no research has been published about the possible effects of Nanosilver on the beneficial bacteria in our bodies.

“There is an urgent need for research into the behaviour of foodstuffs, both manipulated and processed at the nanoscale and the properties of manufactured nanoparticles introduced into foods whether deliberately or as the result of contamination.”

Apart from the many safety issues and questions around this modern marvel, one thing is certain – nanofood will make it even more unlikely that people will eat fresh, sustainably produced food, bringing with it an endless array of debates about priorities for our modern lifestyles.

Lena Zak is the editor of FOOD Magazine.

Top inventor award

Coffs Harbour TAFE teacher, Dr Paul Brockwell, is one of 21 finalists in the 2008 INNOVIC Next Big Thing Award™.

This annual nation-wide competition aims to find and showcase exciting new Australian products with the potential to become the ‘next big thing’. Winners receive over $50,000 in cash and prizes.

Dr Brockwell, and fellow innovator Dr Robert Holland, have developed a unique plastic sensor which is capable of determining everything from the freshness of food to how many kilojoules a person has burned during exercise.

“Our Intelligent Plastic Sensors are accurate, low cost ‘smart labels’ which enable manufacturers to provide easy-to-read quality assurance,” Dr Brockwell says. “It shows, by colour change or appearing/disappearing text, how fresh a product is, how much freshness has been lost, and how much freshness remains.”

Dr Brockwell said the product could be useful for a large variety of industries including:

• Food and hospitality — Freshness monitoring for food and beverages;

• Medical — monitoring freshness of products such as vaccines, blood, pharmaceuticals;

• Health and fitness — monitoring human and animal physiology such as heart rates and metabolism;

• Environmental — monitoring air and water quality as well as pollution;

• Industry —- monitoring the concentration of sanitisers such as pool chlorination and hospital hygiene;

• Agriculture — monitoring soil quality, plant nutrition and fermentation processing.

He has already begun work with leading avocado producers to develop “ripeness stickers” as well as a leading international blood company which has asked him to develop a product which will meter the lifespan of red blood cells and blood platelets.

He is now seeking support from investors and other industries for his research.

Dr Brockwell’s innovation, along with those of the other 20 finalist, will be on display at an exhibition to be held at the Melbourne Museum between May 14 and June 22.

www.nextbigthingaward.com

Boosting supply of Australian produce to China

Australian premium produce exports are set to benefit from upgraded distribution into China following the opening of a new storage, processing and distribution facility in Shanghai by Elders Fine Foods.

The state-of-the-art facility, located in Shanghai’s Jin Qiao Industrial Park, was officially opened by Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke, on Sunday, April 13.

It will facilitate the processing and distribution of Australian meat, premium wines and beer, imported by Elders and distributed to some of China’s top hotels, restaurants and supermarket chains, including Carrefour.

“China now imports over AU$3 billion of Australian agricultural products annually,” Burke said. “Companies like Elders have worked hard to build this trade with great success over the years. So I am particularly pleased to have had the opportunity to open Elders’ new facility whilst in Shanghai,” he added.

Elders China General Manager Tim Leviny said the new facility represented Elders’ most significant overseas investment in food processing and distribution and would serve the company as a launching pad into East China’s agribusiness market.

Leviny said demand in China for quality Australian produce was continuing to grow, generating exciting market openings for Elders and the company’s Australian clients.

“Australia has a well-earned reputation as a producer of high quality, safe food which the Chinese market recognises,” Leviny explained. “As the country develops and domestic incomes rise, more and more Chinese customers are seeking out our products.

“This means existing markets are expanding, while new markets and opportunities continue to form as a result of this economic development.”

The new two-storey, 1500 square metre processing and distribution facility has been designed and built to accommodate Elders Fine Foods’ future growth plans.

Leviny said that the capacity existed for increasing the volume of the current range of products imported and distributed through the Shanghai centre, as well as some capacity to consider expansion of the product range.

