Australian consumers demanding sustainably sourced seafood claims new research

Some 75 per cent of Australian seafood consumers believe in order to save the ocean, we have to consume fish and seafood only from sustainable sources, making it a top priority, reveals the Marine Stewardship Council’s annual report and independent research launched today.

This represents a significant shift in consumption habits as Australian seafood shoppers say they value sustainability over price, with 51 per cent willing to pay more for sustainably certified seafood, according to the report.

The new consumer data is the largest ever global analysis of attitudes to seafood consumption and was carried out by independent GlobeScan, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

“This research released in conjunction with MSC’s latest annual report shows Australian consumers are voting with their wallets to future-proof our oceans by opting for sustainably certified seafood.”

“This is not just a passing trend, it’s an evolution strongly driven by consumer demand that demonstrates greater engagement on traceability and consideration towards our food sources”, said Anne Gabriel, Oceania Program Director, MSC.

“With four out of five households (85 per cent) of Australians purchasing seafood on a regular basis, there’s an opportunity for consumers to make a tangible difference by choosing to source sustainable seafood.” In fact, noted Ms. Gabriel,

“Some 69 per cent of Australian seafood consumers state they want to know that the fish they buy can be traced back to known and trusted source.”

The consumer insights data also found that:

• A majority (54 per cent) of seafood consumers are likely to trust the source of the products if they are ecolabelled

• 71 per cent of Australians believe brands’ claims about sustainability need to be labelled by an independent org.

• Globally, 66 per cent of respondents are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, which is up from 55 per cent in 2014 and 50 per cent in 2013 (Nielsen’s The Sustainability Imperative, October 2015)

• 36 per cent of Australians say they are purchasing more ecolabelled seafood than a year ago

These figures support findings of the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report, which showed that over the previous year, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability grew by more than 4 per cent globally, while those without grew less than 1 per cent.

A full copy of the report can be found here

Manuka Honey makers all abuzz over poor imitations

With Manuka Honey top of the ‘must buy’ list for health and beauty benefits, consumers need to be sure that what they are buying is the genuine article, said a major Manuka Honey industry body today.

In response to their fears of counterfeit products, the guardian of New Zealand’s leading quality mark for genuine Manuka Honey – UMF – has come up with an online solution.

The NZ-based UMF Honey Association (UMFHA) has now launched a service on its website that carries a full list of names of licence-holders that can be easily checked for via a handy search function.

It has been designed for users to ensure they can now easily check the company name on product using just about any smartphone.

Overall, over 90 companies are licensed to use the UMF quality mark which represents the purity and quality of Manuka Honey.

The UMF classification and grading system is internationally recognised as the hallmark of premium Manuka Honey.

Aussie wine scoops three gold CWSA Awards

Calabria Wines has outclassed the competition at the recent China Wine & Spirits Awards, taking home three Gold Medals from the competition, including the prestigious Double Gold.

The company’s 2013 Iconic Grand Reserve Barossa Valley Shiraz was awarded the superior Double Gold, while the 2014 Three Bridges Durif & 2014 Three Bridges Barossa Valley Shiraz both won a Gold Medal.

“We are very proud of the success we have yielded for our Barossa wines. We have worked extremely hard to produce high quality wines from this region and the C.W.S.A accolades reinforce our long term commitment to the Barossa Valley” commented Calabria Wines third generation family member and Sales & Marketing Manager, Andrew Calabria.

Calabria Wines have been producing Three Bridges Durif for 15 years and it is the company’s most celebrated product.

Australia’s drinking quantity decreases but quality increases

Australians say they are drinking less but better with our per capita spend on alcohol rising as we seek out more premium alcoholic beverages, according to a new report released today.

The emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) Alcoholic Beverages Trends & Insights Report* found that half of people aged 18 years and over say they are drinking less now than they used to.

There is also a move to premium beverages, with the dollar value of liquor sales rising 1.5%^ in 2015, which means Australians are spending more on their favourite drink. Australia is an overwhelmingly wine and beer drinking nation. Wine is our most popular drink, although men up to age 65 prefer beer, the emma data has found.

Cider is our third most popular drink, followed by scotch or whiskey, with other varieties well behind. Women opt for wine more than twice as often as other drinks, whereas men are more varied in their consumption patterns.

White wine edges out red as the most consumed at 43% of adults, compared to 41%, while 23% enjoy sparkling wine or champagne.

Alcohol is still very much part of Australian culture, with three quarters of adult men and women consuming an alcoholic beverage in the past four weeks.

“The trend towards drinking better offers growth opportunities to premium brands that can tap into the mindset of these consumers.

The move by Australians towards more premium beverages and spending more as a result, underscores the importance of effective brand positioning and marketing.”

Perceptions of quality and value change as people age and emma data shows that older people are more likely to believe that Australian wine is better than that from overseas.

They were also less likely to try foreign beers, preferring homegrown brands. There has been a shift in places and occasions where Australians prefer to drink, which changes by age and life stage. The majority of Australians prefer to drink at home, which was most prevalent among 30-32 years olds at 87%.

Venues where alcohol is consumed differ among various age groups. For example, among 24-26 year olds, 61% drank at a friend or relative’s house, while 19% of 18-20 year olds drank at a nightclub.

Among older people, 50% of 45-47 year olds drank at a restaurant or café, while 36% of 54-56 year olds drank at a bar or pub and a third of 66-68 year olds preferred RSLs, bowls or an AFL club.

According to Ipsos’s consumer segmentation, there are four key segments that represent 35% of Australia’s adult population who are the most likely to drink any alcohol more than once a week.

