Palm oil labelling is unclear, Choice

Choice has released a statement relating to unclear labelling of products containing palm oil.

The consumer watchdog says that ambiguous labelling techniques are not allowing consumers to make informed decisions at the checkout.

According to the statement, approximately 50 percent of packaged products from shampoo to chips and health food snacks all contain palm oil under the guise of vegetable oil. Under current regulations, palm oil is allowed to be labelled as vegetable oil.

Palm oil is the most consumed edible oil in the world accounting for 33 percent of total production in 2009. Over 130,000 tonnes of the controversial ingredient is imported into Australia annually and used in popular grocery items.

“Unfortunately only 14 percent of palm oil produced is sustainable, and deforestation is resulting in catastrophic environmental damage. Additionally, it has a saturated fat content of 51 percent, which fares poorly in comparison to other vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower and olive,” said Choice spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“CHOICE believes that in order for consumers to make an informed decision to avoid palm oil should they wish to, access to accurate labelling is vital. For a product with such high levels of saturated fat, we think it is important to clearly and specifically label, rather than leave it up to the consumer to decipher fat levels on the nutritional panel.”

Unlike Australia, The Food Information Regulation published by the EU will require all types of vegetable oil to be labelled by 2014, and the US and Canada already require palm oil to be labelled.

Leading brands including Arnott’s, Coca Cola (SPC Ardmona), Goodman Fielder and Nestle all use palm oil and label it as vegetable oil.


Could cultured meat be the answer to the global food crisis?

Scientists in Europe have been constructing what hopes to become a key source of sustainable protein for the future, vitro meat.

Dr Mark Post from the University of Maastricht, has painstaking created a vitro meat hamburger which has been assembled from minute pieces of beef muscle tissue which has been grown in a laboratory as reported by the New York Times.

The vitro meat burger, is to be cooked and consumed at an event in London which aims to show the world the potential of this curious creation and convince investors that it will be a viable and potentially profitable venture in the long term.

The idea of creating laboratory meat seems to be a logical step in the face of a global strain of the food supply, not to mention the invaluable environmental and animal welfare benefits of a smaller livestock industry.

A study in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology, found that full-scale production of vitro meat, or cultured meat, would greatly reduce strain on global resources just as water, land and energy as well as deliver a significant decrease in methane emissions and greenhouse gases.

Post has become one of the world’s leading researchers in the development of cultured meat through the use of stem cells. The burger created by Post consists of 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue and he claims that the meat “tastes reasonably good.”

The meat which requires a significant amount of materials to produce, including fetal calf serum, has been created at a staggering US$325,000, making the competitiveness of large scale manufacturing somewhat far off compared to conventional methods.

“If it can be done more efficiently, there’s no reason why it can’t be cheaper,” said Post.

“It has to be done using the right materials, introducing recycling into the system, controlling labour through automation.”

Hanna Tuomisto from the University of Oxford in England agrees stating that cultured meat has the potential to offer significant cost advantages as expenses associated with feeding livestock would be eliminated.

“It’s really about the conversation of feed to meat,” she said.

“In cultured meat production it’s much more efficient; only the meat is produced, and not all the other parts.”

Another issue aside from cost is the safety of the lab made cultured meat.

Post claims that cultured meat should be just as, if not safer than conventional meat, and may possibly be a healthier option. The main hurdle is consumer acceptance which Post admits will be a challenge.

“I see the major hurdles, probably better than anybody else,” he said. “But you’ve got to have faith in technologies advances, that they will be solved.”

"The point is, we already have sufficient technology to make a product that we could call meat or cultured beef, and we can eat it and we survive,"

"I'm not by nature a very passionate guy," he added. "But I feel strongly that this could have a major impact on society in general. And that's a big motivator."


HSI urges PM to legislate ‘free range’ egg standard

Today 40,000 individual postcards will be delivered to Julia Gillard’s door in protest of the continued mislabelling of free range eggs.

The organisation behind the protest, Human Society International (HSI) will be garnering support for a national standard in the lead-up to the federal election. HSI believes that increasing levels of consumer concern has not been taken seriously by industry and the state government as they both remain indifferent toward the issue.

“Never before have we witnessed consumer outrage on the scale that has been brought before the ACCC, the media and motivated so many into action. Coles, Woolworths and the egg industry peak body Australian Egg Corporation (AEC) have underrated their consumer,” said Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice.

