All GM foods to be declared on labels if Californian bill passes

Genetically modified (GM) food is a controversial issue that is set to become an electoral one in the US, with one state set to vote on the practise.

In November, California will be the first state to vote on whether declaration labels will be mandatory on all genetically modified food.

Up to 18 states in the US have attempted to pass similar laws in the same way, but so far all have failed to make it to the statewide ballot.

But in California, Proposition 37 as it is known, has received over a million citizen signatures, indicating it will be successful and foods that have been genetically modified with have to include that information on labelling.

Those against genetically modified foods believe consumers have the right to know if what they’re eating has been created or altered in such a way.

Major food manufacturers including PepsiCo, Nestlé and Coca-Cola, however, are opposed to the legislation, arguing that fears over the lack of long term health impacts of genetically modified foods are misguided.

They even argue that the benefits of genetically modified food far outweigh the perceived negatives.

"Bioengineered crops are the safest crops in the world," Bob Goldberg, a molecular biologist who's a professor at UCLA and a member of the National Academy of Science said.

"We've been testing them for 40 years.

“They're like the Model T Ford.

“There is not one credible scientist working on this that would call it unsafe."

Up to 80 percent of all processed foods sold in the US are made with genetically modified ingredients, including corn, soybeans, sugar beets and cotton oil.

If the proposal became law in California, genetically modified processed foods would be required to include the words "Partially produced with genetic engineering" on the front or back label, while foods entirely made through GM systems would h have to declare so with a sign on the shelf.

Where do you stand on genetically modified foods? Do you think Australians need input, similar to California?

Sport supplement DMAA banned

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has banned the sale, supply and use of DMAA, an ingredient used in some sports supplements.

DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine), also known as Jack3d has been included in Appendix C of the Poisons Standard, following an investigation by TGA in response to safety concerns about the abuse of the drug.

Advice was received from the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling (ACMS) and public consultation and after a scheduling decision by the TGA, state and territory governments implement any necessary changes to legislation.

State and territory authorities will be responsible for enforcing these laws.

DMAA acts as a stimulant and is used in pre-workout sports supplements and “party pills” to provide an adrenaline-like high.

It has also been used extensively in industries notorious for their work hard, play hard attitudes, including the mining industry.

It has been linked with adverse health effects including high blood pressure, headaches, vomiting, cerebral haemorrhage, stroke and death.

New Zealand banned DMAA from all products in April following reports of adverse effects.   

Poultry industry criticised for proposed changes to ‘free range’ rules

The poultry industry is copping criticism for its attempts to change the definition of ‘free range,’ to allow more than 140 000 birds per hectare.

The demand for ‘free range’ poultry and eggs is increasing in Australia, and numerous producers have been caught misleading the public over the conditions the birds are raised in.

GetUp!'s infographic paints a scary picture for the future of free range.

Representative body for the largest chicken meat producers in the country, the Australian Poultry Industries Association (APIA) is now asking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to allow producers to use the ‘free range’ claim, even when the birds have an area the size of an A4 sheet of paper to move in.

Activist group GetUp! has received an extension on the submission deadline until 10 August, and is calling on consumers to push back against the APIA request, and call  on the ACCC to implement more rigorous regulations regarding free range chickens.

Are you in the poultry industry? Where do you stand on the request?

Protect researchers from the perils of public health advocacy

Public health advocates who criticise industries for promoting harmful forms of consumption – the alcohol, food, pharmaceutical, tobacco and gambling industries – increasingly find themselves facing legal action for defamation or other forms of legal harassment.

In 2009, Peter Miller and 50 colleagues (including myself) published a letter in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) stating that we would not accept research funding from the organisation Drinkwise, because we believed that the alcohol industry had undue influence over its research agenda.

Drinkwise was established by the alcohol industry and part funded by the Howard government to educate Australians to “drink wisely”. Many in the public health field were sceptical of its intentions because half of its board came from the alcohol industry and several of the community representatives on the board had worked for or with the alcohol industry.


The alcohol industry has a much bigger budget than most researchers and universities. Josh Staiger


Although the MJA gave the chair of the Drinkwise board the right of reply, signatories received a personal letter stating that Drinkwise Board members felt they had been “defamed” by the letter. No legal action was forthcoming but the letter was taken as a warning that we could be sued if they continued to criticise Drinkwise.

This kind of threat is not uncommon. The Melbourne public health physician Ken Harvey has been sued for damages by two companies for making a formal complaint to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in which he said that that there was no evidence to support the health claims made for their products.

Neither are these are isolated events. I know colleagues who have received threats of legal action for defamation from industry advocacy groups and “independent” consultants who work for these industries. In another case, senior alcohol industry officials wrote to the vice chancellor of a researcher’s university attacking his personal integrity and professionalism.

It’s easy to say that researchers should refuse to bow to these attempts at intimidation. Unfortunately, it can be expensive to defend defamation actions brought by litigants with deep pockets. Nor can researchers depend on universities to provide legal defence in these cases.

While universities encourage “community engagement” by their staff, they don’t always provide legal assistance to deal with threats arising from public comment. I discovered this two decades ago when threatened with a suit for defamation for comments made on the ABC about the regulation of psychologists. The university’s lawyers declined to represent me because I was not speaking in “an official university capacity”, even though I was commenting on a matter of public importance within my area of expertise.


Universities don’t always provide researchers with legal assistance to deal with threats arising from public comment. Jeff Pearce


These issues should be of concern to lawyers. Defamation specialists could provide pro bono legal advice to researchers threatened in these ways. Public advocacy lawyers could examine the extent to which these threats occur and consider ways to combat the use of defamation and other laws by vested interests to silence public debate.

Legal remedies worth exploring include laws such as the one passed by the ACT parliament in 2008 imposing civil penalties on companies that attempt to use lawsuits to stop individuals and groups from voicing their opinions. Such laws may include actions, where possible, to seek protective cost orders.

Free public discussion is essential for good public health policy. Public debate is already heavily weighted against public health interests by the greater access that wealthy alcohol, pharmaceutical and complementary medicine industries have to advertising, and utilise the mass media and specialist legal advice. We need to prevent threats of legal action from being used to silence public health advocates and strangle public policy debate.

Wayne Hall receives funding from the NHMRC. He has previously received funds from the AREF (now the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education).

The Conversation

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

Piggery under investigation for animal cruelty

Shocking footage allegedly taken at a piggery outside Canberra, showing cruel and inhumane treatment of the animals there, has been released by activists.

Animal Liberation apparently raided the piggery on Friday night, where they recorded images of buckets filled with dead piglets and workers beating the sows while they were alive.

Fly infestations were also recorded in the footage, and Yass police has confirmed that a piggery near Murrumbateman is under investigation.

''This piggery is one of the worst examples of factory farming where animals are treated like 'production machines' and no thought is given to their capacity to suffer,” Animal Liberation NSW executive director Mark Pearson, told AAP.

''Images also included buckets of dead piglets, a sledgehammer used to bludgeon pigs, and sows with open sores.''

He said Animal Liberation NSW gathered and verified footage for two months before contacting authorities on Thursday.