Elders Fine Foods currently imports approximately 150 tonnes of chilled meat per annum into China, a figure which represents 31% per cent of official direct chilled meat imports to the country. The wine business is growing, and Elders has been supplying the Coopers beer range for a number of years to an increasing market.

The new facility accommodates 33 staff in the areas of office administration, processing and sales. It also supports another seven sales and administration staff located in Beijing. T

he building features temperature-controlled chillers for warehousing fresh imported meat, adjoining a temperature-controlled processing room where individual customer meat orders are portioned and packaged. Also built into the facility is a deep freeze warehouse for extended shelf-life product, a dry goods storage area where imported wine and beer is held, and a loading dock for easy transfer of goods.

According to Leviny most of Elders’ investment in the new facility had been directed towards the temperature-controlled environment, ensuring the highest possible hygiene and food safety conditions, while also utilising on-site water treatment technology to minimise the operation’s environmental impact.

The facility will assist Elders Fine Foods in the supply of goods through its internet shopping service, a growing segment of the business.

The Beijing Olympic Games is also generating added interest in Australian produce and Leviny said Elders was already working closely with a number of event co-ordinators to ensure visitors to China for the Olympics received a taste of what Australia has to offer.

“Elders has been working with China since the 1950s when we established relationships for the supply of Australian wool. Since then we have expanded the range of agricultural products we supply to China and have moved to develop in-country investments to support these activities.

“And as China strives to develop its own agricultural base, we are also increasingly seeing interest in the way Elders operates in the rural sector through our provision of an extensive portfolio of products and services to the agricultural community.”

The official opening was also attended by various Australian and Chinese Government representatives, senior Chinese officials from the Shanghai Agriculture Commission and Shanghai Food and Drug Administration, and Elders China management and clients. The event included a tour of the new facility and a reception showcasing some of the meat, wine and beer supplied through Elders Fine Foods.

For further information contact:

Tony Burke

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Tony.Burke.MP@aph.gov.au

Committed to sustainability

Food prices, including dairy, are on the rise partly driven by demand for biofuels. This has seen the price of basic grains, such as rice and corn, more than double in price over the past twelve months and dairy prices have also been on the increase.

There is growing uncertainty surrounding even the supply of food, with farmers in some parts of the world currently receiving more for biofuel crops than traditional agriculture. The conversion of land from food production to biofuels is alarming, especially as the European Union is demanding that all fuel must have in excess of 5% biofuel in the near future. But the world cannot live on biofuel!

The Director of Fonterra’s Milk Supply Division, Barry Harris, is working to ensure a sustainable supply of dairy products. This commitment has required a huge research and development (R&D) investment into the industry including developing better pasture management to improved packaging and waste management.

While New Zealand’s agricultural products, including dairy, are regarded by the global consumer to be the epitome of clean and green, and sustainably produced, Harris insists that it is vital exporters show their sustainability credentials in a credible way. And then when they have achieved that this will open up new export opportunities.

However, industries such as dairy do not work in isolation but rely on a complex chain of suppliers from seed to ingredients and packaging. Therefore the food industry, in its entirety, must commit to sustainability. This commitment cannot be piecemeal.

Yet it seems somewhat ironic that while the global marketplace is demanding companies show their sustainability credentials there is still no universally agreed formula for doing so. Leading the way, Fonterra are currently developing a methodology, in conjunction with the Government, for establishing the carbon footprint of its products and supply chain.

“This process requires us to look at the life cycle of the product from the farm and processing to transport and the consumer. From this data we are able to develop an emissions profile for the life cycle of that product, and better understand where opportunities lie for further reductions on emissions.

“Because of Fonterra’s commitment to sustainability, NZ’s dairy farmers are well positioned to gain an edge in the global marketplace. This whole system of developing carbon labelling is also opening up new career opportunities in the food industry, and food techies with skills in quality auditing will become desirable.”

Harris also points out that while Fonterra is still in the formative stages of developing sustainable dairying, there have already been some positive outcomes for the dairy industry such as more efficient fertiliser use, and energy savings.

