Swiss invent new pink chocolate

Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut has come up with a new type of chocolate ‘Ruby’ which is made from the Ruby cocoa bean. Ruby chocolate has an intense taste and characteristic pinkish colour.

The Ruby bean is unique because the fresh berry-fruitiness and colour precursors are naturally present. The cocoa beans are sourced from different regions of the world. The bean has a specific set of attributes, which Barry Callebaut managed to unlock through an innovative process that took many years to develop.

According to quantitative research performed by independent international market and consumer agency Haystack, Ruby chocolate meets a consumer need no chocolate ever did before. It’s expected that Ruby, like Dark, Milk and White chocolates will be introduced in different product categories.

The invention of Ruby chocolate is the work of global R&D centers of Barry Callebaut, based in France and Belgium – part of a global network of 28 R&D centers- , the Jacobs University, and over 175 years of expertise in sourcing and manufacturing.

The fourth type in chocolate offers a totally new taste experience, which is not bitter, milky or sweet, but a tension between berry-fruitiness and luscious smoothness. To create Ruby chocolate no berries or berry flavor, nor color, is added.

Ruby chocolate has been tested and validated through extensive consumer research run by independent global research agencies Haystack and Ipsos in the UK, US, China and Japan.

As part of these studies, Ruby’s consumer appeal and purchase intent have been tested, indicating consumers would buy Ruby chocolate at different price points.

 

Russia to ban imports of New Zealand beef

Russia is planning to temporarily ban beef and beef by-products from New Zealand, claiming they contain listeria and ractopamine, a banned feed additive.

AFP reports that Russia’s agricultural safety body Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement that the products had been involved in “repeated violations” of standards.

In addition, the watchdog is considering a similar ban on New Zealand fish because of claims it has been found to contain mercury and listeria microbes.

Chief executive of New Zealand’s Meat Industry Association Tim Ritchie told stuff.co.nz the Ministry for Primary Industries’ residues program had not picked up the presence of ractopamine.

“As far as I’m aware there has been no formal communication through the normal regulatory channels,” he said.

Ractopamine promotes leanness and muscle growth in livestock. In New Zealand, it may be used with pork, but is prohibited for use with sheep and beef cattle.

While it is banned in Russia and the EU, it is allowed in other countries, including the US, Canada and Brazil.

Blue wine gets thumbs down from Spanish authorities

Spanish authorities have told the makers of a beverage containing wine and blue food colouring that they are not permitted to market it as ‘Blue Wine’.

The beverage, called Gik, contains a blend of red and white wine as well as anthocyanin from the skin of red grapes and an organic pigment, indigotine which give it its blue colour.

According to the Local, the ruling was made on the grounds that wine has traditionally been red, white or Rose. There is no history of blue wine.

In an online petition against the ruling, the beverage makers complained that they now have to market the beverage in the “Other alcoholic drinks” category.

“This is unfair for all you who trust us, because you have the right to enjoy the original product; and it is absurd too, as its composition is 100 per cent wine,” the petition said.

“We had to change the composition to 99 per cent wine and 1 per cent grape to adapt the product to the current legislation.”

How Brexit threatens Britain’s food security

The situation created by the British vote to leave the European Union is momentous for UK food. It is on a par with the Repeal of the Corn Laws of 1846 when Britain decided its Empire could feed it, not its own farmers. And it is as important as the creation of the Agriculture Act of 1947 when after two bruising wars in which the population faced serious risk of starvation, the country decided to put its food house in order – to produce more of what it could and look after the land.

Those events set the tone and framework for UK food for decades after. Brexit will do the same. It doesn’t help that the political elites are now knifing each other in a distraction from the genuine, looming effects.

My concern is that the security of food might get lost in the debacle. The UK must not let that happen. Food stocks are low in a just-in-time economy, an estimated three to five days’ worth. The UK doesn’t feed itself. It has dropped to 61% self-sufficiency, Defra reported last month. The UK has quietly become a “neo-imperialist” food economy, using other people’s land and low wage labour to feed people while consumers subsidise rich landowners and keep their land values high. The UK gets 30% of UK food from the EU. That rises to 40% for horticultural produce, of which consumers eat too little for health.