They are the ‘Educated Ambition’ (highest earners and most educated), ‘Social Creatives’ (young, affluent urbanites), ‘Serene Seclusion’ (people at or near retirement living in regional and rural areas) and ‘Conscientious Consumption’ (middle and upper class families) segments. *

The report draws on data from emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) to explore the changing mindsets, preferences and behaviours of Australian adults towards alcohol. emma interviews more than 54,000 people each year. ^ IBISWorld Liquor Retailing in Australia, March 2016

Companies praised for cage-free commitments: RSPCA

Retailers and food manufacturers making an effort to source cage-free eggs were praised this morning at the RSPCA's Good Egg Awards.

Alligator Brand Fresh Pasta was a winner in the awards' manufacturing category, recognised for its long-term commitment to using only cage-free eggs.

Spokesperson for Alligator Pasta, Amanda Beckett, said "We use over 25 tonnes of free range egg pulp for our production each year, so it is important to us that we do this in the most humane way possible. And of course using free range eggs means we produce delicious pasta."

Coles Brand Eggs were praised in the retail category, recognised for its efforts to switch to cage-free eggs – which has been a three year long process.

General manager of responsible sourcing, quality and technology, Jackie Healing, said "Coles is delighted to receive this award in recognition of the work we have done with our Coles Brand Eggs.

"This has always been about responding to our customers’ wishes for great value eggs that are not produced in a cage environment.

"We would like to recognise and thank our suppliers who supported us on this journey which has been so good for customers, for farmers and especially for the hens," said Healing.

Today's Good Egg Awards also delivered a Commendation to IKEA Australia which has made the commitment to commence sourcing only cage-free eggs for use in its cafes.

Special mentions also went to Flinders University, Byron Shire Council and The Cupcake Room for showing leadership in their industries.

RSPCA Australia CEO, Heather Neil, said "Importantly, these moves by major brands demonstrate that not only are Australian consumers demanding higher welfare products and becoming more interested in where and how their food is produced and sourced

"But they also show its possible and feasible in a business sense to make more humane choices in the supply chain," she said.

"These companies have helped to improve the welfare of hens and made it easier for consumers to look for higher welfare products when shopping."

The awards presentation was preceded by the 2013 Great Cage Free Cook-Off, where four journalists from the food industry (including yours truly!) whipped up an omelette using cage-free eggs and a variety of other ingredients. Photos are on their way….


Forget children, self-regulating ads only helps the food industry

The food industry’s commitment to actually reducing inappropriate food marketing to children is called into question by a paper published today in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Couple this with research published last week showing drinking soft drinks makes children aggressive, and you won’t be alone in thinking it’s time to do something about how junk food and kids mix.

But what about the measures already in place? And do these US studies actually have lessons for other countries like Australia?

Food advertising to children

The PLOS study examined television advertisements for fast-food restaurants broadcast on US national television between July 2009 and June 2010.

The bulk of the child-targeted advertisements (62 of the 95) were for McDonald’s, with 30 from Burger King, and three from Subway.

Compared to 92 matching adult-targeted advertisements, Burger King and McDonald’s child-targeted ads were more likely to show food packaging (88% versus 23%) and street views of the restaurants (41% versus 12%). This indicates the importance placed by marketers on conveying branding to children.

The massive power of branding was also clearly demonstrated in a 2007 study that found children preferred the taste of food and drinks when they were presented in McDonald’s wrappers.

Across the two chains, 69% of child-targeted advertisements featured a toy premium or giveaway (compared to 1% of adult-targeted ads); and 55% (compared to 14%) featured film tie-ins.

Not surprisingly, the authors concluded that fast food advertisements aimed at children did not emphasise food, focusing instead on toys, premiums and tie-ins. They also concluded that these companies had not followed through on the letter or the spirit of industry self-regulatory codes.

The picture in Australia

When Australian researchers examined the impact of self-regulation in a 2011 study, they found it didn’t reduce fast food advertising to children.

And in case you are persuaded by industry arguments that self-regulation is effective, a recent systematic review also concluded that scientific, peer-reviewed studies find self-regulation of food advertising has been ineffective. It also found that industry-sponsored reports find high compliance with these voluntary codes.

The use of film tie-ins and media characters in adverts is controversial, and there’s evidence that children rate food as more tasty when there is a licenced cartoon character on the packaging.

Following advocacy by parent groups and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) regarding the extensive use of premiums to sell fast food to Australian children, the mandatory Children’s Television Standards were revised in 2009 to clarify that an advertisement:

A review of food and beverage advertisements in five Australian cities over a two-month period in 2010 identified 619 breaches of the standards, including 120 breaches of this specific clause, and 332 breaches of the industry’s voluntary regulations.

Just like the images, advertising voice-overs in the PLOS ONE study focused on giveaways and film tie-ins. When those same chains targeted adults, they focused on taste, price, and portion size.

This concurrent targeting of children and adults with very different messages about a brand’s food products is not unique to fast food restaurants.

Our research into advertising for snack foods found that advertisements in children’s magazines focused on fun, games, “coolness” and inferences of popularity. Whereas concurrent advertisements in magazines for adults focused on nutrition and convenience.

We also found that adults perceived distinctly different messages in the two mediums and, importantly, that their intention to purchase the snack foods for their children varied depending on the version they were exposed to.

There’s more

Providing further angst for the marketers of unhealthy food and drinks, a study published last week in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children who consume soft drinks are more likely to experience behavioural problems.

Even after controlling for a range of possible confounders (socio-demographic factors, maternal depression and family violence), the researchers found children who regularly drank even one soft drink a day were more likely to display aggressive behaviour.

Children who drank more than four soft drinks a day were twice as likely to get into fights, physically attack people, and destroy other people’s property; and more likely to have attention problems.

This was not some small-scale research with a few children; it was a rigorous study conducted by experienced researchers who assessed soft drink consumption and behavioural outcomes among 2,929 five-year-olds in 20 US cities.

The authors recommended warning labels be included on soft drinks to alert parents of the risks associated with children’s consumption.