Opportunities for the future include farmers installing bio-digesters for waste treatment (which also produce energy), using nitrogen inhibitors in fertilisers to reduce nitrogen leaching into the waterways which reduces their carbon footprint.

Fonterra is also working with scientists to help develop better seed mixes that will ensure more digestible pastures thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cows. There is also a selective breeding programme, based on genomics (similar to horse breeding), where cows with desirable characteristics are selected. These characteristics include gut flora that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving digestion.

The dairy industry as a whole is also being encouraged to adopt new technologies. “By adopting new technology in our processing factories we have managed to save the equivalent of the electricity consumption of Hamilton!” But to be successful and competitive all of Fonterra’s suppliers must in time commit to sustainability, from small to large companies, from the CEO to product development, every supplier regardless will have to show their sustainability credentials.

Yet the future is very promising for New Zealand’s exports, insists Harris because, “little ole New Zealand is out there engaging with people in Europe and the UK. Our scientists are talking with other scientists, searching for solutions that will ensure sustainability of food supply. New Zealand is not sitting back but forging the path forwards. And we can do that because New Zealand’s exports already have integrity and credibility.”

www.fonterra.com

Microwave technology for food processing

Industrial Microwave Systems, L.L.C., the producer of patented microwave systems, announces the first commercial process licensing and installation of its Cylindrical Heating System. This system, developed by IMS, employs an aseptic process created through the joint efforts of IMS, North Carolina State University Department of Food Science, and the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (South Atlantic Area).

This new microwave technology, which features a unique, ultra-rapid method of heating aseptic and extended shelf life pumpable food products in a tube, has been installed for Yamco, L.L.C., a North Carolina company. Yamco will officially open a new food manufacturing facility on 26 March, 2008, and showcase this technology for the processing of low acid sweet potatoes.

The IMS Cylindrical Heating System enables liquid, semi-liquid, and pumpable foods and beverages to be uniformly and volumetrically heated on a continuous flow basis while pumped through a tube. The patented technology employed by the IMS cylindrical heater provides uniform spatial and temporal delivery of high-intensity thermal energy to the flowing components, solving the problem of ‘hot spots’ in traditional thermal processing technology.

This results in benefits that allow manufacturers currently using conventional heat exchangers an opportunity to greatly improve product quality while reducing floor space and increasing operational efficiency.

For Yamco, the installation of the IMS Cylindrical Heating System will enable it to produce a superior, nutrient-rich, shelf-stable sweet potato product that can be sold as a premium food ingredient for use in products such as baked goods, nutraceuticals, and infant formulations. Because the pumpable food product is heated so quickly and evenly, the unique thermal process allows for ultra-rapid sterilization with minimal product degradation.

Extensive testing of the heating system and process at North Carolina State University has ensured the delivery of an aseptic sweet potato puree that exhibits maximal nutrient and colour retention and minimal flavour loss. The capability of producing such a superior sweet potato product presents an advantageous opportunity for North Carolina farmers, who account for 40% of the United States’ annual sweet potato production.

A joint U.S. patent for the ultra-rapid heating process has been filed by IMS, North Carolina State University, and the USDA. The three parties worked together to test and develop the total aseptic process and packaging system. When issued, the patent, as it pertains to sweet potato puree processing, will be exclusively licensed to Yamco.

For more information about the Cylindrical Heating System and other innovative microwave technologies for industrial use,

email info@industrialmicrowave.com

or visit www.industrialmicrowave.com

NZ’s primary sector graduates

A record number of qualifications related to New Zealand’s important land-based industries will be awarded at Lincoln University’s 2008 Graduation Ceremony in Christchurch Town Hall on Friday 4 April.

From a total of 725 degrees, diplomas and certificates, a 10-year high of over 26 percent relate to areas such as agriculture, viticulture, wine science, food science, horticulture, farm management, forestry and organic husbandry.

