Monash University researches why people find some foods disgusting

The thought of consuming an insect-based snack bar or smoothie as part of a staple diet could make even those with the strongest of stomachs squirm. Monash University researchers try to find out why.

They are trying to understand why the ‘disgust’ mechanism of the brain prevents people from trying foreign foods that actually possess health benefits – in this case, insects.

Professor Eugene Chan from Monash Business School’s Department of Marketing conducted two separate studies into the link between the state-of-mind and emotional reaction to newly-introduced foods.

The results were published in the international scientific journal, Food Quality and Preference.

READ: Monash University professor recognised for 30-year study to bring millions worldwide safe water supply

The first study measured the willingness of 202 participants to try five different insect-based products, from deep-fried silkworms and crickets, to chocolate chip cookies that were baked with cricket flour.

In the second study, 155 participants were presented with two drinks with identical positive health benefits – but one was a by-product of silkworm protein and the other from ordinary cow’s milk.

Participants in both studies were subjected to mindfulness exercises – including guided meditation, breathing training and listening to a 15-minute audio track that induced a mind-wandering state – and had never consumed insects previously.

“Despite being presented with the positive health and environmental benefits as motivational factors to choose insects as a viable food and nutrition source, we found that participants reacted with disgust and instead opted for the more ‘familiar’ food source,” said Chan.

“These findings were completely opposite to my initial expectations. Entomophagy (the consumption of insects) is not a new practice and has been taking place for tens of thousands of years. More than two billion people world-wide regularly eat insects as part of their diet and there are more than 2000 edible insect species.

“I anticipated that mindfulness might have encouraged people to try insects as it removes some of that initial negative reaction to a foreign food. Perhaps disgust is an emotion that is too negative and powerful to influence a behaviour change,” said Chan.

Chan’s research also found that the role of disgust in food choice is not just restricted to eating insects. It also includes trying new foods or cuisines that are an intrinsic part of a culture foreign to one’s own.

“Blue vein cheese, which is characterised by mouldy spots and a foul odour, may be present at many social functions and the family dinner table which could please some people but disgust others. Even being presented with offal and unfamiliar fruit and vegetables could enliven our ‘disgust’ mechanism – despite the contents being perfectly edible,” Professor Chan said.

“While this research only focuses on testing the impacts of mindfulness on a person’s willingness to try insect-based foods, it is possible that increased self-awareness might produce different – perhaps even positive – reactions towards actually eating insects.

“Although our attitudes towards insect eating is generally negative, individuals who actually try insect-based foods may respond more favourably than their initial attitudes predict,” said Chan.

Mindfulness, commonly associated with Buddhism, refers to the state of being aware and taking note of what is going on within oneself and the outside world.

International studies have shown that mindfulness can deliver positive eating behaviour by treating various eating disorders and altering consumption patterns.

A barcoded apple is more important than you may realise

What is the significance of barcoding every single apple in a mountain of fruit at the supermarket? It seems a tedious process when an apple is surely just an apple. But, an apple is much more than what is seen at face value.

It comes with a history – a place of origin, a past in which it was grown in specific soil and shipped in a certain container.

This is valuable information, even for the humble apple, as a food recall could affect any product at any time.

Many products go through a number of processes before landing on a consumer’s plate.

READ: GS1 Australia and Drinks Association join forces to drive industry standards

Unfortunately, there have been many instances where products are recalled for a number of reasons.

Products are often recalled due to potential presence of glass or metal, or e.coli contamination.

Items can also be nixed in cases where cross contamination occurs, such as wheat being present in a gluten-free product.

In August alone, Food Standards Australia New Zealand warned of nine products that had been recalled due to undeclared allergens or the presence of foreign matter.

Keeping track of products

To help keep track of products, GS1 Australia offers barcode numbers based on current global standards as well as services to help its clients trace items and action recalls with ease.

GS1 Australia recall services sales manager, Andrew Brown, said the traceability of products was important, including for fresh produce such as apples.

In early 2018, rock melons from one Australian producer needed to be recalled. It became a difficult task as it was hard to distinguish the good rock melons from the contaminated ones, Brown said.

This resulted in many rock melons being taken off Australian shelves that were not necessarily in the recalled batch, or from that particular company. “Because the rock melons weren’t labelled, it had a big impact.