“They have attempted to take advantage of the consumer’s limited knowledge of egg production systems while toying with their concerns for hen welfare and reaping a premium for mislabelled eggs.”

The initiative which distributed postcards in certified free range egg cartons has resulted in an overwhelming response from concerned consumers, according to McCosker.

“There is much more at stake here than a simple descriptor on a carton. The term free range has implications for hen welfare, the sustainability of our Australian family farms, as well as what it means to the consumers who pay a premium for those eggs.”

HSI is urging the federal government to take action by legislating a national standard for free range eggs. HSI believes that the AEC is ‘out of touch’ with both consumers and legitimate free range producers, stating that self-regulation of the industry has resulted in “an absolute disaster.”

“There is a very simple solution. Call these intensively produced eggs something else and leave the term free range to the producers who have spent their lives creating this market,” said McCosker.


How effective is a voluntary code?

As the Australian Food and Grocery Council wraps up the final tweaks in its proposed voluntary code of conduct for supermarkets and food and grocery manufacturers, questions regarding the effectiveness of self regulation in our duopolistic market have been raised.

The voluntary code is designed to curb the power of supermarkets and ensure a fair go for smaller suppliers.

Sounds great in theory, however not everyone is convinced that the code will provide benefit for smaller, local manufacturers as the two supermarket giants, Coles and Woolworths, continue to reign.

The recent departure of the National Farmers Federation from negotiations has bolstered the cloud of doubt surrounding the value of a code based on voluntary participation.

Jock Laurie, president of the NFF, said the federation has lost confidence in the ability of the code to protect farmers’ interests, despite a positive start to negotiations last year.

“Australia has an extremely concentrated supermarket retail sector, which risks an abuse of power by the supermarkets over tier suppliers,” he said.

“The primary purpose of a code either voluntary of mandatory, is to ensure the retailers do not misuse their market power.”

 The National Farmers Federation has called upon the federal government to help deliver a mandatory code which would include safeguards against a misuse of power, address concerns over contract negotiations and provide adequate dispute resolution avenues including a confidential complaint process.

The code

The code, which is based on negotiations from last September under the request of Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, includes input from Coles and Woolworths, the AFGC and the NFF.

The code is centred on the principles of codifying contractual arrangements between suppliers and retailers, ensuring that efficiency in the supply chain is achieved, and that the supply chain is not overregulated.

CEO of the AFGC, Gary Dawson, believes that a voluntary code would be just as effective as a mandatory code in ensuring the participation of the supermarket giants, especially considering failure to sign up could result in poor supplier relationships.

“It would be very difficult for suppliers given how competitive the market is. An important element of the code is about ensuring efficient retailer/supplier relationships,” Dawson told Food Magazine.

“To Woolworths’ and Coles’ credit, they have taken that on board and we are working through those issues.”

Dawson said that the AFGC is working with the retailers to develop an effective code that provides more contractual certainty, encourages investment in innovation, provides for appropriate sharing of risk and an effective dispute resolution mechanism – all without adding unnecessary compliance costs on suppliers.

“It’s in the interests of consumers, suppliers and retailers to have an efficient and viable supply chain in Australia. We want to get on with the job of building a competitive sector, both domestically and internationally, and will continue to pursue mechanisms for improving relationships across the supply chain,” he said.

Dawson also stressed that while a voluntary code will not be legislated, it would still be enforceable by the ACCC.

 “The AFGC remains committed to the process which began last year to work with government, the ACCC, other industry bodies and the major retailers to develop a voluntary industry code which is enforceable by the ACCC.”

“Whether an industry code is mandatory or voluntary, the key issue is that it must be effective without simply adding unnecessary compliance costs on suppliers.”

RSPCA calls for a restructure away from live exports

The RSPCA is calling for a restructure away from live exports in light of the recent animal cruelty allegations in Egypt and, more recently,Malaysia.

The animal welfare charity believes that it’s in the interests of farmers and animals to develop a meat-only export trade.

Lynne Bradshaw, president of RSPCA Australia, believes that the Northern Australian cattle crisis could have been avoided if adequate infrastructure was put in place.

“For the northern Australia cattle industry, if there was an abattoir operating in Darwin right now, producers in Western Queensland and the Northern Territory would at least have another option available to them for their cattle,” she said.

