Why we launched Meat Free Week: founders

Here, Melissa Dixon and Lainie Bracher, the founders of Meat Free Week, defend their campaign, which is receiving serious backlash from producers, industry organisations and passionate meat-eaters.

Our hope is that Meat Free Week (18-24 March) will create conversation around meat consumption and production.

It’s not about encouraging people to become vegetarian or to give up meat for life. Rather it aims to raise awareness of factory farming and reduce meat consumption (all meat, including fish).

Factory farming is a method that raises animals for meat (and other animal products such as eggs and milk) as if they’re machinery and disregards the fact that they have an emotional experience of the world.

It causes the most suffering to the largest number of animals in Australia – more than 500 million every year. The animals mainly impacted are chickens and pigs.

In terms of meat consumption, Australians eat 190,000 tonnes of meat per annum and with an average of 120kg of annual meat consumption per capita, Australians are ranked as the second biggest meat eaters in the world (behind the USA).

According to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australians eat almost three times as much meat as the world average.

While developing Meat Free Week, we were most surprised by the overwhelming body of research on the detrimental effect meat production has on the planet and its resources.

There are massive consequences if we choose to remain on our current path of a western diet based around meat, notably chronic water shortages within the next 40 years. The world, quite literally, cannot sustain the amount of meat we’re eating.

The question we keep asking ourselves; what’s it going to take for people to start talking about this?

For too long the debate has been around whether you’re a meat eater or not; it’s a highly emotional issue and all that’s been achieved is a greater divide.

Very few people are talking about responsible and ethical meat consumption and that is what we aim to do with Meat Free Week. And if animal welfare or the environment is not enough, then we hope at least the issue of human health will get people thinking and talking.

Eating less meat does not need to be as challenging as it seems. With the huge choice of fresh produce we have in this country, eating less meat can be both delicious and easy!

We are not suggesting people give up meat entirely; rather we hope that by understanding the benefits of eating less meat, consumers will choose to make a serious commitment to reducing their meat consumption.

We hope that when they do eat meat, they only choose meat that is ethically produced and sourced.

Meat Free Week, held from 18 to 24 March, is a national week dedicated to raising awareness of factory farming and reducing meat consumption. Funds raised will go to animal protection organisation, Voiceless.

Donations can be made until 30 June 2013. For more information about the campaign, click here.

Image: Melissa Dixon and Lainie Bracher


Meat Free Week “lacks compassion” for farmers

Meat Free Week, which kicked off yesterday and encourages Australians to abstain from eating meat for seven days, is an ill-thought campaign which should be ignored, says NSW Farmers.

The campaign is the brainchild of ex-publishing colleagues and friends Melissa Dixon and Lainie Bracher and is aimed at raising awareness of factory farming practices, with funds going to a not-for-profit animal protection institute, Voiceless.

Fiona Simson, president of NSW Farmers, which represents thousands of farmers across the state, said farmers are already meeting stringent national welfare standards.

"Animals in Australia are raised in extremely good conditions. Some 97 percent of NSW beef cattle are grass fed and live outdoors and Australia’s pork farmers were the first in the world to voluntarily agree to phase out sow stalls by 2017," she said.

Simson added that there are 44,000 farming families in Australia which depend on consumers buying and eating their produce, and argues that Meat Free Week lacks compassion for farmers who've already struggled with natural disasters and other challenges, including the issues surrounding live exports.

"I find the timing of such a campaign ill thought out and I encourage consumers to ignore the pleas of such groups and get behind our farmers who work extremely hard every day at growing the best for us to eat," she said.



Live export ban has scarred trading relationships: Elders

A change of government is needed to restore the trading relationship between Australia and Indonesia, with 2011's live export ban having lasting – and damaging – effects, said Elders' Malcolm Jackman.

The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System was introduced by the Australian government after ending the live export ban, originally introduced after a Four Corners episode exposed animal cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs.

According to AFR, the System requires exporters to assure that cattle sent overseas will be treated humanely.

According to Elders managing director, Malcolm Jackman, the ban and the subsequent regulations have damaged Australia's trading relationship with Indonesia, as well as other markets including Japan.

"Regretfully, I suspect that we will need a change of government, potentially in both countries, [Australia and Indonesia] to restore a normal balance and commercial relationship," Jackman said.