Most retailers and all consumers didn’t know which rock melons were affected and which ones weren’t. So the impact wasn’t just on the company that had the product issue, it also flowed on to the rest of the industry,” he said.

“That instance showed it is important to identify which products had been affected to facilitate the quarantine of only the affected ones.”

In instances where products aren’t labelled properly, retailers often take all similar products off the shelf to be on the safe side, he said.

GS1 Australia works with the fresh product market to get products labelled correctly. Barcoding fresh produce is becoming more popular as people understand the importance of it, he said.

Labels help from an environmental impact as well. Having labels on fresh produce and other products saves food from ending up as rubbish if it is actually ok to sell, he said.

“Our role at GS1 is to help industry in these situations. The more that get on board, the greater the benefit for other companies.”

Working for a common goal

GS1 is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to help food industries by minimising waste and harm. “The recall portal was designed by industry for industry,” said Brown.

GS1 Australia helps companies beyond the barcode. GS1 gives companies the power to figure out how much of a product may be affected.

For example, this could be based on where a particular product was packaged rather than where it was grown. “They need to be able to know what products have gone where and why,” said Brown. The same cereal may have been made in different factories and may not all need a recall, for instance.

GS1 Australia could help companies find out how, where and when products were moved to a new location, he said. “GS1 facilitates not just traceability, we help conduct the recall,” said Brown.

Getting prepared before a crisis hits

A company needs to be able to ask its trading partners, such as supermarkets, to action a recall as soon as possible. “Companies need to prepared to act in a crisis,” said Brown.

“In lots of situations, in most organisations within the food industry, they will have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points programme or another food safety programme designed to stop these situations occurring. But in most instances, we would expect that a product recall comes from an unforeseen situation,” he said.

“What we help organisations do as part of a mock programme, is create a template recall notice. That template enables them to go into a product recall meeting prepared to get the right information, rather than having that meeting, going away and filling out forms, and then having more meetings.” Communicating well in the first instance is key, said Brown.

Having worked with numerous companies, Brown realises that many companies aren’t prepared for recalls.

This means that when a product is recalled, it can take days to action as phone calls and email communication go back and forth, he said.

“There’s a time factor that’s very important. You want to get that notice up as quickly as possible. Getting prepared and having a structure is very important.

“A company has to identify what part of production is affected, and then find out all the locations the product went to.

“If they’ve got all the information together, they can probably get a notice done in 20 minutes for a recall, but the limiting factor is having all of the information at hand,” said Brown.

Recalling products quickly, also helps keep a brand’s reputation intact, he said. “Consumers want to feel like they can buy your products again.”

 

 

Australia’s largest charity kitchen gets cooking in Queensland

FareShare fired up the ovens of a kitchen the size of a basketball court in Queensland on October 9.

The charity will cook up nutritious surplus food for free to help people needing a meal.

The fight against hunger and food waste has been created in collaboration with Foodbank –  Australia’s largest food relief organisation.

FareShare Queensland director Kellie Watson said FareShare aims to cook more than one million free, nutritious meals in its first year of operation, in Morningside, and to scale up to five million meals a year.

READ: FareShare and Wiley partner to feed Brisbane’s hungry

“Our custom-built kitchen will be powered by volunteers with more than 400 Brisbanites already registered to lend a hand,” said Watson.

The kitchen was built at cost by Wiley.

It includes Stommpy bollards and safety protection equipment, installed by Wiley employees.

Wiley managing director Tom Wiley said giving back to the community is part of the company’s core values.

The $5 million kitchen, equipped with high volume cooking appliances including 300 litre
electric saucepans, will initially harness 500 tonnes of surplus meat and vegetables from
Foodbank.

Experienced chefs will supervise volunteers to cook a daily mystery box of
ingredients into tasty, ready-to-eat meals such as casseroles, curries and stir fries.

All FareShare meals are designed to be easily reheated with no need for full cooking
facilities, making them ideal for highly vulnerable people struggling to put food on the table.

Foodbank will access surplus meat and vegetables to supply the kitchen and distribute the
cooked meals to Queenslanders in need through its existing network of 280 registered
charities.

Foodbank Queensland CEO Michael Rose said last year alone, Foodbank received more than five million kg of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“The top five farm donors from Bundaberg donated a staggering 1.5m kgs and
stand ready to donate even more once the kitchen comes on line,” he said.