Andrew Spencer, chief of industry lobby group Australian Pork Limited, also weighed in on the footage.

''The majority of pork producers in Australia rigorously adhere to world best practice when it comes to animal welfare,'' he said.

''There is no way that we can tolerate treating pigs like this.''

Earlier this year a number of other shocking abattoir conditions were unveiled, including one in NSW’s Hawkesbury region, an illegal operation in Victoria, which led to criminal charges, as well as a broiler farm that was found to be underfeeding chickens, causing them removed from the premises.

New laws, which will be introduced in NSW on 1 July next year, will ensure the humane treatment of animals in all Australian meatworks, by employing certified Animal Welfare Officers.


Can Coles and Woollies change public perception of private label impacts?

Despite apprehension about the impact of supermarket private labels and forecasts showing they will dominate shelves in the next five years, Woolworths has attempted to calm the market by releasing information on its range on its website.

Business information research firm IBISWorld has forecasted that the share of private-label products will account for over 30 per cent of all Australian supermarkets sales by 2017-18 and according to IBISWorld’s General Manager (Australia), Karen Dobie, they have been one of the industry’s fastest growing segments over the past decade.

“In 2007-08, private labels accounted for just 13.5% of total supermarket sales – meaning the segment has grown by more than 85% over the past five years”, Dobie said.

Recent studies found that one in four products purchased in Australian supermarkets are private label, and of those, one in two is imported.

The increase in private label

The debate over private label continues to rage, and the impact of the reduced shelf space afforded other companies has led to countless manufacturers and farmers going out of business.

As both Coles and Woolworths appear to be delivering on plans to double private label products in store by 2020, the availability of anything other than private label becomes far less.

Consumers have little choice but to buy private label, as other brands are replaced by supermarket imitations, and according to IBISWorld data, Australians will spend over $21 billion on private label products in the 2012-13 period.

This is already a huge increase from the $19.7 billion in 2011-12, and an even bigger increase from the comparatively tiny $9.96 billion five years ago.

By 2017-18, Australian spending on private label products is expected to hit $31.8 billion, according to Dobie, which is already a 50 per cent growth from five years ago.

“The recessive economic climate has been a strong driver of private-label growth.

"Households have been reining in spending, paying off debt and increasing savings,” she said.

“This, coupled with an increase in the range of private-label products available, has led many consumers to make the shift to home brands.”

“Branded producers have responded to private-label growth by discounting their products to remain competitive.

“However, the dominance of Coles and Woolworths means that they are likely to give preference to their own brands in terms of spacing and design allocations – placing continued pressure on the big brands.

“This can be detrimental to branded producers as their share of shelf space is eroded by home brand products.

Woolworths attempts to address concerns

To address the competition between supermarket private label products and supplier brands, Woolworths has released an Official Range Profile of brands for its Australian supermarkets.

The supermarket giant said the data will be regularly updated on its website and will allow for a “more informed” discussion on choices between private label and branded rpoducts.

Managing Director of Woolworths Supermarkets, Tjeerd Jegen, said Woolworths wants to  demonstrate how they meet their customers’ needs.

“As part of that commitment, we are releasing a snapshot of data about our range to the market to put our business into a correct perspective,” Jegen said.

“The facts show that in packaged groceries and perishables, Woolworths stocks more than 44,000 lines of which 94 per cent are branded products.

“Just 2,500 are Woolworths Own Brand products,” he said.

Complete dominance

While the supermarket is maintaining that their range is heavy in branded products as a way to alleviate debate on the issue, it does not change the fact that the supermarket duopoly is gaining more control of the market all the time.

The Senate Inquiry set up to investigate the anti-competitive practises of the major supermarkets struggled to get people to speak up, and while many will speak of the record, few will go public with the stories of the power the supermarkets’ wield.

There have been calls for an ‘Australian-made’ aisle in supermarkets, a cap on the percentage of private label products that can be stocked and restrictions on the market share the supermarkets can have.

However, while the awareness about the impact of the price wars, particularly on Australian dairy farmers is becoming more widespread, the supermarkets continue to maintain they aren’t doing anything wrong, but are instead encouraging companies to innovate and looking out for their customers.

We invited representatives from both Coles and Woolworths to attend our Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit in June, but because there was one discussion topic, out of a total of six, planned on the impact of the supermarket price wars, we were told they had “no interest” in being involved in what they called a “get the supermarkets” agenda.

When Food Magazine reported on Coles’ failure to respond to more than 73 000 consumers who had “liked” a post on Facebook detailing the impact of the reduced price milk, we received a call a Coles representative, who wanted to point out that they did respond, albeit three days late and to the wrong person.

Food Magazine was accused of being biased towards food manufacturers, but since  this representative from Coles does not usually return Food Magazine’s phone calls, we pointed out that does make it difficult to report from both sides.

We tried to come to an agreement that when we called for comment on stories, he would respond, and Food Magazine, in turn, would provide their perspective on all such stories.

However, he would only agree to this arrangement if we started reporting more favourably on Coles, saying he would “closely observe” the news section to see if we were doing so, before he agreed to participate in stories on the supermarket price wars.

Unfortunately for the supermarkets, we can’t be bullied into behaving the way they would like us to and will continue to report the true realities of the supermarket environment for food manufacturers and producers.

Do you think there needs to be limits on market share of Australian supermarkets? Do you buy private label? 

Counterfeit items flooding Australian market

Food manufacturers, packaging organisations and consumers have been warned that counterfeit household items including food products are becoming increasingly common in Australia.

Yesterday NSW Police seized 33 tonnes of counterfeit laundry powder labeled as reputable brand OMO, in Sydney.

The seizure is the result of extensive investigations that have run over several months, which aim to track down and intercept the sale of counterfeit items.  

Police are expected to lay a range of charges against the two individuals allegedly behind the importation and sale of this counterfeit product.

“Sadly this is an increasing threat for all Australians,” Mary Weir, General Counsel of Unilever Australia, which produces the authentic product, said.

“The counterfeiting of consumer goods is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry around the globe and it is important that those seeking to engage in this criminal activity understand they will be subject to the full weight of the law.

“The Police action is part of a larger law enforcement drive necessary to protect consumers and ensure they can buy well known and trusted brands like OMO with confidence.

“However, consumer also need to be wary about products claiming to be trusted brands – particularly from overseas- and should always ensure they deal with reputable retailers.

Food brands including Nestle and Kraft are also dealing with brand imitations and working in collaboration with police to stamp out the practice.

Recently, Food Magazine thought Nestlé had changed its infamous Milo jar, by adding a glass bottle to its range, but when we asked Nestlé about the change, they said it was not a new development, but rather a counterfeit product.

The Milo jar appears to be authentic, judging by the labelling.

The nutritional panels also seem to be authentic.

Although on closer inspection, it appears the label on one side is upside down. Mistakes like these, which the authentic manufacturers would not make, are one way to spot counterfeit products.

It is difficult for consumers to be 100 per cent confident that they are not buying any counterfeit products, but should look for the  "Australian Made” logo to make sure, and if they believe it could be a fake, should return the product to the retailer and request a full refund.