“I’m sure that the majority of urban Australia would think positively of a government that supported this type of infrastructure development. It is key to building our meat export opportunities out of northern Australia.”

Bradshaw said that as live export is a high risk industry, overnight market shocks and interruptions to trade will continue to create uncertainty and impact producers unless a restructure is formed.

“Neither OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) guidelines nor ESCAS (Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System) can deliver animal handling and slaughter to the standards required in Australia. Whilst animals continue to be sent to inadequate facilities, so too will cruelty continue and in turn our farmers will be affected,” said Bradshaw.

“Forward planning is vital. If the government is serious about protecting our animals and supporting Australian farmers, then it must invest in alternatives now.”

Bradshaw said that by investing in operations and facilities locally and increasing demand for Australian meat in international markets, we can create a secure future for Australian farmers while ensuring the protection of animals.


Coke will no longer market to children under 12

Coca-Cola has made a decision to no longer market to children under the age of 12 as part of a push to promote a healthier image and combat the global obesity epidemic.

The Atlanta based soda giant would not specify which countries it currently markets to children in, but said that they aim to encourage physical activity by supporting local programs according to NBC News.

Coca-Cola America’s executive president, Steve Cahillane, said that the company has made a commitment to make lower-calorie options and clear calorie labelling more widely available worldwide.

Cahillane has described the push as; “A global commitment to advance an important agenda around fighting obesity.”

While coke already manufactures a wide range of diet soft drinks in most markets, there is no consistency in their availability, especially in growing markets such as India and China.

Sugary soft drinks are considered to be a main contributor towards rising obesity rates, however Cahillane believes that through education, coke can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

“(Coke) is absolutely part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle for many, many people out there,” he said.

“Obviously obesity is a complex problem and requires a solution that brings business, government and civil society together, to not only address calories in, but very importantly to get people on move, inspire them to burn more of those calories.”

Coke said that they aim to have lower calorie options available wherever regular soft drinks are sold, as well as working towards a global initiative for calories to be displayed on the front of all coke labels. 


WWF report provides launch pad for sustainable palm oil production

WWF Australia and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) have released an independent report that provides a launch pad for increasing the proportion of sustainably-sourced palm oil supplies in the Australian market.

According to AFGC chief executive officer, Gary Dawson, the report assesses the facts, myths and challenges surrounding palm oil and highlights the commitment of major Australian manufacturers and importers to source sustainable palm oil.

"It lays out a way forward, including the need for better understanding of supply chains, better alignment of supply-side and demand-side expectations, and work to overcome significant logistical challenges,” Dawson said.

The switch to sustainable palm oil production is critical to the survival of the environment as conventional production produces significant greenhouse gas emissions and is eliminating the natural habitat of many engendered species.

WWF-Australia’s chief executive officer, Dermot O’Gorman, believes that committing to the change will require increased collaboration between business, government and civil society organisations.

“The recent boom in palm oil exports has undoubtedly resulted in economic growth and job creation in relatively poor regions,” O’Gorman said. “However the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations has come at the cost of pristine rainforest in places like Borneo and Sumatra – home to some of the world’s most endangered and iconic species including orangutan and tigers,” he said.

 “Unsustainable palm oil production is also responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions, and in some cases has displaced indigenous communities that rely on forests for food and shelter. Ensuring that palm oil contributes to economic development while also conserving precious ecosystems requires a major shift away from business as usual.”

O’Gorman said that unsustainable production must be phased out in order to preserve the environment and has called upon governments to support corporations with initiates and land use planning polices to achieve this.

Woolworths was targeted earlier this by environmental campaigners for their use of palm oil in hot cross buns during Easter.


Farmers “duped” in latest live exports scandal: RSPCA

Australian farmers have been "duped", according to the RSPCA, which, in the wake of the latest live exports scandal, is calling on the federal government to embrace a meat-only trade.

Footage of animal cruelty practices at Egypt's Ain Sokhna and Ismailia facilities aired on ABC's 7.30 program last night, and has reignited the live exports debate, with both Australian and Egyptian regulators launching an investigation.

Live exports to the region have been suspended and both the Greens and Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie have called for an end to the practice, reports.

The RSPCA is also supporting a move away from live exports, towards a meat-only trade.