Not surprisingly, the Australian Beverages Council dismissed the study’s recommendations and argued that the study authors “failed to factor out other important considerations”.

As would be expected, the peak body argued that mandatory regulation is not needed as the industry has been voluntarily taking steps to enable consumers to make “informed choices”.

It remains to be seen whether these strategies will be any more effective than self-regulatory approaches to reducing marketing of other unhealthy food products to children. I won’t be holding my breath.

Sandra Jones holds a Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council, and has received funding from the ARC and from NGOs including the Cancer Council and Asthma Foundation.

The Conversation

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


Should we eat red meat? The nutrition and the ethics

Many types of red meat and red meat products are available, from farmers' markets, to supermarkets, to restaurants. The impacts of their production and consumption on human health, animal welfare and the environment are complex.

So what should we be thinking about when we’re deciding whether or not to eat red meat?

The nutrition

Consuming lean products and different cuts, or muscles, of meat from cattle, sheep, pig, goat and kangaroo is recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines as part of a balanced diet. Lean refers to animal muscle tissue that has lower amounts of total fat and saturated fat compared to higher-fat alternatives.

Most lean red meats are cuts, rather than processed products such as hot dogs or canned meat. Cuts provide many beneficial nutrients, including: protein, vitamin B12, zinc, iron and unsaturated fat (such as omega-3 polyunsaturated fats).

In comparison, fattier red meat cuts and most processed meat products provide higher amounts of potentially harmful nutrients, such as saturated fats, salt and sodium nitrate.

In general, horse and kangaroo meats have been reported to have the lowest total fat and highest polyunsaturated fat contents. Beef and sheep meats have the highest total fat and lowest polyunsaturated fat. Grass-fed beef is a better source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats compared to grain-fed beef, although fish provides significantly more omega-3 than any red meat.

Australian livestock is mostly grass-fed in fields, rather than grain-fed in feedlots. This is better for both nutrient levels in the meat and animal and environmental ethics. Feedlots are more common in the United States, for example.

The type of grain that is fed to an animal affects its muscle nutrient composition, as well as shelf-life, taste, colour and quality. For example, pigs can be fed on a certain amount and type of linseed to increase omega-3 polyunsaturated fat in their meat.

Associations with ill health

The links between red meat products and human health are not fully understood, but you may have seen recent media reports about processed meat and cancer risk.

It is likely that eating less processed meat will reduce your risk of getting cancer. It’s also probable eating less red meat will reduce your cancer risk.

Similarly, if unsaturated fats – especially polyunsaturated fats – replace saturated fats (for example, in red meat) in someone’s diet, the risk of coronary heart disease might be reduced. Further, processed meats have been linked to a higher incidence of coronary heart disease and diabetes.

The ethics

The ethics of consuming food, including animal produce, is a fraught topic for both animal welfare and environmental damage. The vast scale of commercialised livestock production is overwhelming.

Yes, any food that humans consume comes with consequences, especially when that food is mass-produced. However, with red meat, efficiency and cost can outweigh animal welfare when animals become “a commodity, a unit in the production line”. And there is huge environmental damage from livestock production, such as methane from manure and enteric fermentation (that is, farts!).

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations stated in 2006:

The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.

It must be hoped the animal welfare and environmental aspects of food consumption will be highlighted in future revisions of the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

What can you do?

You probably care about your health, and hopefully you care about other animals and the environment. Luckily, you can do a few things to try to improve all of these aspects of red meat and red meat product consumption:

  • When (or if) you eat red meat: choose leaner options that have less total and saturated fat, such as lean beef mince in place of standard beef mince; choose meats that contain more polyunsaturated fats, such as kangaroo or grass-fed beef (I don’t envisage many Australians eating horse, which is also higher in these fats); avoid processed meat such as bacon, sausages and salami; and buy from retailers and eat at restaurants where the red meat is sourced from more ethical, smaller-scale, local and sustainable farms
  • Eat less red meat (Meat Free Mondays is one good idea)
  • Join the 4% of the Australian population following vegetarian or vegan eating habits.


Rebecca Charlotte Reynolds is a lecturer in Nutrition at UNSW Australia.

This article first appeared in the Conversation. You can read the original here.

World’s most ethical companies named

PepsiCo, Kellogg Company and The Hershey Company have been named some of the "World's Most Ethical Companies" by the Ethisphere Institute.

Others in the food and beverage industry who made the list include Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric SE, ABB Group, Ingredion Incorporated and illycaffé spa.

The Ethisphere Institute’s World’s Most Ethical Companies designation recognises companies that go beyond making statements about doing business “ethically” and translate those words into action. Honorees promote ethical business standards and practices internally, exceed legal compliance minimums and shape future industry standards by introducing best practices today.

In 2015, 132 honorees were named spanning 21 countries and five continents and representing over 50 industries.

"As a seven-time honoree, Rockwell Automation adopts leading ethical standards and practices that ensure long-term value to customers, employees, suppliers, and investors," said Timothy Erblich, Ethisphere's chief executive officer. "Rockwell Automation uses ethics as a means to further define its industry leadership."

“Ethics and integrity are deeply rooted and ingrained in our culture," said Keith D. Nosbusch, Rockwell Automation chairman and CEO. "I'm proud of our employees who consistently do the right things, the right way, every day. They differentiate our company, giving us a competitive advantage.” 


Unilever commits to sourcing sustainable palm oil

Unilever Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) has announced its commitment to sourcing 100 percent traceable and certified sustainable palm oil.

From the first quarter of 2015, Unilever’s local food factories will begin using traceable and certified (RSPO segregated) palm oil, with the transition expected to be complete by the end of 2015. The announcement comes three years after Unilever ANZ confirmed all of its local palm oil use was covered through Green Palm certificates.

