Beverages industry: training can be a game changer

Given the present economic environment, it’s not unheard of for training to fall to the wayside, but the Australian Beverages Council is keeping it on the agenda and addressing areas for improvement in the industry with their training events.

Food Magazine spoke with Colin Felder, Technical & Regulatory Manager at the Australian Beverages Council, to find out more.

There’s no denying that technology moves fast and it will continue to do so. Keeping your eye “on the ball” through ongoing training can be both a preventative tactic, and aid in innovation.

“If you take your eye off the ball, technology will either catch up with you or there’ll be something which pops through the system, which may lead to a recall,” Felder says.

In previous years, the Council identified a need for a training course which covered the beverage supply chain and introduced the integrated regulatory, quality and safety programs of the beverage industry in Australia, New Zealand and beyond.

“Unfortunately the way the education system and the courses that are being offered at the moment, often you’re not getting a good commercial background, you’re just coming out with specialists.”

Felder found a lot of the attendees for the 2014 Manufacturing Beverages One course were plant operators, or people who’d come out of the packaging industry and didn’t have an understanding of ingredients and the things that go into the total manufacturing of a beverage.

“Then there is newer graduates coming out of things like food science and walking in. They need to know what the actual language of beverages is.”

Felder says sometimes these graduates “don’t understand and sometimes can’t communicate the quality assurance and packaging roles and legislative roles that they need to in order to have a good understanding of the whole industry.”

Spotting the gaps

Although the Australian Beverages Council is currently in the process of reviewing the industry’s areas of need, Felder predicts the big challenges in 2015 will be new ingredients and the shift in bottled water towards lightly sparkling.

 “We’re looking at new ingredients, especially with the advent of less sugars and the increasing role of natural sweeteners,” Felder says. “Stevia is obviously a bit part of that.”

Felder says that with the growing bottled water market trending away just from bottled water into lightly sparkling, some smaller operators are needing to adapt.

“We’re teaching them things like the basics of carbonation so they can expand the plant and take extra opportunities there in the market and expand away from their standard still bottled water into the sparkling, which they’re upgrading the plants to do.”

“To actually be able to take a basic bottled water plant and give them the opportunities to put simple additions to the plant and upgrades gives them a opportunity than just sitting around and playing with different labels, for example.”

Smaller operators

Training can especially be a struggle for the smaller operators.

“We’re finding that even the smaller operator, because everything is down at such a small margin you can’t actually afford to have your key plant operators out of the factory for three days, for example, and probably by the time you have your travel, you’ve probably lost them for a week for three days of training.”

In response to this, the Council is looking at putting together a module system which can be done online for specific needs.

But it doesn’t end with the Australian Beverages Council, with a lot of the larger members of the beverage industry, such as Asahi Beverages, opting for in-house training.


Universities collaborate for supply chain training centre

The University of Sydney Business School’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) has joined with the University of Newcastle to establish a food and beverage supply chain training centre.

 “The ARC Centre for Food and Beverage Supply Chain Optimisation” will train the next generation of multidisciplinary researchers capable of designing and managing safe, sustainable, and cost-effective food supply chains vital to the industry’s future,” said centre chief investigator, associate professor Behnam Fahimnia.

The sector is currently worth more than 30 billion dollars a year and employs 15 per cent of the national workforce. The Federal Government’s 2013 National Food Plan White Paper calls for “a sustainable, globally competitive, resilient food supply supporting access to nutritious and affordable food”.

The ITLS – University of Newcastle collaboration is backed by the CSIRO, Georgia Institute of Technology, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Coca-Cola Amatil Australia, SunRice, the Batlow Fruit Co-operative, and Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing.

The ITLS is now calling for applications for a PhD scholarship in food and beverage supply chain optimisation.

“The successful applicant will to join our team and will work on supply chain design and management projects in close collaboration with our industry partners,” said Dr Fahimnia.

“The focus of these projects will be on the development of decision tools and optimisation models for the design of efficient, resilient, and sustainable supply chains in food and beverage industry.”

Those interested in applying for the scholarship, valued at nearly $30,000 per annum (with a $10,000 top-up bonus for local students), should email associate professor Behnam Fahimnia.


UQ food training centre opens

An industry-backed centre dedicated to creating healthier food choices for Australian and Asian consumers opened at the University of Queensland (UQ).

Funded by the Australian Research Council, the ‘Industrial Transformation Training Centre’ aims to ensure Australia is well positioned to create and market healthier foods and to respond to a surging demand from Asia’s expanding markets – both within a resource-constrained world.

Led by The University of Queensland, the centre will combine the expertise of principal partner the Australian Food and Grocery Council, as well as collaborating partners the International Rice Research Institute, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Wuhan University and Huazhong University of Science.

The centre has been tasked with preparing an initial cohort of 13 young scientists for expertise in areas such as health and nutrition, consumer and sensory science, commercialisation and business leadership.

The opening was attended by UQ Provost and Senior Vice-President Professor Max Lu and ARC Chief Executive Officer Professor Aidan Byrne.

The training centre has been awarded $2.7 million over three years from the Australian Research Council.

Centre Director, Professor Melissa Fitzgerald is an expert in rice quality and breeding and has extensive connections with rice improvement programs in Asia.


Pernod Ricard Winemakers launch new graduate program

Pernod Ricard Winemakers, the global wine company behind premium wine brands Jacob’s Creek, Brancott Estate and Campo Viejo, are launching a global graduate program for ambitious university graduates.

The program will enable graduates who have a passion for wine, desire to travel and an entrepreneurial spirit the opportunity to join Pernod Ricard Winemakers as a Graduate Wine Ambassador or a Graduate Winemaker.