Shelf life?
Erica Zabowski/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Vulnerabilities

The Brexit vote was always a risk. That’s why we in the Food Research Collaboration, a 500+ network of academics and civil society (www.foodresearch.org.uk), wrote and published reports assessing the food situation in the UK and EU. Our verdict is sober. Brexit looks likely to mean destabilisation just when we need to focus on pressing issues like food’s impact on climate change and obesity. In the short term, a weaker pound means imports cost more. And the UK’s food system is already pretty vulnerable to shock. Chief scientists have been warning as much for years.

In truth, the EU’s leadership on food and agriculture has been timid. We should not forget, however, that there have been important gains from Europe: cleaner water, controls on agrichemicals, tougher food standards. But as the UK cuts loose, a decades-old failure to invest in food skills and equitable infrastructure for sustainable development will be exposed. Are Brexiters ready to go into the picking fields and factories where foreigners work?

Part of the challenge now is the UK’s love of cheap food. This was the legacy of the Repeal of the Corn Laws which sought cheap food for workers. Cheapness as efficiency is still central to the neoliberal project today, as Michael Gove stated in the referendum campaign. But in food, cheapness encourages waste and makes us fat. Good diets are too expensive for the poor.

UK farming: ploughing a lonely furrow?
Anguskirk/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

The UK faces harsh food times ahead, but they have been a long time coming. Diet-related ill-health is very costly. Life expectancy gaps are shocking in an unequal society. The Brexit victors are worryingly vague about what to do next. There was no plan for farming, according to Liz Truss, the Secretary of State at Defra.

My understanding is that some attempts are now underway but Defra is so weakened, we cannot expect much. Some Brexiters want a quick food exit, a total severance of regulations negotiated at Brussels, especially environmental and health ones. Others do not. Some want an end to farm subsidies. Others merely seek their repatriation. It is worth noting here that despite the image of an the EU run by totalitarian eurocrats, how many know there are just 1,000 civil servants running the vast EU Common Agricultural Policy compared to 2,000 civil servants running England’s (let alone Scotland’s or Wales’) agriculture?

The referendum debate was dominated by migration, national identity and by the nebulous idea of “taking back control”. But there’s still no clarity from Brexiters about whether the role model is to be Norway, Albania, Canada or Switzerland. Most Brexit leaders aren’t even considering that food arrives on our plates from shops not farms. In fact, food traders rule the modern food economy. Millions of food contracts depend on cross continental supply chains. It’s why roads are clogged with food wagons. The food system is heavily tied into Europe. To sever this web will be a task awesome and unprecedented in complexity.

Risky talks

To make matters worse, the Labour shadow Cabinet Minister on Food, Environment & Rural Affairs, Kerry McCarthy, a decent person interested in her brief, has resigned. This makes it all the more important for forces and views outside Parliament to get our act together and articulate what we think is needed as the country negotiates a new future. Some such meetings are being organised.

No such thing as a free lunch.
Laura Billings/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Brexit negotiations, if they do happen, must not be an excuse to hand over more wealth to the already wealthy or let only the well-off be well fed. There are already major challenges to the food system as the UK seeks to decarbonise it and shift diets away from overconsumption of ultra-processed foods – the major cause of non-communicable disease.

There is a risk that health and environment are side-lined to the edges of policy reformulation. If the Brexiters hark back to UK self-determination, they need to be reminded that the reality was a mix of Empire-sourcing or panicky direct action in wars, most plainly exposed in 1939. The Brexit euphoria won’t last long if food prices rise or shelves empty. This needs planning. And that’s not what the Brexit elite want. They believe markets rule. But not many of them know what a real food market looks like. They think it’s what happens on brokers’ dealing screens, not what we are able to put on our families’ plates.

The Conversation

Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University London

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

Hep A outbreak linked to frozen berries

A Hepatitis A outbreak in Europe has struck at least 71 people, believed to be linked to frozen berries used in smoothies.

According to Food Safety News, at least 35 people have fallen ill in Denmark, and another 36 across Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Swedish authorities have announced that so far this year, the country is experiencing ten times to normal number of Hep A cases.

While most affected patients have reported consuming berries or smoothies close to the time that they fell ill, investigators haven't yet established a particular brand or berry origin responsible.

Hepatitis A has an incubation period of between 15 and 50 days, and due to the delay involved in reporting the disease, authorities are expecting more cases to emerge in the near future.

 

Nestlé to develop iconic Italian chocolate brand internationally

Nestlé has announced a significant investment in Baci Perugina to further strengthen this iconic Italian chocolate brand on the world stage.