Clive Stiff, chairman and CEO of Unilever ANZ, said “The move to RSPO segregated palm oil for our locally produced foods products is an important step on our journey towards achieving full traceability and sustainability across our supply chain. While we know there is still more to do, I’m delighted we have made significant progress on our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets and remain at the forefront of businesses working to ensure the long term sustainability of the palm oil industry.”

Launched in 2010, the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan commits the company to reducing its environmental impact and sourcing 100 percent of agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020.

According to a statement issued by the company, Unilever is working with industry leaders and NGOs to find a solution to halt deforestation, protect peat land and drive positive economic and social impact for local communities. It’s also published its Sustainable Palm Oil Progress Report, highlighting significant steps forward in the global traceability of palm oil from known sources.

In Australasia, Unilever’s food brands include Flora, Lipton, Bushells, Continental and Streets.

Earlier this year, a number of global food and beverage manufacturers made similar commitments. US giants ConAgra, J.M. Smucker Co., Kellogg, General Mills, Mondelez, Panera and Safeway, which represent some of the top purchasers of the $44 billion palm oil industry, all committed to sourcing 100 percent fully traceable, responsibly produced palm oil.

Palm oil is a leading driver of global deforestation, which causes nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.


Government announces new $4.5m Fairtrade partnership

A new $4.5 million ‘Fairtrade for Aid in the Indo-Pacific’ partnership between the federal government and Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand has been announced.

The four year partnership, announced by Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs on 3 November, is expected to build support for Fairtrade products in Australia and link smallholder producers in developing Indo-Pacific countries to international and regional markets.

Molly Harriss Olson, CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, said the partnership will help improve the living conditions of producers in developing countries.

“Up to 70 percent of the staple foods in some developing countries come from poor small farmers, living on as little as $2 a day. Eighty-seven percent of the world’s small farms are in Asia and the Pacific.

“We have an enormous opportunity to improve people’s lives by alleviating poverty and creating more sustainable livelihoods in this part of the world,” Harriss Olson said.

According to Harriet Lamb, CEO of Fairtrade International, the organisation has 1,210 producer groups and more than 1.4 million producers in 74 countries, generating almost $7 billion in retail sales around the world.

Businesses Fairtrade works with include Grinders Coffee, Mondelez (Cadbury), Woolworths, Coles, Kathmandu, Queen Vanilla, Jaspers Coffee, All Good Organics and Alter Eco.


Halal certification: a gateway to export markets

The halal food market is expected to be worth US$1.6 trillion globally by 2018. With an average growth rate of 6.9 percent a year, it’s a sector that cannot be ignored, especially by food manufacturers keen to make their mark internationally.

While many manufacturers may question the value of gaining certification in Australia, where the Muslim community represents a relatively small proportion of the nation’s population, those companies looking to broaden their horizon beyond Australia’s shores would be well versed in the importance of meeting halal’s criteria.

What is halal?
Derived from the Koran, Islam’s book of faith, the word ‘halal’ literally means ‘lawful’ or ‘acceptable’.

Dr Muhammad Khan, chief executive officer at Halal Australia, a certification and accredidation company, told Food mag the best way to understand what halal is, is to understand what halal is not.

“As a general rule of thumb, everything is halal except what has been described as not halal.

“’Haram’ means ‘prohibited’ or ‘unlawful’, so products like swine or pork and its bi-products, and animals which are not properly slaughtered or they die before slaughtering, are not accepted as halal. So the blood is prohibited. Obviously alcoholic drinks and intoxicants are also not halal; carnivorous animals such as lions, tigers and monkeys are not halal, and certain other animals like scorpions, snakes and things like that – they are not halal.

“However, when it comes to processed foods, if it is contaminated with any of the products that I’ve mentioned, or their derivatives, including emulsifiers like 471 or 472, and also gelatine, they are not halal,” Khan says.

Certification is about ensuring these ingredients aren’t included in the manufacture of food products, and haven’t contaminated the manufacturing process in some way, for example, by being used on the same production line as non-halal products or ingredients.

With halal certification being more about what isn’t included in the product than what is, a product could be deemed halal without the manufacturer even realising or intending it to be. However, if that product is – or one day could be – destined for an export market, certification is worth considering, if not essential.

Why gain certification?
Similar to organic and kosher certification, halal certification guarantees Muslim consumers that the product has been grown/reared, processed and manufactured in a certain way.

Dalene Wray, general manager at OBE Organic, a certified organic and halal producer and exporter of beef, says certification allows companies to access new markets around the world.

“From a manufacturing point of view, it gives the manufacturer or the producer of the product more opportunities for sales of their product globally, if it’s halal certified.

“There are markets around the world that you can’t export to unless you have halal certification. So those would include the Middle East, Indonesia, Malaysia and to some extent Singapore. However, what we’ve found is that our halal certification is advantageous to all markets we export to around the world, even though to clear customs you don’t need it.

“For example the US. We don’t need halal certification to clear the US government customs, however we’ve found that the end users of our product in retail in America are Muslim consumers and they want our product to be halal certified,” Wray says.

She adds that certification allows OBE Organic to capitalise on the Australian government’s efforts to build relationships with certain export markets.

“We can take advantage of a lot of the activities that the federal and state government is doing to build relationships in those markets … and also we’ve got the Queensland government doing trade visits to the Middle East, so [we’re] really capitalising on a huge growth trend in opportunities in the Middle East markets.”

According to a report commissioned by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, the global halal market is expected to be worth US$1.6 trillion by 2018, up from US$1.1 trillion in 2013. Halal food made up 16.6 percent of the total world food market in 2013, and by 2018 this is expected to rise to 17.4 percent.

The Muslim population represents roughly 23 percent of the global community – or 1.8 billion people – and is growing at a rate of about three percent per annum, says Halal Australia’s Mohammed Khan.

But certification isn’t all about servicing Muslim consumers or benefiting export markets; Australians – regardless of their faith or background – can benefit from the growing halal market too, he says.