RSPCA Australia president, Lynne Bradshaw, said "More than 100,000 Australian animals have been slaughtered in these facilities in the past few years, facilities where no stunning is required and animals are forced to face the horrors of having their throats cut in terrifying restraint devices.  

"Once again Australian farmers have been duped by the live exporters who convinced them the Ain Sokhna and Ismailia facilities were protecting the welfare of their animals," she said.

Bradshaw added that farmers need certainty that there will be a market for their livestock, but also need confidence that their animals will be treated humanely throughout the slaughter process.

"They need support for a transition away from live exports so that they know their livestock will be treated in accordance with Australian laws from the farm gate to slaughter," she said.

"Live exports will never provide the certainty that producer’s need, every time live export cruelty hits the Australian media, it damages farmers' livelihoods."

"Misguided do-gooders"
KAP leader and federal member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, who's regularly met with the Indonesian Ambassador since the live export ban two years ago, says a move towards meat-only trade is unrealistic.

"The reality is that poor countries cannot afford to buy meat processed in Australia – it is too expensive – but they can afford meat that is grown-out and processed in Indonesia," he said.

While the RSPCA claims farmers are having the wool pulled over their eyes, Katter argues moving away from live exports will threaten their livelihood.

"The Australian people must know the downside of the ban. Our farmers have been destroyed," he said. "There’s no market for cattle with live export destroyed. Half a million head of cattle were lost as result of the ill-advised, without-warning closure of the Indonesian market two years ago and cattlemen were forced to shoot their oversupply of stock."

Katter slammed animal activists, claiming "misguided do-gooders and extremists such as animal welfare groups" are "killing our industry" and causing overseas markets to feel as if they're being "dictated to".

Flaws in the system?
While describing the footage of Australian cattle in Egypt as “sickening”, Federal Agricultural Minister, Joe Ludwig, claims that the recent reforms to the livestock export system are working.

"What’s actually in place is a system that ensures that where there are complaints, we investigate those individual complaints; we look at what happens and then the department of agriculture, the regulator in these circumstances, then holds the exporters to account," he said.

"What happened before was that self-regulation had failed. Self-regulation meant that you didn’t know what animals went into what slaughter yards, or even how you could follow up with an investigation.

" … Now we have a system where the community has confidence that 99 percent of the animals that are sent overseas we can ensure that they have a good animal welfare outcome," Ludwig said.


Live export to Egypt halted over cruelty footage

Live exports to Egypt has been suspended in the wake of new cruelty footage showing the mistreatment of Australian cattle.

Federal Agricultural Minister, Joe Ludwig, has described the recent footage of Australian cattle in Egypt as “sickening”, but claims that the recent reform to the livestock export system is working, as reported by Beef Central.

The footage was brought to the government’s attention by animal rights group, Animals Australia, which is fuelling a debate as to whether checks and balances in the new regulatory system are working.

Ludwig has defended the reform, stating that the new system has given the community confidence that exported animals are treated with respect.

“What’s actually in place is a system that ensures that where there are complaints, we investigate those individual complaints; we look at what happens and then the department of agriculture, the regulator in these circumstances, then holds the exporters to account,” he said.

Ludwig supported the decision by Australian live export leaders to suspend trade into Egypt and said that cattle producers would be disturbed by the footage.

“It’s the sensible course of action to do at this junction,” he said. “What we now will do is conduct an investigation of these circumstances and until such time that is concluded I expect industry will continue to suspend live animal exports into that market.”

Ludwig said that he has been advocating for improved animal welfare standards to international bodies and foreign governments.

“In Indonesia and right across in all countries that I’ve spoken to respond very well to that. Nobody wants to see the mistreatment of animals in supply chains.”

Animals Australia has indicated that the media now has access to the footage and expects it to be broadcast this week. 


Fairtrade sales spike as Aussie consumers embrace ethical trend

Australians have spent over $191m on Fairtrade products in 2012 according to new figures released today by Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand.

With coffee and chocolate sales leading the way, annual growth of the ethically certified products has increased by 50 percent over the past five years according to ANZ operations manager Craig Chester.

“This growth means Fairtrade is reaching the kind of scale which can challenge corporate thinking and eventually change the structure of trade. There is a long way still to go, but we are making progress,” he said.

“Our research indicates that when purchasing everyday products like cocoa and coffee, consumers are opting for Fairtrade to reward companies who ensure the world's poorest farmers get a decent price for their products."