The company will extend and modernise its factory in San Sisto commune and establish a new business unit to drive global growth for its Italian chocolate business. This includes investing in marketing to grow Baci Perugina sales abroad.

Baci Perugina is already established as an historical brand in Italy. Now the company is looking to further its presence in its home country and also to make it into a symbol of ‘Made in Italy’ around the world.

The move will start with the set-up of the new Confectionery International Business Unit, which the Group has entrusted to Valeria Norreri, one of the key managers responsible for international expansion of S. Pellegrino brand (1.3 billion bottles sold in 145 countries).

Her work greatly contributed to transforming a mineral water into a product now recognized all around the world as a synonym of Italian excellence in the food and beverage market.

"I enthusiastically accepted this nomination; for me it is a new, exciting challenge" said Valeria Norreri, Nestlé Italy Confectionery IBU Manager.

"Baci Perugina has an exceptional legacy of tradition. Sales results of several countries confirm that the product has the potential to win in foreign markets. Now we have the opportunity to develop its value in international markets, relying on the Italian talent that combines the quality of know-how with passion and lifestyle. It’s more than just chocolate: we will tell the pleasure of surrounding with small things, gestures of love, and Italian-style flirting to create unforgettable moments made in Baci Perugina".

Already today, 40% of the volume produced at San Sisto goes to foreign markets, with Nestlé chocolate bars for all Europe. The modernization plan will increase the factory competitiveness, in order to sustain the business expansion plan.

Singapore conglomerate bids for ownership of Peroni and Grolsch

Singapore’s Fraser and Neave has confirmed that it hopes to buy into the European beer market through the purchase of Peroni and Grolsch from Anheuser-Busch InBev

The chief executive of F&N’s parent company, Thai Beverage, said the bid was non-binding and an attempt by the group to expand into premium brands with strong market positions.

According to Thai Beverage chief executive Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, the company was among several bidders going through to the final stages of an auction to buy the two brands in a deal that the news wire speculates could be worth up to US$3.24bn.

“We constantly evaluate and look out for strategic opportunities to grow its business, and in this respect, it has expressed an interest to acquire the Peroni and Grolsch beer brands,” Thapana said.

“However, the company would like to emphasise that there is no certainty of any transaction materialising and it will make appropriate announcements if and where there are any material developments in this matter.”

In a bid to gain regulatory approval for a US$100 billion-plus takeover of SABMiller that made headlines last year, AB InBev is looking to shed some of its brands, including Peroni and Grolsch. 

Clean Label Concepts to Dominate at Fi Europe 2015

Consumers seeking complex foods with a short and simple ingredient list are being encouraged to visit the 2015 Food ingredients Europe & Natural ingredients event.

Approximately 60 per cent of European consumers look at the ingredient list and claims on the back, suggesting that they are demanding shorter and more recognisable ingredient lists on the foods they buy.

Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights, said “This demand for clean labels has now brought the need for clear labelling equally to the fore.”

For a product to be marked as “Free from artificial ingredients”, producers tend to incorporate as many natural ingredients as possible –highlighting the naturalness and origin to the customer.

By reformulating products to explore new avenues of communication, Williams believes that the broader industry will be encouraged to move to clearer and simpler claims and packaging designed for maximum transparency.

Although there are no standard labelling applications in place in the industry, ‘a clean label’ that signifies the removal of ingredients from the formulation can ensure that the product ranges meet quality standards without compromising the brand.

Williams claims that customers will soon have the potential to turn to the company for possibilities to replace cost-intensive ingredients such as fat or proteins with starch from the Clean Label Range.

Thirst for champagne continues: export figures

Last year, Australia imported more than six million bottles of champagne, a rise of 1.4 percent, which makes Australia the sixth largest export market in the world.

To be exact, Australia imported 6,023,165 bottles in 2013, behind Belgium – the fifth largest export market – which imported 9,525,304 (a rise of 14.15 percent) bottles.

The Comite Champagne figures show that 304 million bottles were shipped in 2013, a decrease in volume of 1.5 percent compared to 2012, however this is seen as a satisfactory result considering the difficult economic environment in Champagne’s main European markets.

Shipments to France fell by 2.3 percent and 3.4 percent to the European Union, but continued to increase (by 3.2 percent) to the rest of the world.