The AFR reports that the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences is predicting live exports will drop 22 percent to 450,000 this year, after Indonesia cut its intake.

Jackman said the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System was "well intended" but needs refining, with industry representatives meeting the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry next month to discuss potential changes.

The Coalition has said that if elected, it will retain the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System but refine it where necessary.


The hosemeat saga explained [infographic]

The discovery of horse meat in a range of food products in Europe and the UK has – and continues to have – far-reaching effects on the global food manufacturing industry. This infographic goes back to basics, explaining how this whole sorry story started, and which countries have been hardest hit.

Here are a few links to help you catch up:

Horsemeat Scandal [Infographic]

Via: The Australian Institute of Food Safety


‘As a matter of fact, I’ve got it now’: alcohol advertising and sport


Sport is generally a healthy activity that transmits important societal values, such as fairness, perseverance, and teamwork. Unfortunately, it’s also the primary vehicle for marketing alcohol to the general population.

At its best, sport can provide participants and fans with a sense of identity, pride and self-esteem. But a visitor to Australian shores would be forgiven for thinking that sport is a subsidiary of the alcohol, fast food and gambling industries.

Indeed, the majority of alcohol advertising and sponsorship both in terms of frequency and time of advertising, and in alcohol marketing expenditure, occurs in and around sport. In 2009, two of the world’s largest alcohol producers, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, spent approximately $350 million and $212 million, respectively, on television advertising during US sporting events alone. We are unable to obtain figures for Australia.

There are several reasons for the alcohol industry using sport for the promotion of alcohol consumption.

First, placement of alcohol sponsorship and advertising in large televised sporting events allows the alcohol industry to bypass regulations prohibiting alcohol advertising during times when large proportions of children may be watching television.


Victoria Bitter’s sponsorship of Australian cricket, for instance, means that children are exposed to alcohol advertising from ten in the morning to the end of play. And it’s difficult to miss the alcohol brands on signage and boarding around Australian sport stadiums. Or, the VB signs either side of the electronic score board each time a third umpire decision is needed.

Another feature that attracts the alcohol industry is sport’s ability to evoke strong emotion and social identification. Products presented within these sporting contexts are more likely to be remembered, liked and chosen.

Pairing a healthy activity, such as sport, with an otherwise unhealthy product, such as alcohol or fast food, makes that product seem less unhealthy and more acceptable and normal. Many of us will remember tobacco advertising in sport but I suspect that even smokers wouldn’t welcome that back.

Simply put, alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport works in terms of increasing sales, and of course, alcohol consumption.

Para Olympians Justin Eveson and Brad Ness at a Bundaberg Rum event in Perth ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics. Tony McDonough/AAP

Reviews of research on the association between exposure to alcohol advertising and subsequent drinking intentions and behaviours shows that exposure to, and/or recall of, alcohol advertising and sponsorship by children and adolescents predicts their future drinking expectancies, norms, drinking intentions, and hazardous drinking behaviours.

A study from the United States also found that ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise by children and adolescents (such as football shirts and sport caps) was associated with their early initiation of drinking. Similarly, alcohol industry sponsorship of sportspeople has been found to be associated with more hazardous drinking levels among Australian, New Zealand and UK sportspeople.

Beyond these outcomes, alcohol industry advertising and sponsorship in sport and other settings, creates a culture where children perceive alcohol consumption as a normal everyday part of life. And they see it as something associated with sporting success or indeed, being Australian.

Given the known relationship between alcohol advertising and youth drinking, researchers who assess drinking norms, peer influence and parental influence as predictors of young people’s drinking, are in effect measuring people’s exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

Most of us didn’t grow up in a culture void of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, which makes it difficult for us to imagine sport without them. But given the high rates of hazardous drinking and associated problems in young people (violence, suicide, motor accidents), we probably don’t need to be giving them more encouragement to drink. The same was true for tobacco advertising and sponsorship in sport and few would now question the wisdom of banning such promotion.

New South Wales coach Ricky Stuart (centre) speaks to his team after their defeat by Brisbane at the State of Origin 3 in July 2012. Dave Hunt/AAP

The alcohol industry’s self-regulation of advertising has been shown to not work, and stronger regulation is clearly needed. Effective action is possible.

France has had a complete ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship since 1991. Sport has not suffered and alcohol consumption has decreased in the past 20-odd years. Indeed, France even hosted the 1998 FIFA World Cup with this ban in place and enforced.