The report said that consumers purchased more than 42 million Fairtrade products despite rising living costs, and certified products are becoming more widely available through mainstream channels such as supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths.

The trend towards eco-friendly and ethical options is continuing to gain momentum with an average of 15 new businesses entering the Fairtrade system in Australia each year.

Fairtrade is the only globally recognised ethical certification that ensures farmers in developing countries receive a fair price for their products, as well as additional investment towards community improvements such as schools, hospitals and farming practices.

Fairtrade celebrates its largest annual awareness campaign, Fair Trade Fortnight this month which encourages consumers to make an educated decision at the checkout.

Fair Trade Fortnight commences on 4 May, and runs until 19 May 2013.


Monsanto herbicide linked to cancer and Parkinson’s

A recent study has indicated that heavy use of the world’s most widely used herbicide, Roundup, could be linked to a vast range of health problems including Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers.

The study, published in the scientific journal Entropy and lead by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant from Arthur D. Little, showed that traces of the popular herbicide’s main ingredient, glyphosate, has been found in food. 

Residues of the chemical are said to increase the damaging effects of other food-borne chemicals and toxins in the environment leading to the disruption of normal body functions and inducing disease.

“We have hit upon something very important that needs to be taken seriously and further investigated,” Seneff told the Huffington Post.

The study claimed the chemical has an extremely dangerous impact on the body which manifests slowly over time, damaging cellular systems throughout the body as inflammation increases.

Several plant scientists and environmentalist groups have warned of the dangers associated with the heavy use of glyphosate and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is said to be conducting a review as to whether use of the chemical should be restricted.

Monsanto, the developer of the herbicide as well as a host of genetically modified crops which have been altered to withstand the weed killer, said the chemical is safe and is less damaging to the environment than other commonly-used chemicals. This claim has been backed by the company’s executive vice president of sustainability, Jerry Steiner.

“We are very confident in the long track record that glyphosate has. It has been very, very extensively studied,” he said in a recent interview.

Roundup is sprayed across million of acres of crops throughout the world including canola, soybean, corn and sugarbeets.


Coles and Woolies call for review on multinational profit margins

Retailers say multinational grocery companies are enjoying excessive profits by charging local Aussie retailers more than their international peers.

According to the Financial Review, Coles and Woolworths are preparing to take on suppliers in an effort to lower the price of internationally-branded groceries, as the industry closes in on a code of conduct aimed at fairer terms for manufacturers.

The retail price of identical grocery items such as painkillers and toothpaste in the United Kingdom and United States are at times lower than wholesale prices in Australia, according to the two supermarket giants.

Coles has called for an independent analysis of wholesale pricing on the basis that local and overseas prices differ so greatly that they cannot be blamed solely on distance, higher costs and the size of the Aussie market.

“Suppliers’ profit margins are certainly higher than retail margins and in many cases the prices on key products in many categories are higher than they are overseas,” said Coles spokesman, Robert Hadler.

“There are some obvious reasons why prices would be different, but some of the price differentials are so large you have to question whether geography and the cost of production in Australia are the sole determinants of the big pricing differences. It’s fair to have that discussion and to have an independent review of that without jumping to conclusions.”

Head of communications for Woolworths, Claire Kimball, also believes that the difference in prices needs to be reviewed.

“The difference in wholesale pricing on packaged goods between Australia and developed markets is one area that needs greater focus and increased transparency from the global suppliers,” she said.

Gary Dawson, chairman for the Australian Food and Grocery Council believes that the attack on suppliers by the retail giants is an attempt to divert attention away from current investigations of both companies by the ACCC, into allegation of misuse of power.

Dawson said that an analysis by Macquarie Equities and UBS refuted the claims by pointing out that over the past five years, suppliers’ margins had in fact been lower.

“(Suppliers’) gross margins have fallen over the last few years and there’s been a six percent margin transfer from suppliers to retailers. Supplier margins in Australia are well below their international peers.”

The Macquarie report found that suppliers’ gross margins on average fell by 15 to 37 percent between 2006 and 2011 and the UBS report found that Australian EBIT margins for multinational grocery suppliers were approximately 210 basis points lower than international averages.

Macquarie has said that the true level of profitability is difficult to estimate due to transfer pricing by suppliers who do not manufacture goods in Australia and differences such as cost of labour, population density and distance need to be taken into account.