Champagne: top 10 export markets

  1. UK
  2. USA
  3. Germany
  4. Japan
  5. Belgium
  6. Australia
  7. Italy
  8. Switzerland
  9. Spain
  10. Sweden

The Comite Champagne is the trade association that represents the interests of independent Champagne producers (vignerons) and Champagne Houses.

 

Flatulent cow treated for burns after dairy farm explosion

Methane gas from 90 cows led to an explosion on a dairy farm in Germany on Monday.

According to Reuters, the explosion, caused by a “static electric charge”, damaged the roof of the farm, which had high levels of methane gas.

One cow has been treated for burns.

 

Pass the shiraz: variety the spice of life for Australian wine growers

The world’s wine markets have become far more competitive over the past decade, but despite the competition, Australia’s mix of winegrape varieties is not very different from the rest of the world’s. Since 2000, it has become even less differentiated.

Wine producers are always on the lookout for new ways to differentiate their product to attract and retain consumer (and supermarket) attention, but Australia to date has made little headway in diversifying its vineyards.

Even though there are very large differences in growing conditions across Australia, cross-regional varietal differences within Australia are much less than is the case within other countries. This suggests there is plenty of scope to explore alternative varieties in the various regions of Australia – something grapegrowers are doing in any case as they consider ways to adapt to climate changes.

These are some of the insights gleaned from a new resource that reveals what winegrape varieties are grown where in the world, and offers winemakers data that could be used to make critical decisions.

Climate adaptation by Australia vignerons, for example, could involve switching to more resilient southern European grape varieties, and/or sourcing grapes from higher latitude or altitude regions if wineries’ wish to retain their current mix of grape varieties. And growing novel varieties could generate a point of difference in a winery’s offering. Responding in these ways requires information on trends in varietal plantings here and abroad.

The 2010 database compiled by researchers at the University of Adelaide includes 520 regions in 44 countries, thereby covering 99% of global wine production; and it includes over 1,270 winegrape varieties.

Measuring uniqueness

The researchers developed a Varietal Similarity Index, or VSI, to measure how close one region’s varietal mix is to another’s. This indicator has a complex formula, but it simply ranges between zero and one. A VSI value of zero means a region’s varietal mix has no overlap at all with that of another region (or the rest of the world, or its own region in a different year), while a VSI value of one means the two regions have exactly the same shares of bearing area under particular grape varieties.

In 2000 the VSI between Australia and the world was 0.45, which was 9th highest in the world. But it rose to 0.62 by 2010, making it 3rd highest in the world after France and (marginally) the United States. Meanwhile, the average of the VSIs for all other countries in the sample hardly changed, at 0.35. In other words, Australia was much less distinct than the average country in its varietal mix in 2000, and its distinctiveness became even less so by 2010.

 

Winemakers are looking to alternative grape varieties in response to changing climates. RobW_/Flickr

How different are wine regions within Australia?

Notwithstanding the very large differences in growing conditions across the country, varietal differences between regions within Australia are more muted than is the case within other countries. The average of its regional VSIs of 0.53 is not much below Australia’s national VSI of 0.62 in 2010, and is almost double the average regional VSI of other countries in the sample. In France for example, where each region is required by law to grow only a small number of varieties that have been designated as most suitable for that region, the average of its regional VSIs is 0.29.

True, some regions in Australia have managed to pull away from the pack and so are more differentiated from the national mix now than in 2000. However, a little over one-fifth of Australia’s 74 regions in the database, comprising 40% of the national winegrape area in 2010, changed their varietal mix hardly at all (the VSI of their mix in 2010 vis-à-vis 2000 was 0.97 or higher). For another one-fifth of Australia’s regions, accounting for 22% of the national area, their VSI was 0.95 or 0.96. It was only the small remainder of regions, comprising only about one-third of Australia’s winegrape area, that had a VSI between their varietal mix in 2000 and 2010 that was less than 0.95.

How important are emerging varieties becoming in Australia?

 

Emerging winegrape varieties in Australia – 2001 to 2012. Blank spaces mean data are unavailable, rather than zero. Anderson and Aryal (2013a), ABS (2012) and Phylloxera Board of SA (2013). 

There are only 10 varieties whose areas in Australia have grown significantly from less than 200 bearing hectares since 2000 (left-had side of table above), if one ignores varieties in the world’s top 20 list. Furthermore, in aggregate those ten raised their share of Australia’s total area by only 1.7%.