Similarly, Norway and Turkey have strong restrictions on alcohol advertising in sport, and South Africa is currently drafting a bill to ban all alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport. It would be simple to do the same in Australia.

Naturally, “big sport” (AFL, NRL and cricket) and the alcohol industry will object to the removal of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, citing that grassroots sport will suffer. But the experience of nations where bans have been imposed suggests otherwise, such as Norway and France.

The Australian National Preventative Health Agency has successfully negotiated the removal of alcohol sponsorship from most of Australia’s major sporting codes (Football Federation of Australia, Netball Australia, Swimming Australia, Basketball Australia, Cycling Australia, Hockey Australia). But AFL, rugby league and union and cricket are resisting change.

Danny Beasley rides Fashionsafield home to victory at the 2005 Tooheys New Easter Carnival at Sydney’s Randwick racecourse in 2005. Sam Mooy/AAP

Sport in Australia could still be funded by the alcohol, tobacco, and fast-food industries, but through the ring-fencing of a small portion of the tax gathered from their sales. This would allow sport to thrive without the downside of also promoting unhealthy products to our children.

This is the fifth part of our series looking at alcohol and the drinking culture in Australia. Click on the links below to read the other articles:

Part One: A brief history of alcohol consumption in Australia

Part Two: Social acceptance of alcohol allows us to ignore its harms

Part Three: My drinking, your problem: alcohol hurts non-drinkers too

Part Four: Alcohol-fuelled violence on the rise despite falling consumption

Kerry O'Brien receives funding from the ARC, ANPHA, and VicHealth. He also has a honorary position with the University of Manchester in the UK.

The Conversation

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


Horse meat scandal continues to spread

The recent horse meat scandal which has seen various meat products pulled from the shelves in Europe and the UK has spread to Asia, with an imported lasagne product recalled from shelves in Hong Kong’s ParknShop retailers.

Brands embroiled in the scandal include Nestle, Brazil’s beef producer JBS, British supermarket chain Tesco, and frozen food company Findus – the manufacturer of the lasagnes pulled from the shelves in Hong Kong and Europe.

Other countries to have pulled various products include Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Slovenia, Germany and The Netherlands.

According to news.com.au, Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety said the lasagnes "might be adulterated with horse meat which has not undergone tests for veterinary drugs.

"The product was removed from our stores last week following the government's instructions," a ParknShop spokeswoman told AFP.

Nowaco brand frozen ‘beef’ lasagne products in Tesco stores in the Czech Republic, have also been withdrawn after the horse meat was discovered.

The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority said it had found horse DNA in two samples of the Nowaco meals manufactured by the Tavola company in Luxembourg.

While horse meat is sold for human consumption in the Czech Republic, authorities have said the product’s labeling is misleading.

Spanghero, the French meat processing company at the centre of the controversy has been accused of passing off 750 tonnes of horse meat as beef, with horsemeat being found in 4.5 million "beef" products across Europe.

Earlier this week the company was allowed to resume production of minced meat, sausages and ready-to-eat meals, however it will no longer be allowed to stock frozen meat. According to news.com.au it also cannot act as middleman between slaughterhouses and food-processing companies – which is allegedly how Spanghero was able to change labels on horse meat from Romania and sell it as beef.


Nestle Australia commits to sustainable cocoa

Nestle Australia has announced that all of its chocolates is now independently certified to ensure cocoa is sourced and produced sustainably and on farms with safe working conditions.

Brands including Kit Kat, Smarties and Club chocolate will now boast UTZ certification, making Nestle the first major chocolate manufacturer in Australia to source all cocoa used for retail confectionery from certified and sustainable farms.

Nestle Australia business executive manager confectionery and snacks, Martin Brown, said the Nestle Cocoa Plan is helping farmers to run profitable farms, eliminate the use of child labour and ensure a sustainable supply of cocoa.

"Our work with West African cocoa farmers is helping to address the issues facing the farmers and their communities, while giving Australian consumers the confidence that the cocoa in them has been produced sustainably," he said.

The bulk of Nestle's cocoa comes from Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire and a Nestle Research and Development centre in the region forms an integral part of the company's Cocoa Plan, breeding high yield disease resistant plants and working with farmers to improve their practices.