“The increase in qualifications connected to New Zealand’s primary industry sector is good news for New Zealand’s land-based economy,” says Vice-Chancellor Professor Roger Field.

“It clearly reflects the breadth of employment opportunities which characterises the sector today and the range of associated careers we prepare people for at Lincoln University – from on-the-land producers, to research scientists, industry consultants and advisers, to agribusiness personnel, bankers and specialists in many other allied areas.

“The primary sector is now vast and complex with an immense variety of satisfying and financially rewarding career choices open to those with appropriate tertiary qualifications.

“Also good news is an increase in qualifications being awarded specifically in the physical and applied sciences – up 3% on last year to more than 22% of our total. Postgraduate qualifications are up by the same amount too, equalling 22% of the total (which) includes 21 PhDs.”

Also being awarded at the ceremony for the first time is the honorary degree, Doctor of Social Science honoris causa. The recipient is former international opera singer and past CEO of New Zealand Cricket Christopher Doig of Christchurch. Since standing down from NZ Cricket, Doig has been involved in sports marketing and sponsorship and he has recently returned to the world of opera as executive chair of the new Christchurch-based company, Southern Opera.

The honorary degree Doctor of Science honoris causa will be conferred on Christchurch businessman Graham Kitson, Chairman of the JATRA Group of companies, who has combined science and business in an outstanding enterprise marketing New Zealand food products in Japan. A Lincoln University alumnus whose whakapapa is Ngai Tahu, Kitson has also been involved in assisting a number of Maori trusts and incorporations with business and export development.

The 75th award of the University’s prestigious Bledisloe Medal, for alumni and staff who have advanced the interests of New Zealand, will be made to Hawkes Bay farmer/agribusinessman Sam Robinson, a past Chairman of the Hawkes Bay meat company Richmond Ltd (now amalgamated with PPCS) and past winner of the Hawkes Bay Farmer of the Year title.

The University’s Alumni International Medal, for international alumni who have advanced the interests of their home countries, will be awarded to Giles Rowsell of Hampshire, England, a prominent farmer, chair of farmer organisations and lobbyist for farmer interests in the United Kingdom. In addition to farming, Rowsell is a prominent figure in British equestrian eventing and was Competition Controller for Eventing at the Atlanta and Athens Olympic Games.

The Lincoln University Graduation ceremony starts at 2.00pm and, weather permitting, will be preceded by an academic procession through central Christchurch from the Arts Centre to the Town Hall.

The ceremony will be presided over by the Chancellor of Lincoln University Tom Lambie, himself a Lincoln graduate.

For further information contact:

Ian Collins

Communications Group, Lincoln University, Canterbury

collinsi@lincoln.ac.nz

www.lincoln.ac.nz

Australian wine industry lecture

Dr Jim Fortune will present a food and agriculture lecture on the “Change and maturity in the Australian Wine Industry” at The University of Western Australia.

Although the Australian wine industry is hardly a youngster, in the last couple of decades it has rewritten the rulebook about the global wine trade. In achieving this, it has introduced millions of new customers globally to the interest and fascination in wine as a beverage.

Along that path, older industry players, regional innovators and more recent adventurers have contributed to the challenge of working with a wide range of environments, grape varieties and approaches to winemaking.

There is no better example than WA to support an illustration of taking an old and wild type plant, the grapevine, and seeking to get it to grow and understand its performance across environments that have more of a history with general grazing agriculture.

The other feature of wine, that has strongly differentiated it from much of agriculture, is that it really has only one end point, a glass in front of the consumer. This may come in a variety of labels and brands, but requires a strong team effort by a quite complex value chain to really deliver.

Biography

Dr Jim Fortune grew up in WA and having completed an agricultural science degree at the University of Western Australia (1977), did an obligatory period of time in the “north” on the unrelated area of gas pipelines before heading to New Zealand to undertake a PhD in Agronomy at Massey University (1986).