Increase in bearing area by variety, Australia, 2001 to 2012. Derived from Anderson and Aryal (2013a) and ABS (2012).

 

The eight varieties whose area in Australia expanded most over the first decade of this century (see chart above) are, apart from Viognier, all in the top 20 globally. The share for Shiraz alone rose 6 percentage points over that decade, while Chardonnay’s rose 5 points and the shares of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris each rose 2 points. And two-thirds of what has been removed in Australia since 2000 is Sultana, whose area globally fell by three-quarters over the 2000-10 period – adding to the country’s drift towards the global norm. The right-hand side of the table above refers to those very minor varieties whose plantings have taken off in the past few years. But these make up only a small fraction of 1% of the national area.

What role for Shiraz?

World’s top 35 wine varieties in 2010, compared with 1990 and 2000. Anderson (2013, Chart 12).

 

Australia popularised Shiraz/Syrah in the 1990s, which led to many other countries expanding their plantings of this variety. In 1990 it was 35th in the area ranking of all winegrape varieties globally. But by 2000 its area had trebled, and by 2010 that had nearly doubled again, bringing Shiraz to the 6th position on that global ladder and just below the areas of the two now-most-widespread varieties, namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (see chart above).

Australia contributed to that expanding area of Shiraz, but expansion was even greater in France and Spain. There were also large plantings in other key New World wine countries, and in Italy and Portugal. As a result, Australia is no longer as globally dominant in this variety: its share of the global Shiraz area has dropped from 29% in 2000 to 23% in 2010 – even though Shiraz has increased its share of Australia’s own vineyards over that decade, from 22% to 28%. Partly because of these changes for Shiraz, the mix of varieties in Australian vineyards is becoming more like the global average.

What next?

Evidently, Australia’s mix of winegrape varieties is not very different from the rest of the world’s, leaving plenty of scope to explore alternatives.

Australia may have made little headway in diversifying its vineyards to date, but there is much discussion of alternative or emerging varieties in the media and at conferences. Consumers will hope this leads to greater diversity in future as wine growers continue to strive to understand their terroir and raise the quality of their offering.

Kym Anderson receives funding from Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation.

The Conversation

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

 

New silos “future proof” Fonterra site

Fonterra has announced the installation of two new milk silos at its Cobden manufacturing site in south-west Victoria.

The almost $1 million capital expenditure is part of a $20 million dollar investment package to modernise Fonterra’s sites across south-west Victoria over the next three years.

According to Rob Howell, Cobden site manager, the new silos will create production efficiencies and allow for any potential, future increase in the site's capacity.

"The new silos are really all about future-proofing the Cobden site. They will generate good productivity gains and support future growth, which is great news for our suppliers," he said.

"Fonterra remains deeply committed to manufacturing in south-west Victoria, so we are pleased we can invest to modernise the site and continue to deliver high quality dairy products to our valued customers."

Cobden manufactures a range of products including the popular Western Star butter, as well as cream and milk powders. The site is one of Fonterra’s 10 manufacturing sites in Australia.

Earlier this year, the multi-national dairy company announced it will be investing more than $100m in a new UHT milk processing plant at its Waitoa site in New Zealand's Waikato region. The plant is expected to enable Fonterra to increase its UHT production by 100 percent over the next few years, and will include five new UHT lines producing a range of products including UHT white milk and UHT cream for the foodservice sector.

It also teamed up with A-ware Food Group, a partnership which will see the development of a new cheese plant and dairy ingredients plant in the north of the Netherlands.

Fonterra has also recently announced a corporate shake-up, with the appointment of its new Australian managing director, Judith Swales.

 

Chemical in food packaging harms unborn babies, says report

France’s health authority has released a report that highlights the toxic effects of an industrial chemical used in food packaging on pregnant women and their unborn child.

Exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) for a baby in the womb can result in a vast range of health and behavioural problems later in life, including breast cancer.

The report, released publicly on Tuesday by the French National Agency for Health, Food, Environment and Work Safety (ANSES), said BPA has been consumed by entire western populations.

In recent years, BPA, which is present in items like tins, boxes, bottles and dental fillings, has caused concern as an ‘endocrine disruptor’, due to its ability to imitate oestrogen and disrupt the hormone systems in humans and animals.

“In certain situations the exposure of a pregnant woman to BPA presents a risk for the mammary gland of the unborn child,” ANSES wrote.