Dawson does not believe that the renewed debate over supplier margins and grocery prices will be likely to impact on negotiations over the code of conduct.

“The negotiations have not been about price or margins but contractual certainty, along with issues like vertical integration and dispute regulations,” he said. 


How we grow rice could fight food shortages: IRRI

The way we grow rice could help combat worldwide food shortages, says Australia's new board member on the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Professor Kaye Basford from The University of Queensland has been appointed to the IRRI Board of Trustees, joining 14 other members from 11 countries around the world including Germany, Japan, USA, Philippines, China and India.

She is the only Australian on the board.

Professor Basford said she was honoured by the appointment and would draw on her own research at the interface between quantitative genetics and biometry (applying statistical analysis to biological data) as it has led to major benefits in plant improvement programs.

“With new sustainable rice farming techniques, we can work with public and private sector to help improve the yield and quality of their rice in an environmentally sustainable way, and help governments formulate policy to improve the equitable supply of rice,” said Professor Basford.

“Our mission is to become a global leader in rice germplasm development, future production systems and education to alleviate poverty, hunger and malnutrition and make rice production more sustainable.”

Professor Basford succeeds Professor Beth Woods, DDG of Queensland Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu offered his congratulations to Professor Basford on her appointment to such a significant international research organisation.

In 1998, Professor Basford was awarded the highest possible accolade from the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology – the Australian Medal for Agriculture.

She was also awarded a Fellowship with the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering for having developed statistical methods that are used world-wide to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of crop breeding programs. 


Activists protest chicken farm conditions

About 40 animal rights activists gathered outside Ringal Valley chicken farm on the weekend to protest the living conditions on the property.

The protesters, from Animal Liberation, chained themselves to Belmont North site sheds from about 11am on Saturday.

The seven activists included a 68-year-old grandmother.

Animal Liberation spokeswoman Willow Sloane said the group had made many demands to owners but all were rebuffed.

The demands included the owners building ‘free-range housing’ within three months and stop battery confinement on the property.

“They advertise as being farm fresh but it’s really just a cruel cage egg farm,” Sloane said.

“The conditions are barbaric and Australia is lagging behind in terms of welfare.”

The RSPCA put Ringal Valley on notice in 2009 when living conditions were found to have violated the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Newcastle Herald reported the company will take legal action against Animal Liberation.

Piggery fined $225,000 for sick pigs

A piggery near Gingin has been fined $225,000 for failing to euthanise 10 sick pigs.

Westpork was fined in Perth Magistrate’s Court today after the pork producer pleaded guilty to the 10 charges linked to violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

The charges claimed the 10 sick pigs should have been euthanised soon rather than be treated.

The company also has to pay $21,000 costs, The West Australian reported.

Westpork was charged by the Department of Local Government in January 2011 after its ‘grow out’ facility was inspected the year before.

The company’s chairman Dr Robert Wilson said the charges were not about neglect but management decisions taken to look after the animals.

He said all the animals had been identified by staff earlier and separated for treatment or monitoring as stipulated by the Care of the Compromised Pig Guide.

“It is unfortunate that these animals were not euthanised earlier,” he said in a statement

John Ruprecht from the Department of Agriculture and Food said the case was a reminder to industry about the importance of complying with animal welfare standards.

“The result sends a clear message to the commercial sector that it needs to put appropriate systems, processes and training in place to ensure all livestock are managed and treated appropriately,” he said.

“That means businesses have to plan to incorporate and maintain animal welfare practices and standards as part of their overall operation.”

Ruprecht added that since doing the inspections after charges were laid, the department was convinced the pork producer had tackled the animal welfare concerns and implemented suitable systems.

Wilson said Westpork farms worked under the Australian Pork Industry Quality Program and were run under a veterinarian approved Herd Health Plan administered by trained stockmen.

A piggery near Gingin in Western Australia has been fined $225,000 for failing to euthanise 10 sick pigs.

Westpork was fined in Perth Magistrate’s Court today after the pork producer pleaded guilty to the 10 charges linked to violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

The charges claimed the 10 sick pigs should have been euthanised soon rather than be treated.

The company also has to pay $21,000 costs.

Westpork was charged by the Department of Local Government in January 2011 after its ‘grow out’ facility was inspected the year before.

The company’s chairman Dr Robert Wilson said the charges were not about neglect but management decisions taken to look after the animals.