Strong interests in plant and animal agriculture continued into the academic arena in NZ, Victoria and back in WA. A return to UWA in the late 80’s saw a six year period spent as a Lefroy Fellow and CLIMA Fellow where the general focus was how to feed sheep in Mediterranean environments. This linked nicely with understanding more about annual and perennial plants.

Little did he know that the time spent working with tagasaste would actually come in handy when thinking about another woody perennial, the grapevine.

A shift to Adelaide University and farming systems eventually translated into a move into research administration via the CRC system. In 1998, that saw a move to GRDC in Canberra, followed with a return to Adelaide in 2003 as Executive Director of the Grape & Wine R&D Corporation.

Recently he has been enjoying “spreading his wings” back to broader agriculture and the wine industry as a consultant.

Dr Jim Fortune will present his lecture at the Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia on Friday March 28th between 4 to 5pm at the Law Lecture Theatre, Room 1.06 (1st Floor).

For further information contact:

Institute of Agriculture, UWA

08 6488 4717

ioa@fnas.uwa.edu.au

www.ioa.uwa.edu.au

Dr Jim Fortune

jfortune@bigpond.net.au

Termination of the Food Innovation Grants Programme

The government has begun implementing its policy for primary industries. This has included withdrawing funding from the Food Innovation Grants Program to fund new policy initiatives to deliver election commitments.

The government continues to recognise that innovation is important to ensure that all Australian industries are productive and profitable and has established the new Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research to foster innovation.

Further, the government recognises the need for a food industry specific innovation program and has created the Regional Food Producers Innovation and Productivity Program to strengthen the food industry in the regions and, with it, the whole supply chain.

Details of our new program will be available shortly. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact program staff on 1800 631 715.

For further information contact:

Bill Turner

Programme Manager

Food Innovation Grants Programme

Food and Agriculture

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

02 6272 3210

email: bill.turner@daff.gov.au

www.daff.gov.au/foodinnovation

Wal-Mart suppliers must comply

Wal-Mart has announced that suppliers of its private label and other food items, like produce, meat and fish, must comply with standards recognised by Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

Wal-Mart said the four GFSI-approved standards go beyond the current audit process required by the US FDA and Department of Agriculture, according to a report by Reuters.

GFSI is a group of international retailers committed to strengthening consumer confidence in food safety, which counts Wal-Mart among its members.

Wal-Mart’s requirements will extend to subsidiaries Asda in the UK and Seiyu in Japan.

GFS1 is a CIES initiative.

CIES – The Food Business Forum is the only independent global food business network. It serves the CEOs and senior managementof nearly 400 members, over 150 countries, with retailers being the largest single group.

For further information, email Anne Malbrancq.

www.walmart.com

NZ food sector remains strong

Leone Evans

New Zealand’s (NZ’s) food and beverage industry, including agribusiness, primary production and foodservice, is critical to the country’s overall economic performance.

As such, any changes in the food and beverage industry’s performance will materially impact on the national economy.

At present, the sector employs one in five New Zealanders.

It generates half of NZ’s mercantile exports, comprises 10% of gross domestic product and has grown 5.3% over the past decade (the same rate as the overall economy).

The productivity of the food and beverage industry is better than that of many other sectors, with agriculture having achieved a 60% increase in the last decade.

The sector itself capitalises on NZ’s natural advantages in food production including abundant rainfall, a temperate climate and the plentiful supply of arable land.

However, growth has come largely from productivity gains.

The sector faces the challenge of developing stronger technology and knowledge-based businesses and, as a result, will continue to be characterised as a basic agricultural industry until improvement is gained via increased research and development.

Industry at a glance

Like the economy as a whole, the food and beverage sector exhibits low capital intensity, relatively low levels of research and development investment, skill shortages, low levels of outbound foreign investment and limited access to global value chains.

The sector is dominated by co-operatives, comprising four of the five largest companies and accounting for over 50% of the total sector revenues.