The Graduate Wine Ambassadors will represent Pernod Ricard Winemakers in the market, take part in training programs, gain industry qualifications (including the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level 2 Certificate) and hands-on experience of wine operations, marketing and sales in Australia, New Zealand and Spain.

The Graduate Winemakers will take part in a two-year program working with wine experts from around the world who will assist them in developing their technical knowledge. Practical winemaking experience during vintage, will take place either in Australia, based in the Barossa Valley or New Zealand, based in Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. Additionally, the Graduate Winemakers will get exposure to other areas of the business such as Marketing and Sales.

“The launch of the new Pernod Ricard winemakers Graduate Program forms part of our commitment to invest in, nurture and grow the winemaking talent of tomorrow – ‘Our Future Vintage’” said CEO and chairman of Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Jean-Christophe Coutures.

“This exclusive program will provide graduates with a once in a lifetime opportunity to gain invaluable experience, participate in world class training and work with leading wine industry experts from all over the world.

“These bright new starts will enrich our teams, spark innovation and lead brand advocacy for our wines globally as either Graduate Wine Ambassadors or Graduate Winemakers."

Entries are open from 14 October – 21 November 2014 for Australian and New Zealand residents. For more information on the program, visit the Pernod Ricard website here.


Packaging Technology scholarship applications close 11 April

The closing date is approaching for a $9000 scholarship for a packing engineer to complete a Diploma in Packaging Technology.

The Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA), in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) are offering the scholarship their sixth year.

The diploma is an internationally recognised level 5 foundation degree qualification that aims to prepare students for packaging operations at any level through the supply chain.

 Chairman of the APPMA Mark Dingley says the scholarship is a unique opportunity for a packing engineer to further their education in the packaging industry.

 “The APPMA has been offering this educational program now for six years and we have been very pleased with the calibre of winners; all of whom are busy completing their Diplomas as we speak,” Mr Dingley said.

Jamie Schellebeck, who was 2013 scholarship winner, is a Packaging Engineer at Amcor Fibre Packaging.

“Winning the scholarship in 2013 was a wonderful opportunity for me and I am eager to gain more technical expertise in the packaging industry by undertaking the Diploma in Packaging Technology. I look forward to graduating from the course in a few years.” Mr Schelleback said.

To download an application form, visit the APPMA or AIP website.

Submissions close on 11 April.


Junk food advertising aimed at children takes another cut

Changes to voluntary industry codes means junk food will not be promoted during television programs that attract a child audience of at least 35 per cent.

The campaign to stop junk food advertising will be widened by some of Australia’s largest food companies in a bid to cut childhood obesity.

The current Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) restrictions apply to programs with a child audience of 50 per cent.

However, critics say the restrictions do not go far enough and warn that children will still be hounded by unhealthy food ads, reported.

"It does not go far enough to reduce exposure because it won't actually pick up programs that are watched by the greatest number of children overall," Obesity Policy Coalition executive manager Jane Martin said.

It is believed shows like Big Brother, The X-Factor and Junior Masterchef , all have a high number of younger audiences.

Company websites will also be affected with those directly marketing to children under 12 only able to promote healthy alternatives.

Nestle, Mars, Campbell Arnott's, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, McDonald's and Hungry Jack's are all companies who support  the industry's Responsible Children's Marketing Initiative.

However, health experts have slammed the self-regulation of the food industry, saying children are being bombarded with advertisements for junk food.

According to a new study by the University of Sydney and the Cancer Council the number of junk food ads aimed at children has not slowed.

The study looked at all ads on three television channels over five years and found children were exposed to the same number of advertisements for junk food brands now as they were before ''regulation''.

''We know that parents have the most important role to play in terms of what kids eat but it is a bit like road safety,'' Chapman, a nutritionist and director of health policy at the Cancer Council, said.

''Parents can teach their children road safety but it doesn't mean we don't also have speed limits and crosswalks to make their job easier.

“Messages for unhealthy foods on television, the internet … means there are lots of ways messages from parents are being undermined.

''These studies combined show industry codes of practice are not having an impact and we are seeing such big loopholes for the food industry to get away with this.”

Meanwhile, a poll by the Australian National University on attitudes to food security found more than 75% of Australians support a ban on junk food advertising in children’s television, and almost 20% support a total ban.

Earlier this year, Cristel Leemhuis from the AFGC told Food Magazine the industry was part of the solution in improving the rate of childhood obesity.

“Responsible marketing to children is absolutely essential, so we do limit what children see in this area, and the research is very much showing that marketing in those areas decreased dramatically since we implemented that in 2010,” she said.

Change border restrictions and Africa could feed itself: World Bank

Farmers in Africa could grow enough food to feed the continent and alleviate hunger, according to the World Bank.

A recent report by the World Bank made the prediction, but said it could only happen “if countries remove cross-border restrictions on the food trade within the region.”

Currently, 19 million people living in West Africa’s Sahel region already face hunger and malnutrition, the report found.

The African continent would also generate an extra US$20 billion in yearly earnings if African leaders dismantled “trade barriers that blunt more regional dynamism,” The Africa Can Help Feed Africa: Removing barriers to regional trade in food staples report said.

It continued that rapid urbanisation will provide challenges for African farmers trying to ship their cereals and other foods to consumers when the nearest trade market is just across a national border. 

Many African farmers are effectively cut off from the high-yield seeds, affordable fertilizers and pesticides to expand their crop production, which has led to the continent becoming reliant on foreign imports to meet its growing staple food needs.

“The key challenge for the continent is how to create a competitive environment in which governments embrace credible and stable policies that encourage private investors and businesses to boost food production across the region, so that farmers get the capital, the seeds, and the machinery they need to become more efficient, and families get enough good food at the right price.” Paul Brenton, the World Bank’s Lead Economist for Africa and principal author of the report said.