The Nestle Cocoa Plan also involves:

  • Supplying farmers with 12 million higher yielding, disease-resistant cocoa trees to replace ageing unproductive trees by 2019.
  • Training farmers on efficient farming methods and responsible work practices through farmer field schools and field demonstrations. Around 27,000 farmers were trained last year.
  • Paying farmers a premium for sustainably produced cocoa.
  • Working with NGOs and the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to stamp out forced labour practices in the cocoa industry.
  • Working with the World Cocoa Foundation to build or refurbish 40 schools to improve educational opportunities.

For '10 Fascinating Facts About the World of Chocolate' click here.


Coca-Cola Amatil boss enters supermarket debate

Terry Davis, chief executive at Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) has announced his support for the ACCC's investigation into alleged bullying tactics by the supermarkets, but insists the government needs to step in too.

Davis told the AFR that rather than having an industry ombudsman, Australian manufacturers need the government to take action and inspect supermarket practices, including forcing prices down to such a degree that they become "loss leaders."

"They [supermarkets] have responsibility to use that market power wisely and for the good of their shareholders but also the good of the communities they operate in, just as we have a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen in the communities we operate in," he said.

CCA's SPC Ardmona brand has suffered because of competition from cheap imports, with up to 90 percent of packaged fruit and vegetables now imported from countries including Thailand, South Africa and Vietnam.

Davis added that the Sheparton fruit growing community has also been hit hard by supermarkets prioritising private label products.

Accelerating depreciation and restructuring the Fair Work Act to improve flexibility and cut costs should be focus areas for the government, he said.

"You can take a big stick to the retailers and say it's all your fault – I don’t believe it is all their fault – or find ways to make it an easier place to manufacture in.

"That can be done in many ways by providing incentives for Australian manufacturers to not move offshore and not close down manufacturing operations," Davis said.

The ACCC announced last week that it will be investigating claims the supermarket duopoly uses bullying tactics to drive prices down, with 50 producers said to have come forward with evidence of misconduct.

Cattle farmers have already started speaking out about their treatment by Coles and Woolworths, with one producer claiming to have lost $80,000 in the last financial year.

The AFR reports that in its investigation, the ACCC could also consider CCA's losses, with the company bleeding millions in 2011 after a dispute over trading terms saw its leading brands taken off promotion in Woolworths between May and October.

The ACCC has given conditional backing to a legally-enforceable code of conduct for supermarket behaviour, but Davis – who also opposes the introduction of an industry ombudsman – believes what the industry needs is less regulation, not more.

Coles and Woolworths are working with the Australian Food and Grocery Council and the National Famrers Federation to develop a voluntary industry code of conduct.


Goldman Sachs accused of profiting from food crisis

Speculating on food prices saw investment banking firm Goldman Sachs pocket more than one billion pounds in 2012, reigniting the controversy surrounding banks profiting from the global food crisis.

The bank is being accused of contributing to rising food costs, making about 251m pounds in 2012 from investing in a range of commodities including wheat, maize and sugar, according to findings from the World Development Movement, for The Independent.

This then led to Goldman Sachs enjoying a 68 percent rise in profits for the year, allowing it to increase the average pay and bonus package of its bankers to 250,000 pounds.

Christine Haigh from WDM told The Independent, "While nearly a billion people go hungry, Goldman Sachs bankers are feeding their own bonuses by betting on the price of food. Financial speculation is fuelling food price spikes and Goldman Sachs is the number one culprit."

Goldman Sachs declined to comment on WDM's findings, however its reported that the bank is advising clients that corn is one of its top trading tips for 2013, following the US's worst ever drought.

While banks argue that food speculation has no real effect on food prices, there's a strong argument that the influx of cash into food has increased demand to such a degree that prices have jumped up.

The Indepedent writes, "Since deregulation allowed the creation of the commodity funds that allowed many speculators to invest in agriculture for the first time, institutions such as Goldman have channelled more than $200bn of cash into the area. This investment has coincided with a significant and sustained rise in global food prices."


Meatworkers, especially women, prone to violence: study

A new study has found that when compared to farmers, meatworkers had a significantly higher propensity for violence, with those in meat processing tending to display more negative attitudes towards animals.

The research was conducted by Flinders University's animal studies expert, Dr Nick Taylor, and involved research from Central Queensland University.