“The FareShare kitchen will provide an opportunity for Foodbank to rescue even more food, especially perishables and to reduce waste for donors, by converting surplus food into ready-made meals, rather than sending it to landfill,” said Rose.

 

Simplot and Riviana benefit from new product packaging approach

Getting products to shelf in half the time for half the cost sounds too good to be true. But design execution agency Task by Kirk has been able to do that by providing clients with an end-to-end service that removes time-consuming and costly process inefficiencies.

Task is a new division of leading print specialist Kirk Group. General manager, John Kapiniaris, said the motivation to start a design execution service was born out of a desire to show brands how packaging could be done better.

Mistakes made throughout the design-to-print process can impact final print quality, with colours that don’t print as expected and inconsistencies across the product range.

“We were constantly seeing artwork files produced by other suppliers with mistakes that could have been anticipated and easily avoided,” Kapiniaris said. “It results in high packaging costs due to expensive agency fees to fix mistakes, subsequent delays getting products on shelf and disappointing packaging quality.”

Inefficiencies in the design-to-print process can also rack up the costs and push out critical deadlines.

“The more suppliers and touchpoints involved in getting a design printed, the greater the chance of costly errors and time-consuming process inefficiencies,” Kapiniaris said.

Simplot Australia, with iconic brands Leggo’s, Birds Eye, John West and Edgell, was an early adopter of Task’s new way of doing things, engaging the business to streamline its design execution process. Task is now responsible for turning Simplot’s package concepts into shelf-ready printed products.

“The process before working with Task was adhoc, with marketers throughout the business engaging their own production suppliers, resulting in high packaging costs and delays,” Simplot Australia creative services manager Paul Fenech said.

“Now we have a streamlined process that results in consistently high-quality printed packaging, lower costs and faster speed to market.”

Providing an end-to-end service is vital in getting products to shelf faster and has huge financial implications given the competitive retail market, with retail shelf space at a premium and the high costs associated with a failure to launch products on time.

Task recently worked with Riviana on the rebranding of its Always Fresh line of products. Artwork was delivered in just two months, halving the time from the previous process and at half the budgeted spend.

Riviana retail strategy manager Georgina Vergunst said she was impressed that Task was able to handle such a difficult brief so quickly, which involved producing colour-accurate, press-ready artwork for international print partners.

“Task helped us navigate the complicated world of design to print,” Vergunst said. “They knew the fastest way to get things done and help us make our deadline. Task made the whole process so much easier and they were able to take care of whatever came up.”

Task’s other clients include PepsiCo, Kimberly-Clark and Cerebos.

Kapiniaris said clients recognised that the Kirk Group’s long history of working closely with printers meant the team was familiar with individual print-press specifications, resulting in high-quality artwork, and time and cost efficiencies.

“We know what will work and what won’t. We know if a particular colour or design is difficult to print from the outset and can advise the client at the start of the new product development process and suggest suitable alternatives to avoid problems or disappointment with the final result,” he said.

“Brands shouldn’t have to compromise on the quality of their packaging. Quite often they don’t know there is a better or smarter way to get products on the shelf faster and at a lower cost.”

Laurent Bakery gets gold medal at fine food awards for its Coles Finest Range

Australian company, Laurent Bakery, has been recognised with numerous awards at the Annual Royal Hobart Fine Food awards.

The bakery was recognised for its Coles Finest Range at awards night, which is in its 22nd year.

Laurent Boillon, founder of Laurent Bakery, said it was an honour to have Laurent Bakery breads awarded with multiple medals at the prestigious awards.

“Our charcoal brioche buns and olive batard received the prestigious gold medal in their categories. We also received a bronze medal for our baked ciabatta, sourdough baguette, and white sourdough Vienna,” he said.

READ: Coles switches to recyclable and renewable meat packaging

“We are thrilled that Coles customers across Australia get to experience our fine bread. The Coles Finest range has really taken off much more than our expectations,” said Boillon.

To ensure freshness and high quality, the bread supplied to Coles is 90 per cent baked in the factory, then finalised in-store.

Laurent Bakery has 16 standalone stores, in Melbourne and Sydney, and a wholesale business with Coles.

At the start of his career, Boillon trained in Paris, where he learnt how important and precious flavours were and where to source his ingredients.

Twenty-five years ago, he landed in Melbourne to create sourdough bread, among other breads.

In 1993, Laurent Bakery established itself. The company is a leader in automating the artisanal bread making process in Australia.

 

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