“A lot of companies are happy to seek certification because they see it as adding value to the company, something that bring a lot of money and that also can increase the employability of Australians. Companies can sell a lot more products than they would normally sell [if they’re halal] and that obviously increases the demand for employment.

“It’s a win/win situation for everybody. Even if one person is employed by a company, and that person is a bread winner and either he or she can support their family in the halal way – halal means in a lawful way – it’s good.”


Spreading the word
Gaining certification is only one half of the equation, says Lisa Mabe, founder of Hewar Social Communications, a PR consultancy specialising in the global specialty food market.

“If you make the effort and spend time and money to earn certification, why would you not target the very people who are looking for that certification?” she says.

Mabe told Food mag that manufacturers exporting to regions with Muslim populations tend to focus on their relationships with retailers rather than the end users. They’re relying on distributors in foreign markets to market the product’s certification on the manufacturer’s behalf, but the message often doesn’t get through, she says.

“In terms of reaching consumers, I don’t see many products doing much at all … I really think there’s a lack of understanding of the potential of those markets,” she says.

OBE Organic is a client of Mabe’s, and is one of few Australian brands to actively promote its halal certification both here and abroad. The company even has a separate Facebook page dedicated to targeting Muslim consumers.

“A lot of business that we do is private label, which means that the retailer puts their own label on the product, and they may or may not choose to identify the product as halal certified. Our job then is a little more difficult, and we have to articulate that message through our marketing, which is mostly done through social media,” Wray says.

“So we have a dedicated Facebook page just for marketing to Muslim consumers. We don’t know of any other food or beef company in Australia that has two Facebook pages: one for marketing to the world and one specifically for communicating with and sharing content that’s relevant to Muslim consumers.”

Content includes recipes, conversations about the Islamic holy month, Ramadan, and discussions regarding festivals celebrated in Middle Eastern communities.

Wray agrees with Mabe that Australian manufactures which have gained certification aren’t promoting it as effectively as they could, or should.

“OBE is one of the few companies in Australia that is leveraging and marketing the fact that our product is halal. We make a big deal of it; it’s all over our homepage,” she says. “There are not many other companies around the world that can produce certified organic beef that’s also halal certified.

“I don’t know if I could even count the number [of brands] on one hand that actively promote the fact that their product is halal,” she says.

Mabe came to Australia from the US about 18 months ago, and was surprised by the number of brands that had certification, however very few of them were communicating it to consumers.

“It’s a missed opportunity,” she says, especially considering Australia already has a reputation overseas for being a clean, safe food manufacturer.

Put the trust that this ‘clean and green’ reputation creates together with the reassurance that certification provides to a growing, potentially lucrative demographic, and Australian manufacturers are in an enviable position.

“[Muslim consumers] trust that if it’s from Australia, it’s safe. With its reputation of producing clean and safe food, Australia is in a unique position to not only participate in, but also lead in the halal food market,” Mabe says.

Supermarket practices need to be tested in court: AFGC

The AFGC says the practices of Australia’s leading supermarkets should be tested in court, following the ACCC’s claims that Coles has engaged in “unconscionable conduct” with its suppliers.

The ACCC has instituted proceedings in against Coles in the Federal Court, with ACCC chairman Rod Sims claiming, “The ACCC alleges that Coles took advantage of its superior bargaining position by demanding money from suppliers that it was not lawfully entitled to, and was, in all the circumstances, unconscionable.

“The ACCC has commenced these proceedings because it considers the alleged conduct was contrary to the prevailing business and social values which underpin business standards that apply to dealings with suppliers.

“These proceedings will provide the Court with an opportunity to consider whether conduct of this nature, if proven, is unlawful in the context of large businesses dealing with their suppliers,” Sims said.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) chairman, Gary Dawson, said it’s time claims like these were officially tested in court.

"Over recent years, there have been widespread reports of these sorts of practices being deployed by the major supermarkets to boost their bottom line at the expense of their suppliers," Dawson told the ABC.

"So it's very important these practices be tested in court, these allegations be tested thoroughly because it's in everyone's interests, including consumers, that there be a fair and competitive market.”

Coles is rejecting the claims, arguing that the communications with the suppliers referred to in the ACCC’s Statement of Claim were part of ongoing commercial negotiations involving a much broader, longer-term trading relationship with each of the five suppliers mentioned.

“These are normal topics for business discussions between grocery suppliers and retailers in Australia and around the world. Furthermore, commercial negotiations can be robust, regardless of the industry or sector,” the supermarket said in a statement.

The matter is listed for a directions hearing in Melbourne on 24 October, 2014.


Foodbank praises food and agriculture companies at annual awards

Kellogg’s, Manildra Group and GrainCorp were three of four companies recognised at last night’s Foodbank Australia awards.

The annual awards recognise the contribution of companies that help to bring food relief to Australia’s less fortunate. They were presented at the AFGC Industry Leaders Conference in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra on 1 October.

The four recipients were Kellogg’s, Manildra Group, GrainCorp and the Flight Centre Foundation.

Kellogg’s claimed the Leadership Award, in part for its Breakfast for Better Days program, which saw the company donate 7 million serves of breakfast cereal along with $100,000 to help expand Foodbank’s school breakfast program.

"Kellogg's has supported Foodbank since 1998, and we’re proud to be continuing our partnership with Foodbank in efforts towards hunger relief,” Andrew Towle, managing director of Kellogg Australia & New Zealand said.

Manildra Group – the largest user of wheat for industrial purposes in Australia, processing some 1 million tonnes of wheat per annum – was the recipient of the Collaboration Award. Over four years Manildra has donated over 1,300 tonnes of flour which has underpinned the breakfast cereal and pasta collaborative supply programs.

The Award for Innovation went to GrainCorp for its role in establishing the Grain Program, which has seen the sector exceed its first year target of providing 1,000 tonnes of grain for Foodbank’s manufacturing endeavours.