Last year Australian Foreign Minsiter Kevin Rudd announced a commitment from Australia to assist Africa improve economic growth through investment and trade.

Australia’s trade with African countries has grown steadily over the last decade at an annual average rate of just over 6 per cent, according to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 
Australia’s total merchandise trade with Africa was valued at $5.8 billion in 2009-10.

Drinking, smoking down but obesity rates up

Australians are drinking and smoking less but putting on weight like never before, a national survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found.

Results from the ABS Australian Health Survey, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive health survey ever, were released on Monday.

First Assistant Statistician at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Dr Paul Jelfs, said that 63% of Australians were now overweight or obese.

“Men were more likely to be overweight or obese (70%) than women (56%) while one-quarter (25%) of our children are overweight or obese,” he said in a statement.

Around one in five men and one in seven women are smokers and just over 16% of adult Australians smoke every day, a decrease of almost three percentage points in four years, the survey showed.

“Australians are also drinking less, with a drop of 1.4 percentage points in the number of people drinking more than two standard drinks on average per day,” Dr Jelfs said.

Professor Sandra Jones, Director of the Centre for Health Initiatives at the University of Wollongong, said that this was the second consecutive period in which there was a decline in the proportion of adults who consumed more than two standard drinks per day on average – a fall from 21.9% in 2004-05 to 20.9% in 2007-08, down to 19.5% in 2011-12.

“This is a very positive outcome, and is likely the result of a combination of factors – including increases in the price of alcohol, effective social marketing campaigns, and increasing public concern about the health and social effects of excessive alcohol consumption,” said Dr Jones.

However, it is important to consider long term as well as short term risk, she said.

“First, in relation to ‘lifetime risk,’ this reduction brings us closer to – but still well above – the 2001 figure of 18.6% of adults who consumed more than two standard drinks per day on average,” she said.

“The fact that 44.7% of Australians aged 18 years report drinking at a level that increases their risk of ‘alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion’ at least once in the past year suggests that we still have a long way to go before we can claim that Australians are drinking safely.”

The Conversation

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

John West hits back over place on Greenpeace sustainable tuna list

John West tuna owner Simplot has responded to its negative listing on the Greenpeace canned tuna guide 2012, saying it “has been working towards improving the sustainability of John West’s products for many years.”

The annual list compiled by environmental campaign group Greenpeace ranks tuna brands according to their efforts to implement and maintain sustainable fishing practises.

This year it ranked John West towards the bottom of the list, saying “John West is the largest seller of tuna caught using destructive FADs [fish aggregating devices] in Australia.”

“It is having the most damaging impact on marine life so John West is the stand out culprit of Australia's tuna industry,” Greenpeace continued.

“It has a responsibility to do better.

“Improvements in traceability are welcome, but John West has taken a step back on labelling.”

While Greenpeace recognised that John West has “good traceability,” “supports marine reserves” and has “100 per cent skipjack tuna, mostly from the Western Central Pacific Ocean, it noted the company’s failings as “the biggest seller of tuna caught using destructive FADs with purse seine nets,” and that its “labelling does not include the catch area or fishing method.”

Woolworths, Coles and Sole Mare were also at the bottom of its list and Greenpeace Ocean Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said in a statement that while tuna companies worldwide have made the improvement to their operations reduce by-catch of marine life, Greenpeace hopes that “major Australian companies such as John West will do the same” this year.

John West released a statement saying it is a supporter of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) position on FADs and that all its tuna products will all be sourced sustainably by 2015.

“We are aware that Greenpeace has made claims to the media regarding the sustainability of John West tuna products and in particular the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs), a device used to attract fish,” a John West spokesperson said.

“John West has been working towards improving the sustainability of John West’s products for many years and in 2012 we were proud to announce our partnership with the world’s largest independent conservation organisation, WWF.”

John West slammed the Greenpeace statement that it had 10 per cent by-catch, labelling it false.

It said that the current level of John West by-catch from FADS was 2 per cent.

“The majority of tuna used in our products is sourced from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean purse seine fishery (tuna used in our Pole and Line range is sourced from the Maldives),” the spokesperson said.

“Data collected by independent scientific observers shows that non tuna species comprise less than 2 per cent of the catch in this fishery.

“In addition last year over 60 per cent of fishing activity was undertaken without using FADs – a device used to attract fish.”

“Sustainability is a journey that we embarked on many years ago and is something that we are passionate about. We will continue to work towards improving the sustainability of our seafood products in order to reach our 2015 goal.”

What do you think of John West's statement? Do you think fish companies need to do more to improve sustainable fishing practises?

The government has it wrong on alcohol’s role in chronic diseases

The Commonwealth government looks set to lose its top position in preventative health measures. Despite its world-first efforts on tobacco control, when the government next steps onto the world stage, it will be not be as a leader – its position on alcohol is out of step with the World Health Organization and contrary to evidence.

It’s decision time in the global effort to prevent and control non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the leading cause of death in this country. The United Nations General Assembly reached an historic decision in September last year, when, for only the second time in its 67-year history, it met to discuss a health issue.

Member countries agreed on a 25% reduction in chronic diseases by 2025. And on 5 November, they will attend a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting to reach agreement on a global monitoring framework for these diseases.

Non-communicable or chronic diseases include cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease. They account for 60 million deaths a year worldwide, and share four main risk factors – unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption.

The WHO was given the task of designing and adopting a comprehensive global monitoring framework, including indicators and a set of voluntary global targets. It has published three discussion papers on the subject this year.

The latest discussion paper proposes to identify nine outcome and exposure targets, including alcohol, fat intake, obesity and tobacco, and eleven indicators of outcomes and exposure to risk factors, including adult per capita alcohol consumption.