How anti-obesity campaigns reinforce stigma

Anti-obesity messages are everywhere – in news, in entertainment, and in public health campaigns. We are constantly being told that fat is bad for us, and that in order to be healthy we need to lose weight. But these messages don’t necessarily improve our health, and they certainly don’t seem to result in weight loss. Instead, popular ideas about fatness and health often reinforce social inequalities across class, race, gender, and ability.

Fat is understood as fundamentally unhealthy. Fat bodies are thought of as “diseased”, and as the result of “unhealthy” habits. There’s plenty of research that challenges these ideas.

But the point of this article is not to engage in the frankly tiresome debates about weather fat people can be healthy (they can). Nor do I want to argue about whether being fat is correlated with an increased risk of certain health issues (it is, but as anyone with a high-school level understanding of statistics can tell you, correlation does not equal causation, and risk is no guarantee of outcome – otherwise we’d all be at the casino getting rich).

Instead, I am interested in what these anti-obesity public health messages do, and who they do it to. This is important since obesity is much more prevalent amongst disadvantaged, vulnerable, and stigmatised groups, especially those of low socioeconomic status, non-English speaking backgrounds, and Indigenous people.

Public health is generally seen as a force for good. Ideally, public health messages are a way for the government to educate the general population about potential health issues, and teach us how to best take care of ourselves in order to avoid illness and suffering.


Anti-obesity campaigns aren’t telling us anything new. Stocky Bodies Isaac Brown


Over the last few years, the Australian government has run two anti-obesity campaigns: Measure Up and Swap It. The new and controversial LiveLighter campaign from Western Australia is another example.

All of these campaigns convey the information that being fat is bad for your health, and that we should lose weight by eating better and exercising more. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Australia – or anywhere else in the Western world – who isn’t already well aware of this idea.

So if these campaigns aren’t giving us new information about fat and health, it’s worth asking what they are doing, or trying to do. They are trying to do what every advertising campaign tries to do: change our attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviours.

The Developmental Communications Research Report that informed the development of these campaigns categorises people according to “attitudinal segments”, and suggests that those with “undesirable” attitudes are over-represented amongst disadvantaged groups.

The Developmental Communications Report, like much public health research, recognises that there are structural barriers that make it difficult for members of disadvantaged groups to simply change their lifestyles (and presumably lose weight as a result). But the campaigns don’t address these issues. Instead, they simply encourage individual weight loss.


Popular ideas about fatness and health often reinforce social inequalities across class, race, gender, and ability. Stocky Bodies Isaac Brown Sitting


Leaving aside the overwhelming evidence that suggests significant weight loss via any method is nigh impossible to maintain over the long term, there are several problems with this approach.

Firstly, diseases commonly attributed to obesity are more prevalent amongst marginalised populations regardless of their weight. Despite this, anti-obesity campaigns seek only to change the attitudes rather than the circumstances of those people deemed most at risk.

By focusing on weight as the problem and weight loss as the solution, social and economic inequalities are made invisible. Health disparities between groups are blamed on individuals for not making “healthy” choices, ignoring the ways that the choices available to comfortably middle-class white Australians are often very different to those available to people on low incomes, to recent immigrants, or to Indigenous Australians.

What’s more, the emphasis on individual responsibility amounts to a sort of victim blaming that allows structural inequalities to remain unaddressed. Individuals who don’t or aren’t able to lose weight are branded as non-compliant. Fat people are seen as having a “bad” attitude. And they are seen as undeserving of respect, dignity, or even access to medical treatment, since they apparently have only themselves to blame. If you don’t believe me, just look at the comments section of any story on “obesity”.

As academic Anna Kirkland, argues, these sorts of ideas enable “the pretence that the elites are thriving because of their lifestyles while the poor are miserable because they are fat”. And that is a dangerous message.

Jackie Wykes 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.

The Conversation

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

Duck supplier headed for court over misleading ‘free range’ claims

Australia’s largest duck producer is being sued for misleading advertising which claimed the birds were raised in ‘open range’ farms.

Activists filmed the birds at Pepe’s Ducks, showing not only that they were crammed into metal crates, but also that some of them were covered in faeces and had their wings stuck in the metal grates, despite labelling claiming they were “grown nature’s way.”

The label also featured a duck walking across expansive land towards a pond, indicating the animals were raised in such environments.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has slammed the company for the false advertising, demanding correction notices be published and an injunction against Pepe’s Ducks using the free range labels again for the next three years.

In the writ filed in the Federal Court on Monday, it said Pepe's Ducks contravened trade laws by advertising their duck meat as ''Grown Nature's Way'' and indicating that the ducks ''were allowed to spend at least a substantial amount of their time with access to an outdoor body of water … foraging for food outdoors'', and were of better quality than barn-raised ducks when ''that was not the case''.

Animal Liberation’s Emma Hurst welcomed the suggestions from the ACCC and also called on the RSPCA to urgently investigate the welfare conditions at another leading Victorian supplier, Luv-a-Duck.

''There are equal concerns for the welfare of ducks that are kept at Luv-a-Duck,'' she said.

''We are seeing ducks on their backs, we're seeing ducks smattered with waste, and we are seeing issues such as crusty-eye, which is caused by the fact that the ducks can't dip their eyes in water, so the eye actually cakes over with dirt.

“They can't adequately clean themselves and that can lead to blindness.''

Pictures of ducks in distress, which Hurst said were taken at Luv-A-Duck's farms, should be taken seriously, she said.

But the company has hit back, saying it should be left alone because it does not claim its ducks are free-range.

The shocking conditions the animals are kept in were uncovered earlier this year when Animal Liberation sent footage to the ACCC.

Pepe's Ducks slaughters more than 70 000 birds every week and the founder was runner-up farmer of the year in the New South Wales Farmers Association in 2010.

The incident follows similar issues in the chicken industry earlier this year, when national suppliers were also accused of misleading consumers by claiming they were ‘free to roam.’

Farmers and suppliers who produce actual free range eggs called for a crackdown on the definitions of ‘free range, following the discovery of the false claims.

Image: Pepe Bonaccordo, founder of Pepe's Ducks.
NSW Farmers.


Industry-sponsored self-regulation: it’s just not cricket

OBESE NATION: It’s time to admit it – Australia is becoming an obese nation. This series looks at how this has happened and more importantly, what we can do to stop the obesity epidemic.

Today Rob Moodie and Kate Taylor talk about how little the Australian government is doing to stop the epidemic while Kerin O'Dea considers measures that could work.

The world keeps getting fatter and no country has yet successfully managed to reduce adult rates of overweight and obesity. Rates are levelling in a few countries – sometimes at low levels as in Japan, Korea, and Switzerland and sometimes at levels comparable to Australia, as in Hungary and England. Australia has also seen instances of flattening in trends (but at high levels) in pre-school children, but adult rates continue to rise.


Country Year Prevalence %
USA 2008 33.8
Mexico 2006 30
Scotland 2008 27
New Zealand 2007 26.5
Ireland 2007 25
Australia 2007 24.5
Canada 2008 24.2
England 2009 23
Ranked rates of measured obesity 2010


Countering obesity should be a government priority, because excess weight creates a significant drag on countries’ health budgets and productivity. And the role governments can play was the focus of a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter. The report outlines key policy actions to improve health and nutrition.