GrainCorp helped to set up and trial the system and then provided leads and introductions to other companies in the grain industry to facilitate its expansion. It has also looked for increasingly creative ways of sourcing grain, working with farmers to facilitate their individual donations.

Finally, this year’s Partnership Award went to the Flight Centre Foundation. The staff of Flight Centre Travel Group, with company matching, has donated $150,000 to ensure the sustainability of a Long Life Milk Program. Employees also fundraised and held food drives to assist in times of emergency such as the Queensland floods and the NSW bushfires. They also packed care packs and participated in hamper challenges as part of their team building activities.


Fairtrade Award winners announced

Coles and Ben & Jerry’s are among the 2014 Fairtrade Award winners recognised for helping create a better future for farmers, their families and communities in developing countries.

Now in their second year, the Fairtrade Awards recognise businesses that have helped grow Fairtrade in Australia. Australian consumers voted for their favourite Fairtrade products and cafes, and an independent judging panel consisting of representatives from NAB, Salvation Army and the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries awarded prizes to two retailers.

The winners of the 2014 Fairtrade Awards include:

  • National Retailer of the Year – Coles Supermarket
  • Specialty Retailer of the Year – Oxfam Melbourne
  • Product of the Year (National) – Ben & Jerry’s Choc Fudge Brownie ice-cream
  • Product of the Year (Specialty) – Etiko’s This Shirt Frees Slaves t-shirt

George Dymond, Coles merchandise director, said, “Coles is delighted to have been recognised for a second year as Fairtrade Retail Chain of the Year, recognising our long-term commitment to a strict Ethical Sourcing Policy. For our customers, this means a wide-range of Fairtrade Certified products available at Coles – all supporting the critical work of Fairtrade in supporting producers in the world's developing regions.

Julia Sumner, general manager, Oxfam Trading said “we are so excited for our Oxfam Shop in the Walk Arcade [in Melbourne CBD] to be named 2014 Specialty Retailer of the year. The team in the Walk Arcade are such a passionate group of people who work tirelessly to campaign for fairer working conditions for Oxfam’s producers, it’s great to see their hard work be publicly recognised.”

Molly Harriss Olson, chief executive officer, Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand, said, “We congratulate the exceptional winners of the Fairtrade awards who show that it is possible to source their products fairly, be successful and have a life changing impact on farmers and workers in developing countries. We are delighted that Australian shoppers are continuing to reward companies for their ethical leadership and we hope that this inspires more businesses to look at their own supply chains.”

Other winners included San Churro who were awarded Fairtrade Café Chain of the Year and Fresh St@art Organic Cafe who won Fairtrade Café of the Year.


Consumers willing to pay more for ethical products: Nielson

Globally, people are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact, a recent Nielsen survey has found.

On average, 55 percent of consumers said they were prepared to pay more, a 5 percent rise on a year ago and an increase of 10 percent since 2011.

The Nielsen study found that 64 percent of consumers in Asia Pacific compared to 40 percent in Europe are willing to pay more for products from companies with a positive social and environmental impact.

The survey found that the greatest response to sustainability actions came from millennials; people currently aged 21-34, who represent 51 percent of those who will pay extra for sustainable products.

Only 25 percent of Generation X and 12 percent of Baby Boomers claimed to do the same.

Nielsen research found when it comes to household cleaning products; those with eco labelling saw a 14.2 percent increase in value sales when compared to a year ago. Also, shoppers are paying on average nearly $2 more per litre for eco-friendly dishwashing products.


Fairtrade labelled products see sales growth

Sales of Fairtrade certified products hit $7.7 billion worldwide in 2013, according to a Fairtrade International report.

The trend was mirrored locally, in Australia and New Zealand, where retail sales of Fairtrade Certified products such as coffee, tea and chocolate grew by 11% totalling over $259.3 million.

Molly Harriss Olson, CEO of Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand said, “After five years of intense focus on Africa, Fairtrade is now turning its attention to expanding in the Asian region. Australia has a vitally important role to play in scaling up the Fairtrade market in Asia Pacific, growing the number of producers and developing the supply chains for Fairtrade products.”

Australia recently received its first shipment of Fairtrade Certified cocoa from Papua New Guinea and there are commitments for 800 metric tonnes of cocoa in the pipeline via Fairtrade Sourcing Programs.

“Australians continue to increase their Fairtrade purchases, with 17% of Australians now purchasing Fairtrade Certified products at least once a month. A number of major retailers are looking to increase their Fairtrade commitments and National Australia Bank (NAB) is the largest accredited Fairtrade business in the world. So there is enormous potential here in Australia to transform the lives of some of the poorest people in our region,” Harriss Olson said.


Self-regulation of junk food marketing called into question

Regulations monitoring the marketing of food to children have been called into question, following news that products including Kit Kats and Coco Pops are being classified as healthy.

According to SMH, A NSW Cancer Council analysis has found that 63 percent of foods in television advertisements are classified as unhealthy according to Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

The researchers found that food companies which had signed up to an industry-regulated marketing code were still advertising products deemed by government standards as being unhealthy. Surprisingly, the companies that had not signed up to the voluntary code were more likely to promote healthy food than those that were signatories.

Food companies aren’t allowed to market unhealthy products to children between 7am and 8.30 an and 4pm to 8.30pm on weekdays, and between 7am and 8.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Researchers analysed advertisements that aired between 6am and 9pm over a two week period.

In addition to the industry-regulated marketing code, many manufacturers also subscribe to the voluntary Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative, which allows them to determine their own nutritional criteria and decide which products are suitable for marketing to children.

According to Clare Hughes, author of the study, companies have set their criteria so low that products including Smarties, Tiny Teddies and Kit Kats were deemed appropriate for marketing to children. Thirty-nine percent of food advertisements that met the food brand’s criteria failed the government’s criteria, she said.