It examined the link between attitudes towards animals and propensity for human-directed aggression among farmers and meatworkers, and of the 67 participants, meatworkers were significantly more inclined to commit acts of violence.

Farmers were found to have significantly lower levels of aggression tendancies than the general community while slaughterhouse workers scored higher than the community benchmark.

Other variables including income, education and pet ownership had no significant effect on the two groups’ propensity for violence or attitudes towards animals, however 76 percent of farmers reported having a pet compared with only 54 percent of meatworkers.

Taylor said another noteworthy finding was that women, regardless of employment as farmers or meatworkers, scored six percent lower than men in their attitudes towards animal welfare.

"It was assumed women would be more pro-animal but this wasn’t the case," Taylor said.

"Equally unexpected, female meatworkers were found to have higher propensities for aggression, particularly verbal and physical aggression, than male meatworkers and all the farmers.

"Most of the current literature on the impact of meatwork employment focuses solely on the male experience but our findings show women are just as vulnerable to the physical and emotional effects of the job so this is an area in desperate need of further investigation," said Taylor.

Adding weight to the study's findings, one of Australia's most heinous murders involved a woman, Katherine Knight, an ex-abattoir workers from Aberdeen, killing her de facto partner before skinning and beheading him, and cooking his body parts.

Unsurprisingly, the study also found that meatworkers had a more "utilitarian" attitude towards animal welfare, and viewed them as commodities.

Taylor added that propensity for aggression scores among meatworkers were similar to some reported by incarcerated populations, suggesting the constant exposure to violence within meat processing plants could cause psychological damage.

"Further research with this population is urgently needed to ascertain the potential damaging psychological effects of being employed in the industry, not only for the individual and the community they live in but for the animals they come into contact with," she said.


Factory farming focus during Meat Free Week

Australians are being urged to give up meat for a week in March, in an attempt to discourage consumers from buying protein sourced from factory farms.

March 18 to 24, 2013 will be the inaugural Meat Free Week, an initiative created by ex-publishing colleagues and friends Melissa Dixon and Lainie Bracher.

"Factory farming has long been a veiled industry. It has come at a significant cost, not only to animal welfare, but also our health and the environment," said Bracher.

"We know it's a big ask to cut back something you love to eat, but when people know the facts, we’re confident they’ll commit to eating less meat and when they do, make the choice to buy ethically produced meat," adds Dixon.

With an annual average of 120kg of meat consumed per capita, Australia is ranked as the second biggest meat consumer in the world, behind the US.

Much of this, according to Dixon and Bracher, comes from factory farms. The Meat Free Week website claims that two-thirds of the world's meat comes from factory farming practices, which are considered the number one cause of animal cruelty.

A number of chefs and media personalities are supporting the cause, including Simon Bryant, Bill Granger, Laura Csortan and Deborah Hutton.

Money raised from taking part in Meat Free Week will go to Voiceless, the not-for-profit animal protection institute, which drives reform and helps build the animal protection movement by offering grants and prizes, creating networks, promoting informed debate and conducting research to expose cruel farming practices.

New Zealand recently committed to phasing out battery cages for egg-laying hens. The new Animal Welfare (Layer Hens) Code of Welfare means no new battery cages can be installed by producers (as of 7 December, 2012). A staged phase-out will also commence with battery cages to be completely forbidden by 2022.


Pepe’s Ducks fined $400,000 for false claims

The Federal Court handed down its decision late last year on the Pepe’s Ducks ‘open range’ saga, ordering the company to pay $400,000 in penalties.

The company will pay $375,000 in civil penalties and $25,000 in legal costs.

The court also laid down the following orders:

  • Pepe’s Ducks may not use the phrases ‘open range’ or ‘grown nature’s way’ on its packaging, website, vehicles, signage, stationery or merchandise for the next three years.
  • The image of the 'open range' duck may not be used for a period of three years unless it is accompanied by the phrase 'barn raised.'
  • It must implement a trade practices compliance program by February 1, 2013 and maintain it for three years.
  • The company must feature corrective notices on its website and premises, and provide them to its customers.

The case arose back in July 2012 when activists captured footage of the so-called 'open range' ducks living in crowded, dirty pens, with many suffering poor health. 

The ACCC subsequently filed a writ in the Federal Court, accusing the company of false advertising, objecting to its use of the slogan 'grown nature’s way' and its logo that contains the image of a duck out in the open, walking towards a lake amidst a mountainous backdrop.