They include:

  • Taxing unhealthy food, including soft drink, and subsidising fruit and vegetables;

  • Regulating foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar;

  • Regulating to reduce unhealthy food advertising to children, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Interventions like these are important because they protect the most vulnerable in society – the poorest and the young.

Local efforts

In Australia, the Preventative Health Taskforce has provided a blueprint for action against obesity. It recognised governments' key role in reducing unhealthy food marketing to children, improving labelling, and investigating tax and pricing strategies.


Click here to open in new window or republish.


Sadly, such measures have yet to be implemented or seriously considered. Rather, the government has focused on elements such as policies in children’s settings around food supply and active play, funding for community interventions and social marketing campaigns – all softer options favoured in the political satire, The Hollowmen.

At the same time, there’s been a focus on partnership with industry. While this is important, it has also led to a clear reluctance to leverage regulatory and fiscal measures because of lobbying by the many industries that profit from high and growing consumption of their products.

This is a significant lost opportunity because tax and pricing measures result in the largest health gains in the shortest time frame. Australian research has shown that they are also the most cost-effective interventions, with a 10% tax resulting in large health gains, particularly for low-income groups. A number of countries – including Denmark, Hungary, Finland, and France – have legislated to tax fat or sugar.

Labelling of packaged food has also been considered. Former health minister Dr Neal Blewett led a review that recommended traffic-light labelling on the front of packs, among other things. In a surprising move, however, the Australian government argued that there was not enough evidence to justify this system.


A number of countries have legislated for a fat tax. Jun Seita


Instead, it has established a working group of food industry and public health organisations to develop options for an alternative scheme. Yes Minister, anyone? It appears we haven’t learnt anything from Europe, where industry spent more than one billion Euros fighting against traffic light labelling.

One of the key battlegrounds in Australia remains unhealthy food marketing to children, a major driver in normalising poor diets for life. With marketing becoming increasingly sophisticated and integrated over a range of platforms, direct targeting of children and adolescents is easier and cheaper than ever before. And social media makes it ever more effective. Advertisements masquerading as games, for instance, are increasingly popular, moving from television to the internet into mobile phone apps.

The dangers of self-regulation

This is what is happening under government-endorsed, industry-formulated self-regulation – marketers are way ahead of any weak, industry-sponsored controls. Despite calls for a national approach, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and Australian health ministers have treated the issue as a hot potato, currently vesting responsibility with the Australian National Preventative Health Agency. This group has been asked to do yet another review of the evidence, organise a seminar and undertake some monitoring. At best we might see stronger self-regulation.

All over the world, governments fear the power of the many industries associated with the obesity epidemic. It’s not just the producers, manufacturers and retail giants, but also the advertisers, public relations companies and media. All have major economic interests in marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, including alcoholic drinks.


Numerous industries have economic interests in marketing unhealthy foods and beverages. Tom Lawrence


And, of course, a country as interested in sport as Australia also has to contend with powerful bodies, such as Cricket Australia, who benefit from the sponsorship of junk food companies and from the money made by leading players who relentlessly promote such products to Australian children. In this light, the recent move by the government working with a range of sporting groups to reduce the influence of alcohol should be welcomed and expanded.

We have a lot of experience in good public health policy we could build on. Successive Australian governments have strong records in tobacco control, particularly the current government. It must use these experiences in its efforts to drive down overweight and obesity. It’s unfortunate but unavoidable that the long-term benefits of managing obesity require taking a political stand in the short term. The action the government is taking on tobacco is tremendous. We need similar determination in the face of the obesity epidemic.

This is part fifteen of our series Obese Nation. To read the other instalments, follow the links below:

Part one: Mapping Australia’s collective weight gain

Part two: Explainer: overweight, obese, BMI – what does it all mean?

Part three: Explainer: how does excess weight cause disease?

Part four: Recipe for disaster: creating a food supply to suit the appetite

Part five: What’s economic growth got to do with expanding waistlines?

Part six: Preventing weight gain: the dilemma of effective regulation

Part seven: Filling the regulatory gap in chronic disease prevention

Part eight: Why a fat tax is not enough to tackle the obesity problem

Part nine: Education, wealth and the place you live can affect your weight

Part ten: Innovative strategies needed to address Indigenous obesity

Part eleven: Two books, one big issue: Why Calories Count and Weighing In

Part twelve: Putting health at the heart of sustainability policy

Part thirteen: Want to stop the obesity epidemic? Let’s get moving

Part fourteen: Fat of the land: how urban design can help curb obesity

Part sixteen: Regulation and legislation as tools in the battle against obesity

Rob Moodie receives funding from Department of Health and Ageing.

K Taylor declares no conflicts of interest.

The Conversation

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

Brumby’s apologises for telling outlets to blame price rises on carbon tax


National bakery chain, Brumby’s, has issues an apology, after internal documents were leaked to the media, showing the company instructed outlets to significantly raise prices of products and blame the carbon tax.

''We are doing an RRP [recommended retail price] review at present which is projected to be in line with CPI [consumer price index], but take the opportunity to make some moves in June and July,'' Brumby's managing director, Deane Priest, wrote to franchisees in the company’s internal publication, Backmix.

''Let the carbon tax take the blame, after all, your costs will be going up due to it.''

The federal government has slammed the ''reprehensible'' behaviour, while the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched an investigation over the comments in the memorandum to staff.

Brumby’s parent company, Retail Food Group, has taken full responsibility for the comments and apologised in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), saying the advice should not have been issued and that it was not representative of the company's policies or practices.

''We therefore express our genuine regret over this isolated incident and unreservedly apologise for this unacceptable error of judgment,'' it said.

While the Gillard government has slammed the comments, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott said they was understandable.

''I can fully understand why every single business in this country is looking at its costs and thinking of how much its prices have got to go up, because that's what the carbon tax is going to do to them,'' he said.

The ACCC has pledged to catch any others doing the same, after it was given more power to issue fines to companies and individuals misleading others about the price impact of the tax.

Some food and beverage manufacturers have criticised the tax, saying the impact on their businesses will be significant, while others have been implementing changes to cope.

In April Bundaberg Sugar revealed it has invested $40 million on upgrading a mill in southern Queensland to avoid increases in financial payments when the carbon tax is officially introduced.

“Probably the biggest improvement is that the lower moisture bagasse means that the boilers burn more efficiently, which means there's les CO2 into the atmosphere and also less emissions generally from the boiler stacks," general manager David Pickering said.

"The carbon tax is coming in from the first of July, so we want to make sure that we're operating below the threshold.

“This will allow us to produce more bagasse, which is a renewable energy, rather than coal.

"That means that we, in the marketplace, can remain competitive with our product."

Australian Dairy Farmers Association president Chris Griffin told Food Magazine in February the that the dairy industry is not only losing workers, but will be further damaged by the carbon tax and Murray-Darling Basin plan.

“The carbon tax will also cause problems when it’s implemented on the 1st of July; we’ve done work to find the costs that will be incurred and they are largely electrical costs,” he said.