Mandatory regulation in accordance with government standards would be a more effective means of reducing the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, Hughes said.

James Mathews, spokesman for the Australian Food and Grocery Council said restricting the marketing of foods to children has been ineffective in reducing childhood obesity overseas.

''The research considers advertising during all shows between 6am to 9am, covering crime programs like Law and Order and movies featuring sex and violence, programs which are hardly targeting children,'' Mathews said. ''This is not a useful basis to consider advertising to children.''

Another voluntary system aimed at promoting healthy foods and providing transparency to consumers is the Health Star food rating system, which got government sign-off in June. However, the industry has questioned its effectiveness, with Terry O’Brien, managing director at Simplot claiming the system is flawed.

"At Simplot, we've run our products through the suggested system and we've got anomalies all over the place, where things like products with no salt are not getting a better rating than the same product with salt.

"So if these sort of anomalies in our hands, then how the heck are they going to help the consumer?” he said.

Coles categorically denies unconscionable conduct claims

Supermarket giant Coles has categorically denied claims it’s engaged in unconscionable conduct by forcing suppliers to pay additional rebates for a new supply chain program.

According to SMH, Coles issued a 34 page document to the Federal Court in Melbourne on Monday (30 June) rejecting claims made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that it used unfair tactics to force suppliers to pay ongoing rebates to participate in the Active Retail Collaboration (ARC) program.

The ACR program was developed by Coles in 2011 to improve earnings by obtaining better trading terms from its suppliers. The ACCC alleges that in relation to 200 of its smaller suppliers, Coles required agreement by the supplier to the rebate, which ranged from about 0.7 percent to more than one percent of sales, within a matter of days. If these suppliers declined to agree to pay the rebate, Coles personnel were allegedly instructed to escalate the matter to more senior staff, and to threaten commercial consequences if the supplier did not agree. The ACCC alleges that, in a number of cases, threats were made when suppliers declined to agree to pay the rebate.

The ACCC alleges Coles engaged in a number of acts of unconscionable conduct including:

  • Providing misleading information to suppliers about the savings and value to them from the changes Coles had made;
  • Using undue influence and unfair tactics against suppliers to obtain payments of the rebate;
  • Taking advantage of its superior bargaining position by, amongst other things, seeking payments when it had no legitimate basis for seeking them.

Coles denies the claims, arguing participation in the program was voluntary and that it maintained trading relationships with suppliers regardless of their involvement.


Making a meal of GM food labelling

In this final instalment of GM in Australia – a series looking at the facts, ethics, regulations and research into genetically modified crops – Heather Bray and Rachel Ankeny explore the murky world of food labelling.

In all countries in which genetically modified (GM) food is sold, such as Australia and the US, the issue of food labelling has been hotly debated.

While consumer and anti-GM groups call for better labelling of GM foods, the food industry’s position is that our labelling system is good enough to allow people to choose whether to eat GM foods.

Meanwhile, consumers are confused and frustrated. So what is needed?

According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), food must be labelled as genetically modified or containing GM ingredients if it or its contents have been produced using gene technology as permitted under the Commonwealth Gene Technology Act.

But there are some exceptions:

  • highly refined food where the modified DNA, or proteins resulting from it, is removed during processing
  • processing aids or food additives, where no modified DNA or protein resulting from it remain in the final food
  • flavours where the concentration in the final food is less than 0.1%
  • unintentional presence, where the ingredient is less than 1% of the food
  • any foods consumed at the point of sale.

So canola oil from GM canola, imported GM soy products eaten in cafes and restaurants and beer made using adjuncts such as syrup from GM corn (where no modified DNA is present in the final product) are not labelled as GM foods.

Quinn Dombrowski, CC BY-SA

Industry groups support this approach to labelling, saying that if a product does not contain modified DNA or protein resulting from modified DNA, then it shouldn’t be labelled as a GM food. According to them, it about what’s in the food, not how it is produced.

This product versus process distinction is at core of labelling issues. Although highly refined products made using gene technology are not different in substance from their non-GM competitors, consumers who don’t wish to support this technology can’t identify those products which align with their values.

This idea is at the core of campaigns such as the True Food Guide, where food producers are given a “green light” if they can declare that they use no GM at any stage of production.

What do consumers look for, then?

While foods produced using gene technology on our supermarket shelves have been approved as safe to eat by FSANZ, we know that people do not choose their food based primarily on science, if at all. Our food choices are a reflection of our experiences, broader society, religion, traditions and culture among other factors.

Nowadays, many of us in western societies are being asked to consider the impact of our food choices on the environment and other people. Celebrity chefs and others encourage us to buy local, sustainable, organic, animal welfare-friendly and often GM-free products, without ever really explaining why. These labels have become a proxy for quality; shorthand for “good food” in a busy world.

These so-called “ethical” labels are largely unregulated by the government (country-of-origin labelling is an exception). “GM-free” along with “sustainable” and “organic” are claims that can be made on foods without requiring products to meet any particular standards of evidence set by the government.

In the case of organic, only producers who meet certain criteria can display an accreditation logo, one of which is no use of GM products or processes in any stage of production. ABC’s The Checkout describes it nicely in the video below.


The primary means of enforcement of food labelling is via the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which then appeals to whether labels fulfil what the average consumer would expect from a product with that label.

Interestingly, one case brought to the ACCC suggests that “GM-free” refers to the use of GM in production, as well as the product itself, for most consumers. But “GM-free” labels can also be found on foods unlikely to contain any GM ingredients, including those made from products where there is no GM counterpart to its main ingredient.

This complex situation is highly confusing for consumers. Our current labelling regime assumes that consumers can make “informed” decisions on whether to eat or avoid GM food based on their own understandings of a label that may be present or absent, legislated or unregulated.