A press release published on the ACCC website reads “the ACCC welcomes the Court orders and notes that this decision continues its focus upon protecting consumers from misleading statements regarding food production methods.”

Pepe's Ducks slaughters over 70,000 ducks each week, and is one of the country's largest suppliers of duck meat.


Animal cruelty in Israeli abattoir reignites live export debate

A video showing Israeli abattoir workers poking cattle in the eyes and genitals with an electric prodder has reignited the live export debate in Australia.

Last night's 7.30 program released details of workers at Israel's largest abattoir, Bakar Tnuva being "liberal with their use of the electric stun gun", targeting the eyes, genitals and anus.

An abattoir worker also claimed that injured animals who refuse to move are dragged by their front leg behind a forklift.

The revelations have reignited debate about Australia's live exports, especially considering this film was recorded two months after the abattoir was approved under the federal government's animal welfare guidelines.

The film was captured on a hidden camera in September by an undercover Israeli journalist and vegal animal rights activist, Ronen Bar, who worked at Bakar Tnuva for 19 days. It has since been broadcast in Israel, causing a public outcry and prompting a criminal investigation.

Bar told 7.30 animal cruelty at the abattoir was a regular occurrence and the animals subject to it were often from Australia.

"These are the regular procedures, it's not what was shown, is not something special or something that is not everyday regularity," he said.

"Some of the cattle I filmed the ear tags and it says AUS, Australian. Also the workers told me that the cows are Australian, and the managers… most of the calves that are slaughtered there are Australian."

However, two of the three Australian companies previously exporting to Bakar Tnuva – Elders International and Livestock Shipping Services –  claim the cattle in the footage isn't theirs.

The RSPCA is calling on the Australian government to reject any applications by exporters which involve the Bakar Tnuva facility, and says live exports should be banned.

Bidda Jones, RSPCA Australia chief scientist, said "The fact that a facility like this, with such entrenched problems can pass an ESCAS [Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System] audit casts a huge shadow over the entire supply chain assurance system. The entire process rests on the veracity of the auditing arrangements.

"This is proof that no scheme or agreements can fully safeguard the welfare of animals exported live overseas for slaughter. No matter how much industry or government involvement there is, the live export trade presents an unacceptable level of risk for the animals and is inherently cruel."

In a joint statement issued by the National Farmers' Federation, the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council, the Cattle Council of Australia and the Sheepmeat Council of Australia, Jock Laurie, president of the National Farmers’ Federation said swift action has been taken.

"The abattoir has taken swift and decisive action which has included the removal of the abattoir manager and other staff seen in the footage mistreating the animals.

"We understand that CCTV cameras are to be installed, and at the request of the importer, industry-funded training consultants are currently on the ground in Israel to instigate a comprehensive training program at the facility," said Laurie.

Earlier this year live exports were temporarily banned after ABC's Four Corners aired footage of animal cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs. While the ban helped ease concerns of the general public, concerned about the treatment of Australian animals, industry members were concerned about how such bans would affect their livelihoods. Read more here.


Battery cages phased out by 2022: NZ

New Zealand has committed to phasing out battery cages for egg-laying hens, under a new code of animal welfare released by the government.

The new Animal Welfare (Layer Hens) Code of Welfare means that no new battery cages can be installed by producers from 7 December, 2012. A staged phase-out will also commence with battery cages to be completely forbidden by 2022.

Under the code about 45 percent of battery cages will be gone by 2018.

But it's not all good news for the hens, with stuff.co.nz reporting that they could still be held in colony cages, larger than battery cages, but still controversial and may or may not provide the animals with outdoor access.

Animal welfare group SAFE, is arguing that the code doesn't do enough for animal welfare, and the Egg Producers Federation is arguing that the phase-out period is too short and will force some farmers out of business.

Primary Industries minister, David Carter, said a more immediate ban is not possible because it could have adverse effects on egg prices, industry structure and the stablility of egg supply.

"The phased approach balances the welfare of layer hens with the time needed for producers to transition to other systems," he said.


V launches family-sized bottle

Energy drink V has launched a family-size 1.2L bottle and despite marketing it as a "share bottle", health professionals are concerned about its effects on children.