“The average increase for dairy operation will be between $5000- $7000, and that will be an overall direct increase in cost that will have to be passed on somewhere.”

The cost increase cause by the carbon tax will have to be absorbed by the farmers in the milk export market, Griffin told Food Magazine.

“It will have to be absorbed by the farmer because our price is governed by a royal export set price.

“Australia has come out ahead of the game in a way with implementing the carbon tax, but farmers can’t go to their overseas customers and saying ‘we need extra money because Julia has put on a carbon tax,’ the customers would just go elsewhere.”

The carbon price will be fixed at $23 a tonne for its first three years, and  applies to the 294 heaviest polluters in Australia.

The tax has been heavily scrutinised since it was first suggested, with opponents predicting a rise in living costs, as the expenses trickle down the supply chain.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has also copped immense criticism for introducing the tax, despite an earlier election promise that no such tax would be introduced under her leadership.


Nestlé working to educate Ivory Coast communities to end child labour

Nestlé has officially confirmed it is involving communities in the Ivory Coast in a new effort to reduce child labour, following a Fair Labor Association (FLA) report from November 2011.

Following the release of the FLA report, which included accusations that children are employed on cocoa farms that supply to its factories, Nestlé announced it would conduct an investigation into the presence of child labour in its business.

Nestlé partnered with FLA, a non-profit organisation that works with large companies to improve working conditions at various levels of the supply chain.

Nestlé has also said that it will work with its partner, the International Cocoa Initiative, a foundation that works with the cocoa industry, civil society and trade unions, to set up a new monitoring and remedy scheme recommended by the FLA.

Nestlé announced in a media release last week that the aim of the partnerships is to involve communities in the Ivory Coast in “a new effort to prevent the use of child labour in cocoa-growing areas by raising awareness and training people to identify children at risk, and to intervene where there is a problem.”

 “The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” José Lopez, Nestlé’s Executive Vice President for Operations, said.

“As the FLA report makes clear, no company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but what we can say is that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company.”

An effective strategy to eliminate the problem of child labour in the Ivory Coast needs to address and change the attitudes and perceptions of those in the cocoa supply chain and the communities where they live, the FLA report said.

“Nestlé does not own or operate farms in the Ivory Coast, but is well positioned to make a positive impact on the livelihoods of workers in the cocoa supply chain due to its leverage with its suppliers and the volume of cocoa beans it procures,” the FLA report said.

Some of the measures put in place include a monitoring and remediation scheme to be trialled in 40 communities covered by two co-operatives of cocoa farms during the 2012 cocoa harvest, with plans to include 20 more co-operatives by 2016.

This would mean about 600 communities would be involved, and would begin to change some of the attitudes.

Whispering sweet nothings: the evolution of the confectionary industry

Willy Wonka was really onto something with his candy factory.

Not only did he realise that making confectionary will bring a smile to the faces of those who eat it – hell, it will get a bedridden man dancing around like he’s Patrick Swayze at the mere idea of it – but he was also an innovator.

Yes, you read that right, this article is singing the praises of Willy Wonka (“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it, anything you want to, do it…wanta change the world? There's nothing toooo it”) because confectionary is a beautiful thing.

It is one of the most innovative, creative and interesting industries, filled with people just like Willy Wonka, who unfortunately don’t have his chocolate factory, but on the upside do have his imagination and passion for invention.

“Australia has a very good confectionary industry, we have great products and some really good marketing and there are some fantastic smaller brands bubbling away which is a great thing,” Anne Barrington, Product Manager at Keith Harris Flavours & Colours, Bronson & Jacobs told Food Magazine.

“There are some really great gourmet items coming up through the really boutique brands.”

Three dimensional confectionary

The confectionary industry is always expanding, becoming more creative and experimenting with different flavours.

“The main trends we’re seeing are in the chocolate and gummy lolly markets at the moment, which are both pretty dynamic,” she told Food Magazine.

“We’re seeing a lot of sensory things coming through that give you multi dimensional textures and flavours, like the tingling cooling effect and fruit pieces coming through.

“Things that are giving the consumer almost a three dimensional experience with a products are certainly being seen in the chocolate market, which is really tapping into that gourmet part of the market and very much capitalising on very good media on antioxidants with the dark chocolate. 

Cadbury’s Marvellous Creations, which combines a number of different textures, flavours and experiences in one mouthful, launched this month, bringing home Barrington’s point about the increase in sensory experiences in the confectionary market.

“Marvellous Creations was developed in response to Australians telling us they want a chocolate experience to share as part of the family occasion, which is fun, magically exciting and unexpected,” Ben Wicks, General Manager Chocolate, Kraft Foods, told Food Magazine.

“We identified a real opportunity to create a product that is ideal for family sharing and brings everyone together at the end of the day.

“We know that families love the occasional surprise and delight in the unexpected. Marvellous Creations is the ideal way to bring a moment of unexpected joy in the everyday.”

The Marvellous Creations range offers consumers three variations, which may seem like strange combinations at first, but have been met with intrigue in the consumer market.

There’s the peanut, toffee and cookie combination, the jelly and Crunchie bits blend and the jelly, popping candy and beanies offering, all covered in famous Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.

“We tested a number of different flavour combinations with consumers, and had overwhelming positive response to these,” Wicks explained.

“All three variants are performing extremely well, however Jelly Popping Candy Beanies is proving to be particularly popular after just four weeks on shelves,” Wicks told Food Magazine.

The strangest of combinations

Barrington explained that often, combinations of flavours that might sound odd or a little off-putting, in fact turn out to be very popular.

“Certainly the celebrity chef’s and the food shows are bringing a lot of interest into flavours and how they can work together, which means a lot of consumers are more willing to try new things,” she said.

“What we’re also seeing is a lot of different flavour trends coming through, we’re seeing savoury flavours coming into chocolate, thinks like bacon and lime and salt, salted caramel.

“We’re talking about pretty gourmet boutique brands here, but often what we see is that these things bubble away in the boutique market for a while and then it hits the mainstream once it has been accepted and received by consumers.

“It’s how the consumer accepts those new flavours, and often the gourmet boutique brands are the testing ground for new flavours.

“We’re seeing spices coming into chocolate and even into the gum lolly market, as well as some cinnamon and herbs even!

“Herbs and spices are pretty new, but people are familiar with new things coming into chocolate, we’ve seen some floral flavours, like rose. as well.

And while the confectionary industry often seems to stand on its own and march to the beat of its own drum, Barrington explained to Food Magazine that it is not actually as isolated you may think.

“There confectionary industry also often looks to the beverage markets to see some of the flavour trends going on there, because there is quite a lot of alignment,” she said.

“You might see a lot of berry flavours making their way into the beverage market and being very popular and them confectionary makers might try them in their products.

“One of the biggest trends is the expansion of berries of all types, cherry, blackberry, blueberry.

Food scientists and confectionary experts are always hard at work trying to perfect the flavours available to consumers, ensuring they are as realistic as possible.

“There will always be the favourite flavours, which are the basic flavours in confectionary; raspberry, vanilla, lime, but a lot of those flavours have gotten a  lot more sophisticated in their profiles and particular in the flavour experience, they are much truer to type nowadays,” Barrington said.