Research has shown that people tend to develop simple binaries (such as good/bad, natural/artificial) when choosing foods in the face of confusing information, and adapt the new information on the label to fit within decision frameworks which are more familiar to them.

Our preliminary research suggests that consumers see GM as an additive, and hence avoid processed foods or purchase organic foods, to avoid GM.

Although the current labelling regime is insufficient to fulfil some consumers’ demands, questions remain about what information should be mandated, and in what form, to allow consumers to make the decisions that they wish to make as well as consideration of whose interests such labels would serve.

What is clear is that more dialogue and transparency are necessary if consumers are to actively participate in food labelling debates.

Further reading:
GM techniques: from the field to the laboratory (and back again)
Setting the standards: who regulates Australian GM food?
Safety first – assessing the health risks of GM foods
Because we can, does it mean we should? The ethics of GM foods
How private funding influences GM research

The Conversation

Heather Bray is supported by funding from the Australian Research Council to work with Prof Rachel Ankeny on projects on ethical food choices, social aspects of genetic modification and animal welfare issues. She was Public Engagement Officer with the Waite Research Institute between 2011 and 2014 and between 2003 and 2010 she developed and delivered community and schools education programs for the Molecular Plant Breeding CRC.

Rachel A. Ankeny receives funding from the Australian Research Council for projects relating to food ethics and GM. She currently serves on the GM Crop Advisory Committee for the Government of South Australia and has recently served as a member of the Commonwealth's Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee.

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


Because we can, does it mean we should? The ethics of GM foods

In this fourth instalment of GM in Australia – a series looking at the facts, ethics, regulations and research into genetically modified crops – Christopher Mayes examines ethical issues surrounding GM foods.

Food is cultural, social and deeply personal, so it’s no surprise that modifications to the way food is produced, distributed and consumed often lead to ethical debates.

Developments in the genetic modification (GM) of foods and crops has resulted in a raft of controversies.

Ethics can help here. While science determines whether we can safely modify the genetic makeup of certain organisms, ethics asks whether we should.

Ethics tries to move beyond factual statements about what is, to evaluative statements about the way we should act towards ourselves, each other and the environment we inhabit. But things are not always so clear-cut.

Three areas of ethics can help frame some of the concerns with GM food and crops: virtue, moral status and consequences.

Virtues vs vices

Ethics of GM foods can be developed by looking at virtue or character. Does the activity of engaging in the development of GM foods and crops erode virtues while producing vices? Or is GM technology a prudent use of knowledge for humanitarian goals?

Character or virtue-based arguments are seen in the case of golden rice – a rice strain modified to contain beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A.

According to the World Health Organisation more than 250 million preschool age children are vitamin A deficient (VAD), and two million deaths and more than half a million cases of blindness are attributed to VAD. The developers of golden rice say it will supply 60% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A.


But global outrage ensued after group of Filipino farmers destroyed a test crop of golden rice. There has been little recognition of the Sisyphean struggle of farmers in countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh and India, yet these farmers have been described as anti-science Luddites and contributing to the deaths of children.

Critics of golden rice such as Wendell Berry and Vandana Shiva argue that GM technology is a solution offered by industrial agriculture to address problems created by industrial agriculture.

Golden rice is a techno-scientific fix to structural problems created by some of the very companies that may profit from GM crops.

Although golden rice is a non-profit initiative, Shiva argues that it is a trojan horse to give GM crops a humanitarian face.

According to opponents such as Shiva, golden rice and GM crops not only pose negative consequences for farmers, environment and the global poor, but represent vices of greed, arrogance and dominance. Rather than humbly working with and caring for the natural environment, industrial and technological interventions seek to master, profit and control.

Morality of nature

There are also concerns about the moral status of the organism itself – does the modification of an organism’s genetic makeup represent a wrong to the dignity or integrity to the organism?

This position depends on arguments that nature has dignity and interests beyond those of its human inhabitants. Such arguments are not readily accepted due to their metaphysical or theological overtones and dependence on essentialist idea of nature.

Appeals to nature can led to what British philosopher G.E. Moore described as the naturalistic fallacy – the idea that we can derive moral statements from facts of nature. Examples include:

  • raw milk is good because it’s natural
  • standing desks are good because we weren’t meant to sit
  • genetically modified crops are wrong because they’re unnatural.

Perhaps we aren’t so concerned about the essential dignity of rice or wheat, but what about GM pigs that glow in the dark, featherless chickens, cows that produce human milk or the integrity of an ecosystem? Although the arguments are relatively the same, in discussing GM animals, the idea of a natural integrity or dignity seems more compelling.

Weighing up consequences

The most common way of framing the ethics of GM foods is to ask: do GM foods and crops present negative or harmful consequences for individuals, populations or the environment? Answers to this question vary according to context.

Most scientists argue that GM foods are safe to eat and will not harm consumer health.


Yep, all good. Bart/Flickr, CC BY-NC

While critics maintain that long-term health effects are uncertain, they contend that even if GM foods are safe to eat other harmful consequences should be considered, such as the impact of patenting laws on farmers and research integrity, or the risk of GM crops contaminating other crops or escaping into the wild.

Debates over consequences tend to avoid the question of whether there is something inherently objectionable about GM foods and crops. So long as there is appropriate management of risks, then theoretically, there is no ethical problem.

It is unlikely these issues will be resolved any time soon – and likely that new ones will be added – but one area that can be worked on is discourse ethics.

Describing opponents of golden rice, even those that destroy test crops, as committing crimes against humanity or those in favour as pursing economic self-interest does little to move the debate forward.

Until productive discourse is established, barriers between opposing views will only strengthen.

Further reading:
GM techniques: from the field to the laboratory (and back again)
Setting the standards: who regulates Australian GM food?
Safety first – assessing the health risks of GM foods

The Conversation

Christopher Mayes does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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