The product, which is expected to be available at supermarkets and service stations, contains 372mg of caffeine – the equivalent of four strong cups of coffee – and while V products display a warning label outlining that people should only drink up to 500ml a day and the product is not to be consumed by children, Dr Steve Hambelton, president of The Australian Medican Association, is still concerned.

He told news.com.au, "I don't know why the heck Food Standards Australia are letting these products go onto the market that are complicating the healthcare of Australians and New Zealanders.

"I'm just amazed and appalled by the amount of caffeine that is legal to be sold."

V's product release comes weeks at a time of heightened concern surrounding the effects of energy drinks. The US Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating 13 deaths that may be linked to the consumption of an energy drink called 5-hour Energy.

There's also been talk surrounding the labelling of such products, with some arguing that more prominent warning labels are required, advising consumers of the potential side effects of excessive caffeine consumption, which includes anxiety, irritability and a rapid heart rate.


Food brands famed and shamed at advertising awards [videos]

Kellogg's, Hungry Jack's and Chupa Chups have had their digital advertising slammed by advocacy group, The Parents' Jury, with each taking out a title at the recent Fame and Shame Awards.

The Parents' Jury and Shame Awards aim to raise awareness of persuasive and misleading techniques employed by advertisers to promote unhealthy food and drinks to children.

Recognising the rise of digital marketing aimed at children and teenagers, The Parents' Jury named fast food chain Hungry Jack's 'Make it Better' and lollipop brand Chupa Chups' 'Lol-a-Coaster' apps as joint winners of of the Digital Ninja Award. This award draws attention to brands which use digital media in the most obvious way to target children and drive active participation in the brand – what the awards refer to as 'pester power'.

Other nominees in this category were Slurpee, Flavor Grab, Fanta Playzone and Yo Gorilla.


Campaigns manager for The Parents' Jury, Corrina Langelaan, said "This year, we looked at the good, the bad and the apps. Many kids today are more tech-savvy than their parents, but they're no less vulnerable to sophisticated food marketing techniques.

"Children of all ages have access to multiple forms of social and digital media, making them an easy target for the marketers of unhealthy food. It’s a constant challenge, even for the most vigilant of parents, to oversee what their child is accessing online. Something that looks like a free and fun game like ‘LolaCoaster’ in fact contains what many parents will consider insidious forms of branding. Even the reviews describe it as an 'advertisement based game'."

In a first for the awards, a panel of judges, academics and advertisers worked together with Jury members to name the best and worst examples of food advertising aimed at children.

For the third year running, Kellogg's TV advertising was shamed for its 'pester power', this time in relation to its LCM bar.

Kathryn Taylor, member of The Parents' Jury and part of the judging panel, said feedback from concerned parents helped make it Kellogg's a clear winner of the Shame Award for Pester Power.


"The kind of sneaky advertising shown as part of the LCM lunchbox advertisement makes me angry on behalf of so many parents. Not only does it appear as though having an LCM in your lunchbox makes kids more popular amongst their peers, the fact that this child appears to have one every school day suggests it is more than just an occasional treat," she said.

Other brands nominated in this category were Oreo cookies, Nutella, KFC, McDonald’s Staying Up Late, McDonald’s and Coca Cola glasses, Hungry Jack’s and Happy Feet, Cadbury Joyville and McDonald’s Happy Meal.

Brands were also recognised for their good work in digital advertising, with Aussie Bananas praised for its 'Nature's Energy Snack' campaign, taking out the Fame Award for Parents' Choice.


Host of the awards, Cancer Council NSW, said the awards are necessary because they highlight the failure of industry self-regulation.

Clare Hughes, nutrition program manager at Cancer Council NSW said, "Cancer Council’s recent research showed that the food industry’s so-called responsible marketing initiatives have not been successful in reducing unhealthy food marketing to children. The fact that after eight years we still need to have these awards is just further evidence that food advertising is still creating pester power in Australian homes, and it’s little wonder given the lengths food marketers are now going in order to reach kids online."


Trademark loophole leads to misleading health claims: Choice

Food manufacturers are able to market their products as being fresh, healthy or natural when this may not be the case, a Choice study has found.

The consumer group reviewed 200 food products with natural or healthy sounding product names and found that almost half (93) were high in either total fat, saturated fat, sugars or sodium.