“Twenty years ago, mango flavour was what they determined mango to be, which was actually nothing like what a mango tasted like.

“Now that mangoes are so readily available and so popular here, the flavour is more true to the fruit, because it has to be.”

How flavours are changing

Beyond the creativity of the industry, and the seemingly endless combinations thought up by confectionary producers, Barrington told Food Magazine the biggest change has not been about adding things, but rather removing.

She’s talking about artificial colours and flavours, which have almost ceased to exist in not only the confectionary industry, but throughout much of the food sector.

“The biggest change across all sectors has been the natural flavours in products aimed at children,” she said.

“Twenty years ago I would say the bulk of flavours were artificial, or synthetic.

“So absolutely, the natural flavours have expanded.

“Back then, the availability to raw flavours was poor but over the last eight to 10 years, the situation has reversed and the major developments in the industry are focused on natural flavours.”

Barrington said greater understanding of the impacts of additives on health has led to widespread developments and improvements to how the flavours are colours are made.

“Now we have a lot more access to natural flavouring materials, whereas before it was very difficult.

“There is a code for how it is determined and there are very strict laws around natural flavouring and labelling your product as such.

“FSANZ [Food Standards Australia New Zealand]has changed the terminology so it is now referred to as a ‘synthetic’ flavour, rather than artificial.

The Australian confectionary industry follows the International Organisation of the Flavour Industry (IOFI) Code of Practice to ensure the health, quality and ingredients of products.

The health factor

While the enjoyment of confectionary cannot be understated, the industry is, understandably, scrutinised as the rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases rise.

In a move sure to upset chocoholics everywhere – but perhaps please their doctors – Mars announced plans in February to stop shipping chocolate bars that exceed 250 calories per portion.

It will mean the king sized chocolate bars made by the confectionary giant, including Snickers, M&M’s, Mars, Milky Way and Dove will effectively be unavailable by the end of 2013.

Even a regular sized Snickers contains 280 calories, but the company advises that it includes three serving sizes.

A king-sized Snickers contains 510 calories.

The family sized blocks of chocolate produced by the company will still be available, as they are intended to be shared.

Some critics came out swinging, accusing Mars of reducing chocolate size to save money on expensive cocoa, but the company said in a statement that it is another move by the company to create healthier products for its consumers.

The company has previously announced aims to reduce sodium levels in all Mars products by 25 per cent from 2007 levels, stop marketing chocolate products directly to children under 12 and it also started displaying calorie counts on the front of packages, eliminating trans fat and reducing saturated fat.

"Mars has a broad-based commitment to health and nutrition, and this includes a number of global initiatives," the company said in a statement.

Initiatives like Mars’ are increasing fast, but not as fast as people’s waistlines.

Of the most pressing concern is the rapidly increasing occurrences of childhood obesity, and as such, there have been calls from medical associations and parenting groups to have all advertising of junk food to children stopped.

A report in May found that children are seeing 60 per cent less junk food advertising during their television programs, following suggestions from the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) that the practise should be stopped, and calls from health groups to ban ads aimed at those under 12.

In 2009 the AFGC suggested that high sugar, fat and salt (HFSS) foods should not be advertised during television programs aimed at children.

Following the suggestion, however, HFSS advertisements aimed at children did not decrease, but rather in some instances actually increased.

The AFGC maintains this rise was the result of scheduling error, but health groups including the Cancer Council, Parents Jury, Australian Medical Association and the Australian Greens called on the government to step in and ban the practise.

The AFGC said the suggestion to ban cartoons in advertising HFSS foods to children was “unnecessary” last year.

The AFGC then released figures in May to support its suggestions, which found the advertising of HFSS foods during children’s programs has fallen to 0.7 per cent between March and May 2011, down 60 per cent from the previous year.

The independent research by the Australian advertising information service Media Monitors was revealed in the RCMI Activity Report 2011, monitored free-to-air television – including digital channels – across Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney 24/7 for 92 days.

The figures prove that the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI), which was started in 2009, is working, according to AFGC Acting Chief Executive Dr Geoffrey Annison.

Under the RCMI, 17 leading food manufacturers have committed to no advertise to children under 12, unless the ads are promoting healthy dietary choices and a healthy lifestyle.

 “The latest advertising figures confirm that adverts are not running during TV programs aimed at children,” Annison said.

Annison said the AFGC is pleased the food industry has made decisions to protect children with industry codes.

“Industry looks forward to continuing discussions with Government and public health advocates to ensure the RCMI is aligned with community expectations, remains practical for industry to implement and is successful in supporting better diets and health outcomes for all Australians.”

Barrington said that while the health and nutrition, particularly of children, is always of concern, confectionary should always be seen and marketed as a ‘sometimes’ food, and should be enjoyed at those times.

“Confectionary is a hard one because if people want chocolate, they want chocolate!

Certainly in that category, consumers won’t compromise on that.”

Well then, back to the factory for the Oompa Loompas!


Packaging receives Halal certification

An Australian developer and manufacturer of sustainable plastics and packaging has received Halal certification for a new range of resins.

Cardia Bioplastics has derived its range of Biohybrid resins from renewable products, which now have formal acknowledgement of compliance with Islamic laws surrounding safety and quality.

Cardia Managing Director Dr Frank Glatz said the certification, announced today on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), is a “commercial milestone” for the company.

“It significantly increases our ability to drive sales as we are able to appeal to a further 1.6 billion potential customers,” he said.

“The global Muslim population is huge and growing and we now have the opportunity to tap into it.

With over a billion Muslims around the world, the sale of Halal certified products is ever-increasing.

In the UK, where 4.6 per cent of the population identify as Muslim, the production of halal meat is rising faster than the number of people of the faith, with an increase of 15 per cent in the last 11 years, according to Professor Bill Reilly, former chairman of the UK Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food.

In May, he accused the local meat industry of increasing the number of animals slaughtered without stunning, claiming it is for religious purposes, when it is actually a financial decision, which he says is “unacceptable.”

In Australia, the concern of slaughtering animals without prior stunning is also of concern, and in late May, New South Wales unveiled new regulations in state abattoirs to ensure the wellbeing and welfare of animals.

The new legislation will require a designated Animal Welfare Officer to be on the premises of any abattoir to oversee and be accountable for the welfare of animals.

But Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy general-secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, has said previously there is a "lot of confusion" over Halal meat.

He said animals can be stunned before slaughter and still be labelled Halal.

"Over 90 per cent of Halal meat is stunned before slaughter," he said.

Last October, Australian agriculture ministers failed to resolve discussions over ritual slaughters, meaning exemptions that allow some Australian abattoirs to conduct slaughter without prior stunning will continue.

There are 12 abattoirs in Australia that are exempt from the regulations that say animals for consumption must be stunned before they are slaughtered.

The exemptions are on religious or cultural grounds, but animal welfare groups want to practice stopped altogether.

The council released a statement following the meeting, saying ministers have reviewed the results of a two-year consultation process with stakeholders and have considered the science involved and the views of religious groups, but could not reach a conclusion.