The WHO meeting is still a couple of weeks away but the Australian government has already indicated its position on the issue of targets and indicators around alcohol.

Its response to the WHO papers (some dating back to February, but only now made available publicly) has been to oppose the adoption of per capita consumption as an indicator and not support adopting global alcohol consumption reduction targets.


The government’s position is at odds with the WHO. AAP


Excess alcohol consumption is one of the leading risk factors for death and disease globally and there’s a strong link between alcohol and chronic diseases. There’s also strong evidence to suggest a reduction in alcohol consumption at the population level will reduce the rates of health and social harms caused by alcohol misuse.

The government’s position is out of step with the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol, which emphasises that the harmful use of alcohol and related public health problems are influenced by the general level of alcohol consumption in a population, drinking patterns and local contexts.

It’s also at odds with science. Its critique of an earlier WHO discussion paper claimed that per capita consumption “does not reflect risk of NCDs”, and added that adult per capita alcohol consumption is “not a target measure that focuses on the primary area of concern with alcohol, namely, long term harm”.

The latest WHO discussion paper directly responds to this, noting “the risk of most alcohol-attributable health conditions is correlated with the overall levels of alcohol consumption…. The available data indicate that the overall levels of alcohol consumption, measured as per capita alcohol consumption, correlate with major alcohol-related health outcomes”.

It would be difficult to find an alcohol researcher in Australia who would disagree with the WHO position and agree with the government.

The failure to support what the evidence shows and what experts agree on puts Australia in a ridiculous position. And it undermines the UN initiative and risks jeopardising Australia’s international reputation.

There’s less than two weeks between now and November 5 for the government to move to a defensible and forward-looking position – a position that supports a reduction in alcohol consumption in the suggested targets and the use of adult per capita alcohol consumption as a relevant indicator for progress.

Robin Room is a technical advisor to the World Health Organization.

The Conversation

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

Do energy drinks need warning labels? Teen’s death linked to Monster

The maker of energy drink Monster Energy are being sued by the family of a teenager who died from heart complications after consuming two cans of the product.

US teenager Anais Fournier, 14, consumed two of the energy drinks in two days and died less than a week later from heart arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity that complicated a diagnosed heart disorder.

The family argues that there was not sufficient warning about the impacts of consuming the drinks, which are particularly dangerous in large volumes or even in small amounts for those with pre-existing heart conditions.

The company has denied the drink was responsible for the teenager’s death but the US Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating five other deaths linked to Monster Energy.

Energy drinks including Mother, Red Bull, V and Monster, which have more than triple the amount of caffeine as standard cola, in addition to guarana, have been the subject of much debate over the last few years.

Early this year a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found the number of people reporting heart problems, tremors and chest pains from drinking the beverages has increased dramatically and the poisons helpline received 65 calls in one year from people concerned about their consumption of energy drinks.

As the highest consumers of caffeinated energy drinks, teenagers experience the reactions most frequently and the authors of the study say the findings are a “warning call” for people who drink the beverages.

More than half the reported cases were teenage males.

The study lead to Australian medical experts calling for mandatory warning labels on all high-energy drinks and this year a working group was established to review the guidelines surrounding the addition of caffeine to food.

"The review of the policy guideline on caffeine has been and will continue to consider global developments in information relating to caffeinated products, including energy drinks, and regulatory approaches being taken in similar countries,"  a Department of Health and Ageing spokesperson said in a statement.

The working group's paper will be made available for public comment early 2013.

Do you think energy drinks need warning labels? Should there be an age restriction on them similar to alcohol?

Gillard announces register of foreign-owned farming land

Extensive calls for a public register of foreign ownership of Australian agricultural land have been answered.

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) yesterday welcomed the Federal Government’s planned introduction of a foreign investment register.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the announcement in a speech to the NFF at its 2012 National Congress.
The foreign investment register will provide detailed information of the specific size and locations of foreign agricultural landholdings in Australia.

Experts and Australian agriculture advocates have been calling for a register of foreign land ownership for some time, following revelations that prime agricultural land is being bought up by foreign companies and governments.

The company trading as Kimberly Agricultural Investments (KAI) and owned by the Chinese government, has vied for the entire 15 000 hectare Ord Expansion project in the north of Australia, while last month Japanese trading house Itchu Corp bought into the Australian food industry by snapping up farms in Queensland.

Allowing Asian companies to buy up significant agricultural land would conflict Gillard’s proclamations that Australia should be the ‘Asian foodbowl’ for future economic prosperity, as Australian companies would not benefit from the food production, which would be sent  back to the rising Asian middle class.

NFF president Jock Laurie said that while he welcomes foreign investment in Australian agricultural land the register was necessary to provide “greater transparency.”

“It is very important that we do not deter foreign investment, but as we have been saying for months, we do want to see greater transparency around investment to ensure that the motivations behind this investment are clear,” Laurie said.

Laurie said that Australian farmers are concerned about foreign-owned entities purchasing Australian agricultural land, and there needs to be a greater focus on Australia’s future food security.

“Before any policy decisions are made on this important issue, we need to first have the national land register in place to understand the current levels of foreign investment in agriculture,” he said.

The foreign investment register announcement yesterday comes after the launch of the national land register in April 2012, which makes it compulsory for all foreign organisations to report the sale of Australian agricultural land or water. 

However, the land register is not fully operational yet.

In June, the Federal Government’s plans to make Australia the Asian food bowl were labelled “a waste of taxpayer’s money” by the Wilderness Society, and a poll found over 80 per cent of Australians are also against plans to encourage Chinese investment in agricultural land.

Study reveals Australian children overdosing on sugar

More than half of young Australians are consuming too much sugar, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Wollongong and University of Sydney.