Choice spokesperson, Ingrid Just, said "Manufacturers are trademarking healthy words such as ‘natural’, ‘healthy’ and ‘fresh’ to give the impression that a product is healthier than it seems. Other product names suggest eco-friendliness as consumers are often willing to pay premium for perceived environmental benefits."

Such products include:

  • Five All Natural Bakery Bars – nutritional information indicates they are high in saturated fat and sugar
  • Natural Cordial Company’s lime cordial – contains a sulphite preservative
  • Nice & Natural Nut and Yoghurt Muesli Bars – contain a yoghurt-flavoured compound and the popular soy-based emulsifier lecithin
  • Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices – high in saturated fat
  • A number of Back to Nature and Goodness Superfoods Cereals – high in sugar.

Just said that while food labelling laws prohibit the use of the word 'health' on products and other claims that might mislead consumers, manufacturers can sidestep this by using such words in trademarks.

Trademark law prohibits the registration of a trademark likely to deceive or cause confusion, but nutritional analysis is not part of the approval of new trade marks by IP Australia. However, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is in the process of developing a standard for health claims that would only allow these claims to be made on food products that meet agreed nutritional criteria and are supported by robust scientific evidence.

"Despite the efforts of food labelling regulators to stamp out dodgy health claims, the trademark loophole will remain open to food manufacturers," said Just.


Woolworths fast food court opposed by residents, Heart Foundation

Plans by supermarket giant Woolworths to develop a centre food court for fast food chains is facing opposition from local residents and the Heart Foundation.

Woolworths wants to develop a 121-seat food court in the new Woolworths complex in Western Australia’s Margaret River.

Woolworths said in a statement that the food court would be a “necessary” change to allow bakery products, hot food, and a fish and chips store in the centre.

But the residents are not happy about the potential development, with 350 submissions arguing against the proposal already received.

Some argue that the coastal town known for its wineries, fresh produce, high quality dairy and, which make it a prime tourist and retirement destination would be ruined by the fast food court.

The WA Heart Foundation has also offered its support to the submissions from residents opposing the Woolworths food court, saying the proposed location is too close to the local primary school.

“While fast food is unhealthy at any stage of life, young children are targeted by junk food marketing and should be educated about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle,” Swanson said.

The Heart Foundation WA has also issued a statement urging people from Western Australia to boycott the fast food plans by the supermarket giant.

Western Australia has the highest proportion of overweight and obese people in Australia, with almost 70 per cent of adults overweight or obese according to Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) statistics obtained by WA Heart Foundation.

The Woolworths full proposal is expected to be considered by the Margaret River council before the start of 2013.

What do you think of the proposal? Do Woolworths have a responsibility to look after customer's health?

John West hits back over place on Greenpeace sustainable tuna list

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

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

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

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

“It has a responsibility to do better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nestlé buying additional 5 300 tonnes of Fairtrade cocoa

Nestle UK and Ireland has pledged to double its commitment to Fairtrade making its two-fingered Kit Kat bar certified by January.

Nestle's four-finger Kit Kit has been using Fairtrade certified cocoa since 2010, and its latest commitment will see the Swiss confectioner purchase an additional 5 300 tonnes of Fairtrade cocoa from the Ivory Coast.

Most well-known chocolate brands have been committing to certified fair trade cocoa in recent years, in a bid to end the child labour and abuse in poor cocoa-growing regions.

Earlier this month, Hershey’s bowed to pressure to become more ethical in its sourcing of cocoa, committing to 100 per cent fair-trade cocoa across all its products by 2020.

Nestle has pledged to invest GBP65 million over ten years on plant science and sustainability initiatives to support small scale cocoa farmers globally.

The Nestle Cocoa Plan which was launched in 2009, and the new farmer co-operatives will benefit from the certification when they join the scheme.

"Today's news is the next step on our journey toward a sustainable supply of quality cocoa and our commitment to certify all our Kit Kats in the UK & Ireland," Ciaran Sullivan, managing director of Nestle Confectionery UK & Ireland, said.

"Farmers in the Nestle Cocoa Plan receive benefits such as new plantlets, farmer training and new schools for their communities. Ivorian farmers badly need our support and this move will help even more cocoa farmers and their families build a positive long term future," he added.

In November last year Nestle announced it would conduct an investigation into the presence of child labour in its business, following accusations children are employed on cocoa farms that supply to its factories.