“The identified effects concern a modification of the structure of the mammary gland in the unborn child, which could increase the risk of late tumour development.”

The Guardian reported pregnant supermarket check-out operators are particularly at risk of exposure to BPA through the thermal paper used in till receipts. This puts their children at risk of behavioural issues, obesity and reproductive problems.

Health risks posed by BPA have been an issue for twenty years, but ANSES says its research is the first to present scientific results with research on the population and environment. It did point out, however, that the risks are still considered moderate due to lack of further research.

The report said between 20 and 25 per cent of pregnant women are exposed to levels of BPA exceeding the indicated safe amount by the health agency.

ANSES said the biggest offender is food, making up 84 per cent of a pregnant woman’s exposure to BPA. Half of this comes from epoxy resins used to line food tins. Bottled water also poses a risk.

Kit Kat’s recalled in nine countries

Kit Kat is recalling seven of varieties of chocolate bars after seven people reported finding small pieces of plastic in the bars.

The recall affects 48g size bars in Peanut Butter, Hazelnut, Choc Fudge and Caramel flavours and Kit Kat Chunky Collection Giant Eggs.
 

Whilst originating in the UK, the recall also affects:

  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Malta
  • Austria
  • Singapore
  • Philippines
  • Canada
  • Ireland

“Seven consumers in the UK have told us they found a piece of plastic in the product.” said Nestle in a statement.

“So far, we have not received any other similar complaints, but to avoid any risk whatsoever to our consumers, we have decided to voluntarily recall the entire production of these four Kit Kat Chunky varieties and Kit Kat Chunky Collection Giant Egg manufactured from September 2012.”

“The safety and quality of our products are non-negotiable priorities for the company. We sincerely apologize to our consumers for any inconvenience caused by this voluntary recall.”

The recall will not affect Australia.

Previously Nestle has recalled Milkybar Buttons after rubber contamination in 2011, and contaminated cookie dough in 2009

 

 

Living to tell the tail: how and why Australia survived the horse meat scandal

The horse meat scandal was devastating for a number of international brands, forced to pull their products from the shelves and deal with the subsequent loss in consumer confidence. Australia stands unscathed from the whole incident. How? And why? Danielle Bowling reports.

It was the story that just wouldn’t go away. Every day there was a new headline and a new development; a new brand embroiled in the horse meat scandal, which triggered several product recalls, formal investigations and even arrests.

Supermarket chains Tesco and Aldi recalled their frozen spaghetti and lasagne products, produced by French supplier, Comigel, amid concerns over its Findus beef lasagne product.

After the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found horse DNA in burger products, ten million were pulled from the various supermarket shelves across Europe. Even furniture retailer IKEA became involved, recalling its meatball products across Europe after tests in the Czech Republic discovered some meatballs sold in the chain’s cafeterias contained horse meat. The affected batch had been distributed to Britain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Slovakia, Hungary, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland.

The scandal even spread to Asia with Hong Kong authorities ordering supermarket chain, ParknShop, to remove lasagnes made by frozen food company Findus, one of the firms at the centre of the scandal.
French meat processing firm, Spanghero, is said to be at the heart of the scandal, allegedly passing off more than 700 tonnes of horsemeat as beef, with manufacturers none the wiser, and is no longer allowed to stock frozen meat.

Dodged the bullet
Australia, thankfully, steered clear of the whole situation. But how?
The Australian Food and Grocery Council’s deputy chief executive, Jeffrey Annison, told Food magazine the European horse meat scandal demonstrated to Australian food manufacturers that the food supply chain is a safe and effective one.

“I think that if it had any impact here it was to remind us all in the food industry and the wider community of the importance of focusing on the things that the food industry does well in Australia, which is to make sure the integrity of the food supply is maintained and that’s in terms of quality of product, safety of product and correct information going out to the consumer about the product,” he said.

The four key pillars of an effective food supply, he says, are a strong regulatory system; an understanding that food safety and food security are built on food quality and safety plans; an appropriate monitoring and surveillance system; and traceability up and down the food supply system.

Australian manufacturers – and perhaps more importantly, consumers – need to understand that the problems overseas were to do with illegal activity, not industry negligence.

“So those are the four pillars, and those are designed to protect against inadvertent loss of quality or safety,” Annison says, “of course what happened in Europe was food adulteration, so it was driven by profit rather than accidental contamination. Now that’s harder to control but you still need strong regulatory systems and monitoring systems.