The research, which was presented at the annual congress of the Australia and New Zealand Obesity Society this week, found intake of “added” sugar increased as children got older, reaching an average daily intake of 22 teaspoons for boys aged 14-16.

Added sugars are those added to foods or beverages when they are processed, as distinct from sugars found naturally in food or drinks.

“While other reports suggest that total sugar consumption in Australian children may have declined slightly in recent times, this new work suggests that added sugar intake remains high,” said Timothy Gill, research author and principal research fellow in the Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise at the University of Sydney.

“Research in this area is hindered in Australia because our food composition datasets do not currently distinguish between total and added sugars,“ Dr Gill said.

“This project was set up to help separate added from naturally occurring sugars in food products consumed in Australia."

The World Health Organisation recommends children receive no more than 10% of their energy from added sugars, however the research found teenage boys are actually getting about 13% of their sugar intake from added sugars.

Making a distinction between total and added sugars is becoming more important as experts look for a means of reducing energy intake to control weight and develop labelling to help guide consumer choice, said research author Jimmy Louie, from the University of Wollongong.

“Products such as milk, fruit and certain cereals are high in natural sugars, as well as good sources of key nutrients, as opposed to most foods high in added sugars,” Dr Louie said.

Health experts have welcomed the research, but are keen to see more on the direct contribution from sugary drinks.

“It would be especially interesting to see what proportion of ‘added sugars’ came from liquids such as soft drinks, and what came from foods, as there is evidence that sugars consumed as part of watery liquids do not contribute to satiety and are simply added on to what would normally be consumed,” said Kerin O’Dea, professor of population health and nutrition at the University of South Australia.

“Clearly sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials are still a problem and need to be dramatically reduced as they have no other nutrients – just unwanted calories,” said Peter Clifton, laboratory head of nutritional interventions at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and affiliate professor at the University of Adelaide.

“Nevertheless, focusing just on sugar is misplaced as for many children pizzas, pies, white bread and fast food are more of a problem than sugar, so the whole diet needs attention.”

The Conversation

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

Aussies confused about sustainable seafood

While most Australians will say they are environmentally aware and want to improve sustainability, new research has found it is not often a factor considered when purchasing decisions are made.

When consumers purchase goods in Australia they are almost always more concerned with taste and price, rather than sustainably sourced products.

Research commissioned by John West Australia and conducted by Lonergan Research in August 2012 found sustainability ranks low on the list of priorities for Australians purchasing canned seafood, with just 4 per cent saying it as the most important purchasing consideration.

That is the same level of consideration given to the size of the can, with 4 per cent also saying that is the main factor considered when purchasing seafood.

Taste was most important to the highest number of the 1 034 respondents, with 30 per cent saying they regard that factor over all others, while 25 per cent said taste topped the list as the most important considerations.

One of the main reasons consumers aren’t giving sustainable foods the recognition they deserve may be due to the lack of education around what the term means.

Because while the term ‘sustainable seafood’ is often used in advertising, marketing and reporting, the research found that just under a quarter of Australians actually understand what it means.

Despite this, when asked their opinion, 83 per cent of Australians believe it is important that tuna sold in Australia is caught in a sustainable manner, even though they rank it lower than other factors when making a purchasing decision.

Interestingly, men are 6 per cent more likely than women to know what the term ‘sustainable seafood’ means.

Almost 85 per cent said that unless it is labelled they have no idea which brands are sustainable and which are not and 60 per cent agreed they would avoid purchasing tuna if they knew it was caught in an unsustainable manner.

Four in five respondents believe labels about sustainability should be compulsory on seafood and almost 80 per cent believe that there should be incentives to reward companies who are doing the right thing and ensuring their tuna is caught sustainably.

Only 1 in 10 Australians surveyed can name at least one specific species of tuna they believe is at risk of being fished unsustainably, with the two species mentioned most frequently being Bluefin and Yellowfin.

Nearly 9 in 10 Australians do not know what other species (besides tuna) are being overfished or at risk of extinction due to the canned tuna industry.

How much do you know about sustainable seafood practises? Do we need better education on the subject?

Children seeing same number of junk food ads as before regulation

Health experts have slammed the self-regulation of the food industry, saying children are being bombarded with advertisements for junk food.

Despite the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) introducing the Responsible Marketing to Children Initiative (RMCI), the number of junk food ads aimed at children has not slowed, according to a new study by the University of Sydney and the Cancer Council.

The researchers have come out swinging at the food industry, saying the findings of the first comprehensive review of the effectiveness of self-regulatory pledges by food brands and industry show the industry has no credibility and has failed to protect children against obesity, and that there are no incentives for food manufacturers to avoid targeting children.

Despite the introduction the RMCI and other self-regulation pledges in 2009, the frequency of junk food ads remained unchanged from last year, the researchers found.

In a separate study published this month in BMC Public Health, researchers audited food and beverage ads during peak children's programming times, and found various ads which went against mandatory and voluntary advertising regulations.

There were a total of 951 breaches of combined regulations in just two months of data collection in 2010 and more than 80 per cent of all food and beverage ads shown in Australia were for items defined as ''extras'' in the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.

On of the researchers, Kathy Chapman, said there was barely any independent monitoring to ensure guidelines and codes were enforced, and more needs to be done to ensure companies are abiding by the rules.

The study looked at all ads on three television channels over five years and found children were exposed to the same number of advertisements for junk food brands now as they were before ''regulation''.

''We know that parents have the most important role to play in terms of what kids eat but it is a bit like road safety,'' Chapman, a nutritionist and director of health policy at the Cancer Council, said.

''Parents can teach their children road safety but it doesn't mean we don't also have speed limits and crosswalks to make their job easier.

“Messages for unhealthy foods on television, the internet … means there are lots of ways messages from parents are being undermined.