Fonterra alone constitutes 40% of total sector revenue, the top 10 companies comprise 66%, the top 30 companies over 85% and subsidiaries of foreign owned multinationals constitute 24% of total sector revenues. Small-to-medium enterprises make up the remaining 25% of the industry.

International market

In terms of the international market environment, NZ’s food and beverage industry is facing rapid change with greater demand for products that foster wellbeing, meal solutions rather than just ingredients, and a greater emphasis on ethical and ecological standards.

Consumers and retailers have become more attuned to food safety issues, in terms of health concerns and food security, resulting in a convergence of food and health. Consumption patterns are also changing due to an ageing population in the West and an increasingly affluent Asia.

These changes are resulting in the acceleration of market segmentation as trade in processed products outstrips trade in bulk commodities.

In the UK, New Zealand’s fifth largest export market, environmental sustainability and ethical issues including fair trade, free-range and organic have gained increasing dominance on the public’s agenda.

This trend is also gaining momentum in some European markets and has the potential to extend to other parts of the globe.

Rising concerns over climate change have been linked to the food miles debate, which suggests the further a product has travelled the greater its environmental impact.

Retailers such as Tesco have announced that within the next five years labels on packaging will display a product’s carbon footprint. At present, this issue does not seem to have affected NZ’s trade with the UK. However, NZ exporters will need to carefully monitor and appropriately react to these important social issues and their potential impact on both trade and consumer purchasing decisions.

Opportunities

New Zealand has already established itself globally as environmentally conscious, particularly in food production, and its ability to effectively communicate this message and position to the international market will become increasingly important.

As a result of the global food industry consolidating into fewer and larger multinationals wielding the power of fewer and larger brands, NZ businesses will need to connect more effectively with global value chains in order to succeed in the international market.

In order to do this, the NZ food and beverage sector, which continues to be constrained by insufficient investment and expertise, requires more skilled workers and spending on research and development.

Food and Beverage Taskforce

In July this year, the NZ Government announced it’s response to the Food and Beverage Taskforce’s report Smart Food, Cool Beverage, which outlined the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector and the industry’s outlook, and committed to a work program of six key initiatives including $19 million for in-market assistance for the sector offshore.

The Government’s response also included improved infrastructure for new product development to help test and develop innovative food products, increasing the business capability of food and beverage exporters through an audit and mentoring program, and raising productivity and sustainability in pastoral industries.

Outlook

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise will continue its involvement in the food and beverage innovation process, both in terms of product development and in-market infrastructure development, fostering an even closer working relationship with industry, universities, crown research institutes and Technology NZ.

Raising the international profile of the sector is also a critical element that will underpin sector growth in selected markets.

Looking forward, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise will strive to protect and renew the core of the industry including agribusiness core competency, bio-security, food safety, market access, production efficiency gains, and improved productivity, while continuing to build the base.

Leone.Evans@nzte.govt.nz

www.nzte.govt.nz

Positive outlook for pork

The Pork Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) 2006/07 Annual Report suggests that significant returns on industry and government investments will create a more competitive pork industry in coming years.

The Pork CRC commissioned 42 projects in the reporting period and published and commercialised a comprehensive evaluation of Australian canola seed meal.

CEO of Pork CRC, Dr Roger Campbell, said this resulted in annual feed cost savings of $2.08 million for one of the industry’s biggest end users.

A project to develop closed loop supply chain arrangements between grain growers and pork producers resulted in further savings, he said.

New boning line

A $4 million pork boning line has been installed at PPC Linley Valley Fresh Wooroloo plant.

The new line incorporates best practice techniques and the latest pig processing technologies.

The WA Minister for Agriculture and Food, Kim Chance said in a globally competitive marketplace for food and agricultural produce, this type of forward thinking and attention to meeting the demands of customers will be critical if WA companies are to maintain their export successes against strong international competition.

www.porkcrc.com.au

India: export opportunities

India is rapidly emerging as a critical market for Australia’s food industry, according to a new Australian Government-funded report launched in New Delhi today.