He said all the animals had been identified by staff earlier and separated for treatment or monitoring as stipulated by the Care of the Compromised Pig Guide.

“It is unfortunate that these animals were not euthanised earlier,” he said in a statement

John Ruprecht from the Department of Agriculture and Food said the case was a reminder to industry about the importance of complying with animal welfare standards.

“The result sends a clear message to the commercial sector that it needs to put appropriate systems, processes and training in place to ensure all livestock are managed and treated appropriately,” he said.

“That means businesses have to plan to incorporate and maintain animal welfare practices and standards as part of their overall operation.”

Ruprecht added that since doing the inspections after charges were laid, the department was convinced the pork producer had tackled the animal welfare concerns and implemented suitable systems.

Wilson said Westpork farms worked under the Australian Pork Industry Quality Program and were run under a veterinarian approved Herd Health Plan administered by trained stockmen.

Most food colours used in India illegal

Researchers are recommending a review of food colours in India after finding that the bulk found in popular foods surpass legal limits and almost a fifth of products contain illegal colours.

A study published in the Journal of Food Science found 83.6 per cent of samples used in the research contained legalised colours but 58 per cent of these exceeded the allowable concentration limit of 100mg/kg.

Of the 16.4 per cent of the samples tested that used non-permitted colours, the most common was Rhodamine B followed by Orange II and Metanil Yellow.

Of the four zones, the East zone in India topped in maximum adultration (80.3 percent) both by crossing the approved limit of permitted colours (72.3 percent) and the use of non-permitted colours (28.7 per cent).

Sunita Dixit et al. analysed 2,409 samples of milk-based sweets, cereal based sweets and savoury products mostly commonly consumed based on surveys.

The research found special cause for concern for children. The researchers conducted food frequency questionnaires with 791 people to gauge how often Indian consumers ate products with colours at a national level.

They found that children and adolescents had higher average daily consumption of coloured foods than adults.

“On the basis of average consumption of food commodities and average levels of detected colours, the intake of Sunset Yellow FCF saturates the acceptable daily intake limit to a maximum of 47.8% in children, which is a cause of concern,” the researchers said.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India allows eight synthetic colours in some foods at a consistent level of 100mg/kg. The acceptable daily intake for food colours is between 0.1 to 25 mg/kg body weight per day, reported.

The researchers said the rules need to be reconsidered and governed by technological needs and consumption profiles of food commodities. They feel the vulnerable population should not be exposed to high amounts of synthetic colours.

Australian seafood safe to eat: CDC

The Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre (Seafood CRC) has found Australian wild and farmed seafood is safe and healthy to eat.

The Seafood CRC released a report with nutritional analysis of 20 key Australian seafood species that Australians like to eat.

Federal Fisheries Minister Senator Joe Ludwig said the results were good news for Australian seafood lovers and the fisheries industries.

“This is the first major update of seafood nutritional information in more than a decade and gives consumers and industry an accurate, up to date understanding of exactly what’s in Australian seafood,” he said.

Project leader and South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) seafood safety researcher Dr Cath McLeod said the research made important data available on Australian wild and farmed seafood.

“Using advanced testing methods including DNA profiling to confirm each fish species, we looked at the energy, protein, fat, sodium, fatty acids, water, vitamins and minerals in a variety of Australia’s key seafood species, including farmed yellowtail kingfish, wild banana prawns and native oysters,” she said.

Seafood CRC has developed a brochure, ‘Super Seafood’ that highlights the nutritional value of different seafood varieties. Businesses can use it to develop key nutrient messages in their marketing, labelling and packaging through info graphics, downloadable nutrition information panels, and through a consumer focused guide that lets them share the news with their customers.

Enviromentalists hot and cross at Woolworths over palm oil

Woolworths has been singled out by environmental campaigners over their use of palm oil in their hot cross buns this easter.

An image that is spreading virally around Facebook and other social media sites is warning consumers to stay clear of the Woolworths/Safeway product. The post, originally made by the Trees for Tommy page, spread virally generating 16,500 reshares, 1700 likes and 1200 comments.

The Trees for Tommy  page states its purpose as “Raising awareness and funds for Orangutan conservation in Borneo, Indonesia.

”In addition, activist Amber Anile has created a “cheat sheet” of products that are safe to eat for Orangutans, using the moniker “The Orangutan Project”. Her post has been reshared over 3000 times, ensuring a wide reach.