''These studies combined show industry codes of practice are not having an impact and we are seeing such big loopholes for the food industry to get away with this.”

Many slammed the AFGC’s RMCI after it was implemented, saying companies would not voluntarily self regulate, but rather, government needed to step in to implement regulations.

The AFGC blamed a scheduling error after the number of junk food ads targeted at children last year actually increased rather then decreased.

Earlier this year, Cristel Leemhuis from the AFGC said the industry needs to work towards improving obesity rates if it wants to avoid being forced to make changed.

“The food industry is definitely part of the solution, particularly when you look at overweight and obesity,” she told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit.

“We’re not part of the problem, we’re part of the solution and I think the more that we can collaborate the better our outcomes will be in the future.

“Responsible marketing to children is absolutely essential, so we do limit what children see in this area, and the research is very much showing that marketing in those areas decreased dramatically since we implemented that in 2010.

While many argue that the only way to improve such marketing in the industry, as well as other issues, is to get the government to legislate around it, Leemhuis thinks the industry can be responsible without such intervention, as is evident from the number of manufacturers and fast food outlets already making significant health changes.

“It’s not voluntarily, the consumer is demanding it,” she said.

“Consumers push these businesses, so they’re responding to that consumer demands.

“I’m a fan of minimum effective regulation if we do need it lets go down that track, but let’s see what we can do without the regulation to start with.

“Can we actually address the issue without regulation?

“That’s the path we should take first.

“If that doesn’t work then we should step into these other areas, but we really need to try this other area first before we just straight down to [regulation].”

While the latest reports have found the industry is not doing enough to self regulate itself, the director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute in Western Australia, Mike Daube, said he was ''profoundly pessimistic'' that governments would be heavy handed with food manufacturers.

''The food industry is so large and powerful that it will get away with the cynical pretence of self-regulation for the foreseeable future,'' he said.

Daube slammed the codes, saying they had no credibility, were not well enforced, and failed to protect children from obesity.

The AFGC maintain international regulations of advertising to children have not resulted in positive public health results so they would not work in Australia and chief executive Gary Dawson, said industry has been successful in removing non-core food advertising that was directed at children.

Sodium levels in Australian foods increasing

Despite the increasing awareness about the health impacts of high sodium consumption, a new report has found hidden salt in Australian food has risen almost 10 per cent in three years.

In what the Australian Heart Foundation has labelled ‘deeply alarming’ findings, a George Institute for Global Health report found the average increase in salt in 28 000 food products was 9 per cent.

Between 2008 and 2011, a time when the education and awareness about the dangers of high salt consumption was at its highest, the amount of hidden sodium in foods was actually increasing.

In oils, sodium levels rose by 16 per cent and in sauces and spreads that increase was 13 per cent.

While Australians are becoming more aware of the impacts of sodium consumption, and not ‘directly adding it at the table, many are also unaware about hidden sodium in foods, particularly processed products.

Food labelling in Australia has been slammed in recent years for being confusing and misleading, and last year the federal government pledged to create a mandatory front-of-pack labelling system for all packaged foods in Australia within a year.

A recent survey by consumer watchdog Choice also found the amount of salt in cereals, particularly those aimed at children, is worryingly high.

Despite cereal manufacturers committing to reducing salt in their products, and Kellogg’s declaring they had done so before the deadline, the Choice survey of 195 ‘salt-reduced’ cereals found that salt levels of the products were still far too high.

Despite reductions of at least 20 per cent since the last Choice survey, this year’s cereal survey found Kelloggs, Sanitarium and Aldi brand breakfast cereal versions of ‘corn flakes’ and ‘rice bubbles’ still had significant salt content.

Choice said that while improvements in salt-reduction have been made, many of the Australian cereals ‘did not deserve the healthy image they portray.’

‘We think more energy should be devoted to reducing the sodium and sugar content of cereals, particularly those targeted at children,’ Choice spokesperson, Ingrid Just said.

Choice has also called on more regulation surrounding health claims and serving sizes, with spokesperson Ingrid Just telling Food Magazine last month that manufacturers are deliberately skewing the serving sizes of products to make them appear healthier in the at-a-glance front-of-pack nutritional labelling.

“Those manufacturers who use thumbnail percentage [daily intake] labels on the front of packs often look to that serving size because it brings some of those percentages down,” Ingrid Just said.

“So for consumers who may use that to compare products, they are getting an unrealistic reading, as the serving sizes may not be the same.”

In Australia, manufacturers are responsible for deciding on appropriate serving sizes, and as such, they often vary between different sized of the same product.

A Mars Bar serving, for example, is stated as 18, 36 or 53 grams, depending on the pack size.

Comparatively, the US serving sizes are regulated by government body the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Earlier this year the Heart Foundation found the average Australian eats around nine grams of salt a day, about three grams more than the recommended intake.

In May, Dr Robert Grenfell, National Cardiovascular Health Director at the Heart Foundation said “cutting the nation’s salt intake by three grams a day would prevent an estimated 6,000 Australian deaths a year due to heart disease,” adding that the health body is ‘very concerned’ about hidden salt in Australian food.

Are you surprised by the findings about how much hidden salt is in our foods?

Hershey bows to pressure, commits to 100% certified cocoa by 2020

US confectionary manufacturer Hershey is the latest company to declare its commitment to ending child labour in West Africa, by pledging to use 100 per cent certified cocoa in all its products by 2020.

Activists have slammed the company, who say Hershey is the only major chocolate producer in the world that hadn't made a commitment to use certified cocoa.

Mars, Arnott's, Nestle are amongst other confectionary makers who have previously announced their commitment to ending child labour in the cocoa growing regions in West Africa by using only certified cocoa.

Last September, research found that the Australian chocolate industry has taken huge steps towards using accredited cocoa products.