Minister for Trade, Warren Truss, and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, said the report, Strengthening the India-Australia corridor in select food and agribusiness sectors, showed increasing consumer demand among India’s growing middle class.

Mr Truss said that this demand was creating more opportunities for businesses in the Australian food sector.

Indian food retail is a multi-billion dollar industry, estimated to be worth around $233 billion, with food being the largest category of consumer spending.

India’s increasingly affluent middle class is driving growth in organised food retail and food services, with organised retail expected to increase by 30% over the next five years.

Australia’s expertise in food production, combined with high-quality ingredients and innovative technology, places it in an ideal position to make greater inroads into India, Mr McGauran said.

There is also opportunity for Australia to supply the expertise in retail services, supply chain and cold chain logistics, agricultural technology, and food production and processing, that India needs to develop its food industry.

For further information on the Indian food industry or for a copy of the report, email Michael Carter (Austrade New Delhi).

Native fruits rich in antioxidants

A recent study by Food Science Australia (FSA) has revealed the high antioxidant levels in twelve native Australian fruits which could benefit the food and functional food industries.

Published in the journal Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, the fruits were shown to be rich sources of antioxidants with stronger radical scavenging activities than blueberries, which are renowned for their high antioxidant properties.

The fruits include:

  • Kakadu plum
  • Illawarra plum
  • Burdekin plum
  • Davidson’s plum
  • Riberry
  • Red and yellow finger limes
  • Tasmanian pepper
  • Brush cherry
  • Cedar Bay cherry
  • Muntries
  • Molucca raspberry

“Compared to blueberries’ TEAC value of 39.45 trolox equivalents per gram, Kakadu plum and Burdekin plum had TEAC values of 204.8 and 192.0 trolox equivalents per gram,” co-author and FSA researcher Dr Michael Netzel said.

According to FSA, using native Australian fruits as a source of phytochemicals for use in foods could have many benefits for the food and functional food industries, and studies to identify additional antioxidant compounds as well as clinical trials for testing the fruits’ bioactivity are in progress.

“Finding unique food ingredients and flavours with health-promoting properties is a key market requirement these days,” FSA’s research team leader Izabela Konczak said.

“And by encouraging growers to cultivate native fruits, we are also contributing to the growing need to ensure agriculture becomes more sustainable.”

The research supports CSIRO efforts to realise the potential of Australia’s fledgling native food industry, currently estimated to be worth $14 million annually.

It is the first scientific study of the fruits as a source of antioxidants, confirming preliminary results published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2006.

Improving Australia’s food innovation

A new $54.2 million Food Innovation Grants Programme (FIGP), launched by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to increase innovation in the food industry, is currently accepting round one applications.

The FIGP, which will fund approximately three projects every year until June 2011, aims to assist Australian-based food and beverage businesses undertaking research and development (R&D), innovative programs or developing cutting-edge products and technology.

Applicants will need to demonstrate a project’s ability to add competition and profitability to the Australian food industry in areas of production, processing, packaging, storage or logistics.

The potential of the project and/or its resulting commercial activities to achieve national productivity and economic growth; diffusion of knowledge and skill to other parts of the Australian economy; or other societal, community or ecological benefits, will also be considered.

Proposals must address a technical challenge in the Australian food industry and/or how the uptake of new technology will deliver significant benefits, either on a national, sectoral or regional basis.

The FIGP will contribute, on a matched funds basis, up to half of the eligible project costs for R&D, the movement of innovation towards commercialisation, and the introduction of cutting-edge technology.

Projects are not eligible if they present no element of technical risk, are food product line extensions, involve the purchase of land or infrastructure costs; or are activities related to food processing inputs rather than outputs, among other things.

Interested applicants can download and complete the self-diagnostic eligibility check to ensure they satisfy eligibility criteria.

Potential applicants must then complete a preliminary application form.

Round One submissions are due by August 9, 2007.

An Advisory Group, consisting of technical, industry and business specialists will assess applications.