Up to 250,000 animals are killed without prior stunning in Australia every year under the religious slaughter exemptions and the RSPCA has rejected claims that stunning is not allowed on religious grounds, saying stunning is accepted by the Islamic community and Jewish community and no reason existed for un-stunned slaughter to continue.

The new measures in New South Wales will ensure the meat industry is heading in the right direction, Hodgkinson said.

“These tough new measures are being introduced to foster a culture in which abattoir management and employees fully understand and implement procedures that consistently comply with animal welfare standards.




Nuckin Futs approved for sale in Australia

It seems Australians do still have a sense of humour, after no official complaints were lodged against the “Nuckin Futs” brand name.

A spoof of “f***ing nuts,” the snack food’s name got plenty of publicity early this year, and many thought it to be in bad taste.

A three-month opposition period was then entered into, to allow any person who believed the item should not be sold in Australia, to say so.

But while many people were against the brand name, no formal complaints were made to the trademark examiner, so the name can go ahead.

“Nobody took five minutes out of their day to actually oppose it after all the [abusive] emails we received," Jamie White, the solicitor who submitted the application on behalf of his client, told News Ltd.

“So really do people think it’s that scandalous and really does it impact them at all?”

“People may have been shocked by the trademark but not offended enough to put a stop to it.”

The company argued that the f-word has become a part of the accepted Australian language and therefore the trademark should not be denied.

The trademark examiner has granted permission on the condition it will not market the product to children.


Subway’s chicken fillet is not a fillet at all: chain found in breach of advertising code

Fast-food chain Subway has been forced to rename its Chicken Fillet, after the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) found it to be misleading, because it is not in fact a chicken fillet, but rather processed meat.

The chicken fillet option, which has been available in Australian restaurants for 10 years, will now be referred to as the Classic Chicken, because it is made up of processed meat, shaped together to look like a fillet, and not in fact a genuine chicken fillet, as the name suggests.

Subway is in now in the process of changing signage at its 1300 stores across Australia.

The ASB received a complaint from a consumer who realised the meat was processed.

“I purchased a chicken fillet subway roll and when I got it home I was disgusted to find after biting it that it is in fact a processed chicken piece,” the complaint said.

“My understanding of a chicken fillet is a fillet of chicken not processed chicken meat.”

The restaurant chain tried to defend the name, claiming that because there had not been any other complaints, it should be allowed to stay.

 “The “Chicken Fillet Sub” has been offered for sale in Subway restaurants throughout Australia for at least ten years,” it said in response to the complaint.

“The brand has not substantially changed the formula for the product during this time period.

“The ingredients for the Chicken Fillet in the Chicken Fillet Sub as listed on the brand’s website are as follows: Chicken (82%), Flour (wheat), Water, Mineral Salt (450, 451, 452), Salt, Vegetable Oil, Wheat Starch, Sugar, Herbs and Spices, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein, Egg Albumen, Dehydrated Vegetable (Garlic), Yeast Extract, Soy Sauce (Wheat), Flavours (Wheat, Milk), Maltodextrin, Acidity Regulators (331, 336), Whey Protein (Milk).

Subway blamed the lack of standards as to what constitutes a ‘fillet’ as part of the problem.

“After review, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand does not appear to have a standard of identity or definition for ‘chicken fillet’ and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation does not include it in its terms of ‘Cuts of Chicken Meat’, it said.

“The chicken fillet is a formed product and the brand has been using the descriptor “fillet” on the basis of the shape of the product and that the meat is boneless.

“No reference or claim has been made that the product is from whole muscle and the company has made information about the product readily available to consumers on its website.”

Nonetheless, Subway has decided to change the name of the chicken offering, and not use the word ‘fillet’ when referring to it.

The ABS ruled that while there was no definitive standard on what constitutes a ‘fillet,’ the name insinuates that is a single, quality cut of chicken.

“The Board noted that the prevailing community standard on what a fillet of chicken is, does not include chicken presented in pieces or formed or processed chicken meat.

“In the Board’s view, most members of the community would associate chicken fillets with the breast or thigh portion of the chicken in one whole piece or as a cut of chicken rather than reconstituted into a particular shape.

“Based on the above the Board considered that the advertisement was misleading or deceptive and did breach Section 2.1 of the Food Code.”

Major food companies targeting low income communities more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles

A new report has found that major food processors are targeting low and middle income areas with their unhealthy products, armed with the knowledge that consumption of unhealthy foods is higher in amongst those societal groups.

"There is significant penetration by multinational processed food manufacturers such as Nestle, Kraft, PepsiCo, and Danone into food environments in low-and-middle income countries, where consumption of unhealthy commodities is reaching—and in some cases exceeding—a level presently observed in high income countries", international researchers wrote in this week's PLoS Medicine.

Led by David Stuckler from the Univiversity of Cambridge, the authors from the UK, US and India analysed trends in unhealthy food and beverages, including sugary drinks and processed foods that are high in salt, fat, and sugar, alcohol, and tobacco between 1997 and 2010 and forecasted to 2016.

They discovered that not only is the rate of consumption of unhealthy foods and drinks growing faster in low to middle income communities, it is also growing faster than any high-income market in history.

In April a US study found conclusive evidence that where a child lives has a significant impact on their chances of being obese.

A neighbourhood’s good walkability, proximity to high quality parks, and access to healthy food can lower the chances of being obese by almost 60 per cent, the study found.

Then last month a new Australia-wide study found that people living in rural areas are more likely to consume alcohol and be overweight and obese.

The researchers of the latest study also found that higher intake of unhealthy foods correlates strongly with higher tobacco and alcohol sales.

They believe the global rise of transnational food and drink companies penetrating these areas more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles is a deliberate and dangerous move.

"Until health practitioners, researchers, and politicians are able to understand and identify feasible ways to address the social, economic, and political conditions that lead to the spread of unhealthy food, beverage, and tobacco commodities, progress in areas of prevention and control of non-communicable diseases will remain elusive."

Earlier this month a new study found 95 per cent of Australian children over two exceeded their recommended intake of saturated fat.

NSW govt provides wrong egg-labelling info: consumer watchdog

Consumer watchdog Choice has accused the New South Wales’ government of posting incorrect and confusing information about free-range egg labelling on its website.

On Friday the NSW Food Authority confirmed it had responded to calls for more transparent information on egg labelling and farming practices by creating a new page on its website to explain the laws.

But Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just said the information was incorrect, and that while consumers are willing to pay a premium of up to $5 for free-range eggs, the standards are lacking.

Producers are certified under a number of voluntary codes, and the lack of regulations mean that those who sell eggs from free-range hens which are housed together with other caged hens can still get the free-range certification.

“If you were going to buy free-range eggs and ensure that they met your expectations of free-range, you'd have to stand in front of the shelves, have a smartphone, navigate the site, expand and collapse the drop-down menus on your phone and read the information,'' Just said.

''Imagine a busy mum, who just wants to buy eggs from hens she believes are happy and scratching around, roaming freely and undergoing normal chook-like behaviours,'' she said.

''Consumers take between three and five seconds to choose a product off the shelf – so whilst it's information, it's not user-friendly and it's not helping consumers at that point of sale when they're making the critical selection.''