Following the pressure, Pennsylvania-based Hershey confirmed its plan to use certified cocoa on Wednesday.
Certified cocoa is produced according to certain social, economic and environmental standards. 

West Africa produces about 70 percent of the world's cocoa and currently, certified cocoa accounts for less than 5 percent of the world's cocoa supply, according to Hershey.

According to the fourth annual report produced by Tulane University under contract to the U.S. Department of Labor to monitor progress in the protocol, about 1.8 million children, aged 5 to 17, work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The report revealed 40 percent of the 820 000 children working in cocoa in Ivory Coast are not enrolled in school, and only about 5 percent of the Ivorian children are paid for their work.

Hershey earlier this year said it would invest $10 million in West Africa to reduce child labor and improve the cocoa supply, as part of its commitment to reducing the harsh working conditions in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The commitment by major manufacturers to only use certified cocoa is a huge step in towards fairer conditions for the workers in the region.

Hershey has also pledged to continue its support of community development programs, including village school construction, mobile phone farmer messaging, training in modern farming techniques and literacy and health programs.

"Consistent with Hershey's values, we are directly addressing the economic and social issues that impact West Africa's two million cocoa farmers and families," J.P. Bilbrey, company president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"I am confident that we can make a substantial difference in West Africa by 2020."

Independent auditors will verify the certified cocoa was produced by the highest labor, environmental and farming practices, the company said.

Parents unable to recognise when children are obese

The rapid increase in childhood diabetes is the result of parents rewarding their children with junk food, according to a new report.

The University of Sydney study found 20 per cent of children are overweight of obese by the time the start kindergarten.

Public health experts say the obesity problem in the home extends beyond what parents are feeding their children, but also in their attitude, with most parents unable to recognise when their child is overweight.

Researchers studied more than 500 children and found that the home environment is overwhelmingly to blame for children’s weight.

Changes to the traditional family behaviour is also impacting the weight of our children, with 30 per cent of those studied saying they have a television in their room, and almost 50 per cent eating dinner in front of the box more than three times per week.

The researchers found that overweight boys were more likely to eat dinner in front of the television and watch it for too long, while overweight girls were more likely to have a television in their bedrooms and be rewarded with sweet treats.

Leader of the study, Dr Louise Hardy, from the university’s school of public health, said children’s exposure to television before they were five was ''horrifying.''

''Perhaps parents are upgrading their TV and don't want to toss out the old ones, so they're ending up in kids' bedrooms,'' she said.

''Kids are also being rewarded for good behaviour with sweet food. They are drinking sugar in soft drinks and fruit juices and once these negative health behaviours are established, they're very difficult to change.

''It may sound draconian, but why are we rewarding children for good behaviour at all?''

The study found more than 60 per cent of children, both healthy and overweight, were rewarded for good behaviour with treats.

More than one-fifth of the overweight and obese children studied did not eat breakfast.

Hardy said parents need to recognise that by rewarding their children with sweets, they are being introduced to bad habits very young.

She also called on parents to have a more realistic perception of their children’s health and weight.

''We asked parents whether they perceived their child to be overweight, healthy or underweight and found 70 per cent of parents of overweight kindergarten children thought their kid was the right weight,'' she said.

''And 30 per cent of the parents of obese children thought their child was the right weight.”

Hardy said health policy makers continue to be accused of creating a “Nanny state.”

''It's a very difficult situation, but this is happening before children enter school and we need to get the message across while also not offending parents,'' she said.

Genetically modified corn and cancer – what does the evidence really say?

French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini caused quite a stir last week when he claimed he’d shown cancer in rats increased when they were fed genetically modified corn and/or water spiked with the herbicide Roundup. The paper, which seven of his colleagues co-authored, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.

France’s ministers for agriculture, ecology and health responded swiftly by commissioning the National Agency for Health and Safety to look into the claims. Depending on the findings, they could invoke an emergency suspension of imports of the Monsanto GM maize strain NK603, used in the study, into Europe. Now that’s what I call high impact.

But how did the authors come to their conclusion? And can such a significant claim be made using the study data?

Rat selection

The study focuses on cancers in rats. For this they use the Harlan Sprague-Dawley strain of rat, which is known to be predisposed to getting cancer. Lots of them. Over 70% of males and 87% of females from this strain reportedly get cancer during their lifetime, whether they have been fed GM corn or not. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many of Seralini’s rats were found with cancer.

To make sense of this study you have to ask the simple question: “does feeding rats GM corn and/or Roundup increase the frequency of cancers compared with rats that have been given non-GM food?”

To do this, the authors of the study split up 200 rats into ten groups. One “control” group (ten male and ten female) were fed non-GM corn and had access to plain water. The researchers monitored for the development of cancer over a period of two years.

Nine other groups of twenty rats (ten male and ten female) were also monitored, but this time, these groups were given food containing 11%, 22% or 33% of NK603 GM corn, 11%, 22% or 33% of NK603 GM corn treated with Roundup*, or just had Roundup spiked in their drinking water at different concentrations.

The male and female rats in the control group lived for just under two years. Other studies identified that these rats die from cancer or kidney failure around this time. But the authors don’t mention this. They simply write:

“ After mean survival time had elapsed, any deaths that occurred were considered to be largely due to aging.”

They have effectively chosen not look at – and therefore don’t have to report on – why rats in the control group died. This assumption alone is sufficient grounds for rejecting this paper from publication.

Treatment group vs the control

In the study, Figure 1 (view here) shows Kaplan Meier plots the number of rat deaths by “control group” and other “treatment groups”.

What do these mean? Well, not much because the authors failed to use a statistical test to tell if there was a difference between the control groups and treatment groups.

This is important, as all their claims relate to the incidence of cancers (and other “diseases”) in the “treatment group” compared to the “control group”. These comparisons can only be made if a statistical test shows that what you observe is not happening by chance.