“The usual driver for food adulteration is criminal profit, and against the backdrop of having relatively cheap foodstuffs in Australia, there’s less drive for criminals to wish to come in and make a profit,” Annison said. “If you have relatively cheap beef, there’s no advantage to trying to substitute it with horse meat.”

Peter Day, director of compliance and enforcement at the NSW Food Authority, agrees, and says Australia’s geographical isolation is one of the main reasons why local manufacturers weren’t caught up in the scandals that their European counterparts were.

“I think we’re lucky in Australia because it’s a different situation to Europe, in many cases, because we’ve got a border. We don’t have a single marketplace and so we don’t import a lot of meat either. Generally, speaking, meat’s fairly cheap over here as well, so there’s a ready supply of cheap, manufacturing meat around,” Day says.

“The other issue is that a lot of companies are actually banned from importing meat products into Australia because of the Mad Cow issue. So only a very limited number of countries can import cooked meat into Australia.”

By and large, Australian manufacturers don’t import meat because financially it doesn’t make sense when we can more easily produce our own top quality, affordable and traceable meat products. We also have a very effective, thorough screening and testing process, says Day.

“We had a royal commission 20-plus years ago and since then AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) has been doing species testing on a lot of meat samples going out of the country to overseas markets, and domestic regulators, like ourselves, do routine surveillance programs. Last year we took 100 samples to see what we would pick up. You simply cant sample every single product, but you’re casting a net over it to make sure that no problems show up.”

So what did we learn?
In the wake of the horse meat scandal, and despite already having effective testing procedures in place, Day said many regulators will tighten up their systems even more.

“I think it was probably a bit of a wake up call to both regulators and the industry in general, looking at their current systems of detecting and trying to eliminate this type of thing from happening here. I know in NSW we had a program in place anyway and we looked at it and where necessary we’ve actually enhanced the program of testing.

“We do testing on cooked and raw meat samples for species. So we looked at things to make sure that we were covering everything. So, do we need to cover other areas that we weren’t normally covering? We were making sure we had access to labs and so on. We did a bit of a review to make sure that our program was still current given the information that was coming in from Europe,” he said.

“And we found that our system was fairly good in terms of the testing systems out there. But I think for Australian regulators there was a need for a review, to see how they were conducting surveillance operations.”

Day said he’s expecting more labs to be conducting species tests moving forward, especially because manufacturers now want to confirm, via routine sampling and as an assurance to supermarkets, that what they say they’re producing is exactly what they are producing.

Perhaps the most important lesson for manufacturers is the importance of monitoring your suppliers.

The AFGC’s Jeffrey Annison said while Australian companies are already quite good at this, it’s never something you can be complacent about.

“I think every time there’s a food safety incident, it’s a reminder that the manufacturers are very reliant on the integrity of their suppliers and they need to make sure that they can check on that through establishing strong relationships and agreements about product specifications and so forth,” he said.

Peter Day agrees, and is clear in his advice to manufacturers. “Audit your suppliers. Check your suppliers out. Have a specification sheet which stipulates what you require from them and then rest that the make sure what you want is what you’re getting."

Supermarkets hold manufacturers to very tight specifications and manufacturers need to be able to say – and prove – that what is on their label’s product is completely accurate.

European consumers have no doubt been left shaken and surely cynical on the food processing industry as a result of the horse meat scandal. But are Australian consumers aware of how protected Australia was throughout the whole ordeal? Will they be skeptical, albeit unnecessarily, of Australian products?

Day believes the biggest problem in Europe now is that well-known brands have been tarnished, and when consumer confidence is lost, it’s very hard to get back. The thorough testing and screening processes which Australia’s food manufacturing industry can boast should reassure consumers that they are indeed getting what they are asking for.

“I think Australian consumers probably don’t think a lot about where their food comes from until something like this happens. They don’t think about all the links involved in being a food manufacturer and [in getting a product] to a store freezer. This incident highlights the length of the food chain thesedays, from farm to factory. It heightens concerns by consumers out there of the system, but they can have confidence that it’s being dealt with and there are programs in place to look out for that sort of thing in Australia.”

image: www.custom-industrial-services.com

 

Aussie manufacturer praised on world stage with organic win

In an Australian first, the Right Food Group, based in NSW's Murwillumbah, has taken out the Best New Grocery Product award at the world's largest organic trade show, the Biofach World Organic Trade Fair.