The maximum stock density for free to roam hens is currently 1500 per hectare, but the website got those figures wrong too, Just explained.

NSW food authority public affairs manager Deborah Smith disagreed with the claims, saying it would stand by its interpretation of stocking density under the code of practice.

In March Western Australia’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food, Paul Papalia, said  that consumers were receiving misleading information by companies finding loopholes in the ‘free range’ definitions.

"In WA there is no regulation or legislation governing the use of the term 'free range' and as a consequence consumers are being ripped off by some people who are claiming free range status on their eggs," he said.

"That is deceptive behaviour on behalf of some of those producers."

But the Agriculture Minister said it is the state government’s responsibility to create rules around the housing of animals on farms, despite the RSPCA branding the decision by the Australian Egg Corporation to increase stock density from 1500 to 2000 per hectare as inhumane.

"It's not our job to regulate things that sit outside of the formal rules around animal welfare and environmental standards," he said.

While the Commercial Egg Producers Association of WA sid it would welcome more regulation on the housing of animals, President John Simpson believes companies have to be realistic.

"I think we've got to move with the times," he said.

"We need to feed the growing population; a lesser density wouldn't achieve those things."

Do you think we need tougher rules about 'free to roam' claims? Do you buy roam free eggs?

Image: Green Pages


McDonald’s takes you behind the scenes, but is is really as it seems?

In an interesting PR move for the fast food giant, McDonald’s has released a video showing why the burgers displayed in its advertising look so different to those actually sold in stores.

As consumers become more aware of the tricks and gimmicks used by food companies to buy their products, McDonald’s Canada has decided transparency is a good move.

The video shows the burger being taken apart and reassembled so that all the ingredients are clearly visible in the advertising.

The appearance of melting cheese is created by a hot iron, and the sauce is carefully placed by a syringe.

The burger perfected by a photographer and food stylist is compared to a Quarter Pounder purchased in a store, and the differences are obvious.

While on the surface, the video is lifting the lid – or seeded bun – on how McDonald’s uses a few tricks to make the food look better, when you dig deeper, their intentions become more obvious.

The tricks that food companies use to make their products look delicious are well known in the industry; everything from nailing pizza to a board, putting marbles in a soup can to make the pasta float to the top and replacing whipped cream with shaving cream to get better peaks went on for years.

The rules surrounding advertising of food products have become more restrictive, but companies all still use some kind of trickery in their ads.

The interesting part of the McDonald’s video is that nothing that is not actually on the burger is placed on the burger used for advertising.

“I think it’s important to note that all the ingredients that Noah [food stylist] uses are the exact same ingredients we use in the restaurant,” Marketing Manager Hope Bagozzi says in the video.

Also interesting is Bagozzi declaring within the first minute, when purchasing a real burger from an outlet, that it is “hot and fresh.”

So, is it a clever marketing ruse in itself, for McDonald’s to proclaim it is being transparent, when there is far more going on under the surface?

You be the judge. Check out the video below.


Coal seam gas is coming to Victoria, and we’re nowhere near ready

Coal seam gas mining is rapidly expanding beyond the eastern basin states. The Inquiry into Greenfields Mineral Exploration and Project Development in Victoria recommends the Victorian Government establish a process to consult stakeholders about the future development of goal seam gas. But Victoria’s laws simply aren’t ready for this new form of mining.

Mining is a relatively small component of the Victorian economy. In 2009-2010 this sector contributed $5.9 billion (2%) of Victoria’s gross state product. The primary focus of the Victorian economy is agriculture, which covers approximately 60% of Victoria. Coal seam gas expansion is likely to have a significant impact on this sector in Victoria. Striking a balance between farming and coal seam gas mining will, however, be difficult. The intersection between mining and agriculture, and in particular the impact that coal seam gas mining will have upon food security, is a major concern.

The Minerals Council of Australia has previously noted that “mining and agriculture” have co-existed for 150 years and that “mining operations' water consumption by volume could be largely offset by minor efficiency gains in the agricultural sector”. The Victorian division of the Minerals Council has largely rejected the impact of mining on food security, saying it’s “not a real concern for Australia”.

These conclusions do not, however, have any real cogency for coal seam gas mining, a new form of mining for Victoria. Any mining activity which diverts and degrades large quantities of water will inevitably have a significant impact upon the agricultural sector in Victoria.

Coal seam gas mining involves extracting methane gas from the coal seam. The extraction process involves the use of vast quantities of water, which is diverted from sub-surface aquifers. This diversion will inevitably affect farmers' and others' pre-existing entitlements to aquifers.

Coal seam gas mining also generates vast quantities of highly saline water. This water needs to be properly disposed or it could contaminate fresh water and cause further environmental degradation. The practice of hydraulic fracturing also has the potential to create connection between sub-surface aquifers, thereby generating cross-contamination.

The existing legislative framework in Victoria is patently inadequate. The current law in Victoria is the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (Vic) (MRSD). The MRSD vests ownership of all minerals, defined to include hydro-carbons contained within coal (and therefore including coal seam gas) in the Crown. The MRSD does not mandate notification or consent from the landowner before mining operations start, but an applicant must get Ministerial approval before commencing work within 100 metres of an existing dwelling.

The MRSD allows licencees to enter into compensation agreements with landowners. However, these agreements relate to loss or damage that has already occurred and, significantly, have no connection to the value of the mineral which is extracted.

The MRSD does require mining applicants to obtain a “statement of economic significance” in circumstances where their application covers agricultural land. The Minister can decide to exempt agricultural land from the application of a mining licence. But this only happens when the Minister decides that there would be greater “economic benefit to Victoria” in continuing the use of the land as agricultural as opposed to developing it for mining.

The MRSD does not clearly delineate how an exemption determination should be assessed. It appears, though, that the decision has an “economic” focus and “employment” and “revenue” considerations are highly relevant. The Greenfields Report has a strong focus on “direct and indirect” financial benefits associated with expanding the resources sector in Victoria. So it’s likely that agricultural exemptions will become increasingly difficult to obtain under the MRSD in the future.

The Greenfields report recommends development of a state-wide integrated, strategic land use policy framework to better manage “competing land uses” in Victoria. This recommendation is best implemented, as has occurred in New South Wales, with a Strategic Regional Land Use Policy. Under the policy, Strategic Regional Land Use Plans (SRLUPs) coordinate water management, water-use conflict and land-management.

This initiative should be reinforced by a code of conduct for coal seam gas mining, mandating land-access arrangements between mining applicants and land-owners and requiring proper and adequate disclosure of the nature and volume of any chemical additives which have been used.

These policies should then be supplemented by comprehensive changes to the MRSD as well as the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic) and the Water Act 1989 (Vic). These would ensure coal seam gas expansion is subjected to appropriate environmental and water licencing regulation.

The government should take the opportunity to engage the public in strategic choices concerning the co-ordination of Victorian resources. It must develop a policy framework capable of properly evaluating the consequences of coal seam gas development. In so doing, it should adopt a precautionary approach, commensurate with public expectations, that takes account of the risk of irreversible harm being inflicted upon Victorian land and the industries and livelihoods dependent on that land.

Samantha Hepburn 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.

The Conversation

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