It appears that Woolworths may be the victim of its own environmental promises on palm oil labelling including “On pack labelling of Palm Oil and derivatives (greater than 5% by weight) in all Woolworths private label products” despite the palm oil labelling bill being defeated in 2011.

A bill that would require all products with palm oil to be labelled was defeated in 2011.

The incident shows yet again  that social media giving individual consumers a voice can very easily lead to a public relations headache, especially for larger companies looking to balance maintaining low cost, often private label, products with acceptable  profit margins.

Inghams workers sacked – Mandatory CCTV demanded in animal processing plants

Inghams workers accused of torturing turkeys in the company’s processing plant in Sydney’s South West were sacked on Friday in response to anonymous footage taken of the incident according to  

The footage was supplied to Animal Liberation showing employees kicking and punching turkeys as they were being prepared for slaughter.

The names of the workers have been supplied to police by Inghams who have stated that they do not “tolerate the mistreatment of livestock” and have backed this statement by installing cameras in all bird handling areas over the weekend.

The incident begs the question as to whether other poultry and meat processing plants will be forced to install CCTV monitoring cameras, an initiative that Animal Liberation and the RSPCA called for last week in response to the footage.

The timing coincides with the end of Meat Free Week, a campaign designed to discourage consumers to eat meat and shed light on the realities of factory farming.

Inghams Enterprises was sold to a global private equity firm last month and have claimed that the incident has not affected the future of the company.

We don’t tolerate mistreatment: Inghams CEO

Poultry producer Inghams says it is investigating procedures in one of its processing plants following the release of footage showing cruelty towards turkeys at the site.

In a statement, Inghams chief executive officer Kevin McBain said the company wanted to "reassure" Australians that Inghams does not "tolerate the mistreatment of its livestock".

"We condemn the animal abuse we have seen in the footage and will – as a matter of urgency – work to review, retrain and reinforce our animal welfare standards throughout our organisation," McBain said.

ABC's Lateline program was provided with an hour's worth of the footage by the group Animal Liberation.

It was secretly filmed over two weeks in an area of the Tahmoor abattoir where workers take the birds from cages and place them into shackles to be stunned and slaughtered.

The footage, submitted anonymously to  Animal Liberation, shows turkeys being bashed, kicked and stomped on at the poultry processing plant in Sydney’s south-west.

"Inghams has a strong commitment to animal welfare. We have Best Practice Animal Welfare Programs and Standards in place. We work with regulatory animal welfare specialists to ensure these programs are active and operating throughout all aspects of the company," the statement reads.

"The programs are regularly audited internally and by second and third party auditors to ensure compliance with standards.

"We are investigating and working with all relevant parties to address and resolve this intolerable incident."

Animal Liberation and the RSPCA are now calling for mandatory CCTV monitoring at all Australian abattoirs.

“The vision we witnessed [on Lateline] highlighted disturbing acts of animal cruelty and is a clear reminder of the need for CCTV to be installed in these facilities,” said David O’Shannessy, RSPCA NSW chief inspector.

“What goes on in abattoirs is too often out of sight and out of mind. Installing CCTV sends a strong signal to those people working with animals that animal welfare is of the highest priority and that cruelty will not be tolerated.

“I have no doubt staff within Inghams will be shocked and horrified, as we were, by the events that took place in this facility. Inghams undertaking to review its animal welfare standards and improve staff training is one step towards addressing this problem, but installing CCTV is a crucial tool in identifying poor practice and driving out cruelty and they should commit to this as part of their review process," O'Shannessy said.

This story comes at a time when animal cruelty and meat processing standards are in the limelight. This week is Meat Free Week, a campaign organised by publishing colleagues and friends Melissa Dixon and Lainie Bracher, and aimed at raising awareness of factory farming practices, with funds going to a not-for-profit animal protection institute, Voiceless.

The campaign has generated mixed reactions with a number of consumers supporting the event and the attention it places on animal welfare, while NSW Farmers president, Fiona Simson, says the campaign lacks compassion and is encouraging consumers to turn their backs on meat producers, who are already struggling with what several natural disasters have left behind, the high Australian dollar and tough conditions imposed by the supermarket duopoly.

Inghams Enterprises was recently sold to a US private equity firm, TPG for  approximately $850m.