The manufacturer took out the title for its Organic Noodle Kitchen range. which comprises six packets of traditional steam, curly soup and instant noodles in a range of flavours and forms including beetroot, charcoal, aoba, udon, spirulina and wholewheat.

The Right Food Group beat hundreds of others in the cooking and baking category, and general manager, Neil Sallaway, said "This was our first time at the prestigious BioFach Fair in Germany. We entered the competition for experience only so we are still astonished that it beat the rest of the world in the new product competition."

Manager of Australian Organic, Holly Vyner, added, "This is the first time an Australian company has won the award. Many of the entries in the competition were from large international corporations so it's an achievement for a regional NSW-based company to take out the award."

BioFach has over 40,000 visitors across the globe and this year it featured over 600 new products from more than 2,300 exhibitors.

 

Another food recall at IKEA

It's been a tough couple of weeks for IKEA, which has now recalled its almond and butterscotch cake from in-store restaurants in 23 countries, including Australia, after the discovery of a type of bacteria typically found in faeces.

Samples of the cake that were sent to China were found to have the bacteria, known as Coliform.

IKEA, which has seven Australian stores, released a statement confirming that traces of coliform bacteria were found in two batches of the cake produced for its restaurants by one supplier in Sweden, reports Good Food.

"The batches in question affect the IKEA restaurant in Australian stores," the statement reads. 

"We have withdrawn this item from our restaurant. The Swedish Food Market is not affected as this product is from a different production batch that is not in question or of concern."

Coliform bacteria is found in the environment as well as in faeces. The bacteria itself is generally of no danger to consumers, but it points to a potential presence of other pathogens like E coli.

IKEA stated that it tested the contaminated samples of the cake for of E coli, and that no traces have been found.

Via email, a company spokeswoman said, “There is no health risk associated with consuming this product.

“However, since the product does not comply with our strict food quality standards we have decided to withdraw the concerned production batches from sales in our restaurants," she added. 

This recall follows another recent food scare at the furniture retailer. IKEA was earlier this month embroiled in the international horse meat sage, with traces of horse meat found in samples taken from meatballs labelled as 'beef and pork' at IKEA's Brno outlet in the Czech Republic.. The affected batch had also been distributed to Britain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Slovakia, Hungary, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland.

 

Fonterra and A-ware team up for new European plant

Dairy company, Fonterra, and A-ware Food Group have confirmed a partnership which will see the development of a new cheese plant and dairy ingredients plant in the north of the Netherlands.

At the site, located in Heerenveen, A-ware will operate a cheese plant and alongside it, Fonterra will oversee a dairy ingredients plant. Cheese will be produced  for A-ware customers in Eirope and the whey and lactose produced will be processed into dairy ingredients for Fonterra's global customer-base.

Fonterra CEO, Theo Spierings, said the investment fitted well with the strategic priorities of both companies.

"Fonterra has substantial intellectual property in the manufacture of functional whey protein ingredients and has been looking for some time for a source of high quality whey to enable it to commercialise these innovations for customers around the world."

Jan Anker, A-ware Food Group CEO, added, "A-ware is well placed to integrate the new cheese plant into its supply chain so it can expand its service offering with increased flexibility for a growing customer base in Europe."

Construction of both plants is due to be completed in late 2014.

News of the agreement between Fonterra and A-ware comes just a week after it was announced that Fonterra will invest more than $100m in a new UHT milk processing plant at its Waitoa site in New Zealand's Waikato region.

 

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

 

IKEA cuts meatballs after horsemeat finding

Furniture shop IKEA is the latest retailer caught up in the horse meat scandal, stopping nearly all sales of its meatballs across Europe.

Tests in the Czech Republic discovered some meatballs sold in IKEA's cafeterias contained horse meat.

According to ABC, inspectors took samples from meatballs labelled as 'beef and pork meatballs' at IKEA's Brno outlet. The affected batch had also been distributed to Britain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Slovakia, Hungary, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland.

US, Canadian, Australian and Japanese stores are unaffected.

Other brands embroiled in the scandal include Nestle, which removed beef pasta meals from shelves in Italy and Spain after traces of horse DNA were discovered; as well as the Tesco supermarket chain and lasagne manufacturer, Findus.