The Harlan Sprague-Dawley strain of rat is predisposed to getting cancer. jepoirrier


Overstating the evidence

Still on Figure 1, we see that several “treatment groups” of male rats receiving GM NK603 corn (the 22% group and 33% group) actually had fewer cancers than the male control group at their arbitrarily determined point of assessment.

Similarly, a treatment group of male rats receiving 33% GM corn and Roundup had no difference to the control group, and two treatment groups receiving Roundup (A and C) had the same or less incidence of cancer compared with the control group.

By their perverted logic, they could equally claim that for male rats:

a) high percentages of GM corn (22% and 33%) was “protective” against getting cancer compared to group of control male rats

b) having 33% of GM corn with Roundup showed no difference to the control group and therefore wasn’t harmful to male rats, and

c) using 0.5% Roundup in the drinking water was protective against cancer in male rats compared to the the male control group.

But you can’t. You can no more make these statements than the claims about the increased incidence of cancers in the female rats in the various treatment groups. No statements can be made because no statistical test has been applied.

The full picture

One sentence that should set alarm bells ringing is the claim that “All data cannot be shown in one report.”

The retort to that statement is, “Oh yes it can. Please show it to me”. If you are reporting data, you need to show all the data.

Not enough space? Put it in the supplemental data.

In the data section, the authors show examples of pathology, histology and electron microscopy images of affected organs in the treatment groups and mention results from genetic testing of samples. All well and good, but for the genetic tests, they don’t show any data other than a statement of claim.

They also don’t present any biochemical data from the male rats – half of all their studied rats. In the legend for table 3 (which shows the “Percentage variation of parameters indicating kidney failures of female animals), they claim "Male kidney pathologies are already illustrated in Table 2” (which shows a “Summary of the most frequent anatomical pathologies observed”). But we’re not shown the raw, unmanipulated data, tested with standard statistical tests, for males and females.

Nonsensical statements

The authors then go on to describe the cancers in detail. They state:

“ Up to 14 months, no animals in the control groups showed any signs of tumors whilst 10–30% of treated females per group developed tumors, with the exception of one group (33% GMO + R).”

Well done. They have just created a non-predefined outcome measure and made a biologically nonsensical statement.

Do they mean to imply that female rats eating the highest percentage of GM corn with Roundup are mysteriously no more affected than the female control group, compared to other female “treatment groups” which were somehow more affected?

Once again, no statistical test is applied and no conclusions can be drawn.

Further, they don’t describe diseases affecting the “control group”. At all. By neglecting to state if there were any changes in the “control group”, you cannot make any statement about the “treatment groups”. That’s why you have controls.

So, what have we learnt?

This study has shown that old Harlan Sprague-Dawley rats get cancers and other diseases. This has been shown before.

What this study does not show is that exposing these rats to GM corn and/or Roundup makes any difference to the frequency of cancers or other diseases. It can’t because no statistical tests have been applied, and perhaps most worryingly, the authors do not comprehensively report on why rats in the control group died.

This study can hardly be the basis from which any government should make policy decisions or draw conclusions about the safety of the NK603 GM maize or Roundup.

Read an article about the murky release of the paper – Modifying the message: how tricks masked home truths about anti-GM science

*A previous version of this article incorrectly stated this group had Roundup spiked in their drinking water at different concentrations.

Ashley Ng receives funding from the Cancer Council of Victoria, The Leukaemia Foundation of Australia and Cure Cancer Australia.

The Conversation

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

UN not doing enough for food security: Rudd

Kevin Rudd has slammed the UN food agency for failing to do enough for food security and warned that fears around a repeat of the 2007-08 food crisis are justified.

The former Prime Minister, who was infamously ousted by the Labor party in 2010 in favour of Julia Gillard, and then became Foreign Minister, has always had a particular focus on international affairs.

He told a conference in Hong Kong yesterday that the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), needs to provide effective advice, rather than just release "another set of reports".

"The fact that we're having this kind of conference is an indictment of the failure of the FAO," he told the meeting – titled Feeding the world: Asia's Prospect of Plenty – which was organised by The Economist magazine,” he said.

"The execution of its mandate, which is food security, must now be done.

"A practical program against the billions of people who are hungry in the world today needs to be done – not another set of reports, not another set of committees.

“Action, action, action," he told reporters later.

In September last year, when he was Foreign Minister, Rudd was warning of similar food crises, saying wars and political uproar could become a reality if Western counties don’t address global food security.

Rudd said then that food security to be on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth the following month, as well as the G20 summit in Cairns last November.

He also called then for a push for trade liberalisation to provide access to give poor African countries access to European and US markets.

Earlier this month the FAO called for "swift, coordinated international action" to deal with the increased cost of maize, wheat and soybean, which has sparked fears of another food crisis.

While there was plenty of joking about the “tragedy” of a shortage of bacon as a result of the US droughts, the unseasonable weather has actually already created immense problems with the availability of foods that could have flow-on effects for some time.

And it’s not just in the US, as low monsoon rainfall in India led the FAO to cut its global 2012 rice output forecast.

The UN estimates that the world population will increase by two billion by 2050.

Asia will account for half the increase, and with a rising middle class that will demand better food, Prime Minister Julia Gillard urged farmers and suppliers to embrace the population increase and become the “Asian foodbowl.”

Farmers and agricultural experts slammed the suggestions, saying current regulations are hindering the industry, not helping it, and significant changes would have to be made make the Asia an export possibility the government wants.

"Hunger is the world's most challenging problem," UN World Food Programme China director Brett Rierson said.

"There is a common perception that hunger is an African problem, but two-thirds of them are from Asia so hunger is here in Asia," he said.