The importance of food and beverage labelling

Food labelling – it can be a minefield. In an era of food allergens, many imported products, as well as a bevy of health and safety regulations, food and beverage manufacturers have their work cut out for them to make sure they create products that meet a wide range of food regulations.

It’s something not lost on Fiona Fleming who is the managing director of the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST), which is the body for food industry professionals who work in many different fields within the food and beverage industry. Fleming knows that food labelling can be a difficult subject to navigate, especially for those just starting out in the industry.

What are the main issues surrounding food labelling? Correct labelling of imported foods and declaration of food allergens provide significant challenges, according to Fleming. Australia does appear to be the food allergy capital of the world, with Melbourne leading the way.

There is no single reason for this, more a myriad of causes – peoples’ diets have changed, more sufferers are reporting their allergies and, in the case of Melbourne, some researchers believe low levels of vitamin D contribute due to the city’s cooler climate and children spending less time outdoors in the sun.

READ MORE: Six reasons why food labelling is important

Whatever the reason, consumption of a food allergen can have fatal consequences for those who are allergic to that food or foods. For someone with a severe allergy, exposure to the allergen can cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis which affects the whole body, often within minutes of exposure.

“They key allergens of concern in Australia and New Zealand are egg, milk, peanut, fish, crustacea, peanuts, soybeans, sesame seed, tree nuts, wheat and other gluten containing cereals, and lupin,” Fleming said.

“These are required to be labelled when present in a food under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. And just to add to the confusion, both for those on the ground in Australia and those wanting to import food products, allergens required to be labelled in one country might not always be required to be labelled in another.”

For example, in Europe, mustard and celery are allergens that must be labelled, whereas in Australia they are not on the list of food allergens required to be labelled.

“Any ingredient that is in a food product has to be labelled, and it is up to the importer to ensure that foods they bring into Australia and New Zealand have the correct allergen declarations to comply with ANZ requirements,” Fleming said.

“Australian and NZ manufacturers have gone further with labelling following best practice guidance developed by the food industry. For example, allergen names are highlighted in bold text in the ingredient list which helps consumers when purchasing products.”

Food allergens are not the only important piece of information that needs to be put on food labels.

For imported foods, all of this information is required to be provided in English, meaning labels must be translated accurately and completely. Failure to include all of the information can potentially result in a costly product recall and injury to consumers.

Importers of foods into Australia have to be responsible and realise that ignorance of local labelling laws is no excuse if the correct information is not available to the buying public. There is an over-riding premise in law that ignorance of law is no defence.

“All food companies have an obligation to know the regulations under which they must operate, and they have an overriding obligation to provide food that is safe and suitable,” Fleming said.

“Accurate food labelling is important for ensuring food safety, and ignorance of the labelling requirements is no defence.”

First and foremost, manufacturers tend to initially concentrate on the product itself. Is it tasty? How much will it cost to produce? Where can we source the ingredients? Can we outsource the manufacturing of our product, or can we set up or own manufacturing facility?

Once a manufacturer gets their head around what is involved in crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, correct labelling can sometimes be intimidating and time consuming. But there is help available.

Fleming is the first to acknowledge that there no easy route to labelling food and beverage products.

“Food labelling is quite complex,” said Fleming. “I do recognise that it is very hard to start up a food manufacturing enterprise because sometimes companies don’t know where to go to find the information they need.

“There are certainly organisations that provide training in food labelling. If you are in NSW, for example, you can go to the NSW Food Authority’s website where there is a lot of good information for starting a business, and they have some basic information around requirements for food labelling.”

The final piece of advice Fleming would give is with regard to preservatives and additives in food products. They, too, have to be approved for use, and labelled as part of the ingredient listing on products.

“Australia is a small country, population wise, and we import a lot of our products,” Fleming said.

“It is important to remember that just because something is approved to be used in a food product overseas, it doesn’t mean it’s been approved to be used here.

It can be challenging negotiating the regulations, but it is very important for companies to be aware of the requirements and put steps and processes in place to ensure they have the information and knowledge they need to ensure their products are fully compliant.

“I know that sometimes information is not easy to find, but there are also food consultants out there who can assist. The AIFST website has a page that lists members who are consultants and provide this sort of assistance to food companies.”

There are also tools available to food manufacturers developed by the food industry to assist with collection of information and labelling. For example, the Product Information Form, or PIF, is an industry-agreed questionnaire developed by the food industry, for the food industry, in Australia and New Zealand.

The PIF allows companies to include a variety of information about food products and ingredients in a single document that meets information needs for legal and regulatory compliance in Australia and New Zealand, in a standardised manner.

The PIF is an industry tool that can improve company efficiency and reliability in managing product specification and other related data when applied across the sector.

With respect to allergen management and labelling, the Allergen Bureau has a comprehensive website and tools available to assist with allergen risk assessment and labelling (https://allergenbureau.net).

“At the end of the day, as a food manufacturer, whether big or small, Australian or not, you have an important role in ensuring that consumers continue to enjoy a variety of safe and nutritious food that will contribute to their wellbeing,” Fleming said.

Mandatory requirements for labelling – the Big 11

1. Name of food
2. Name and address
3. Lot identification
4. Allergen declaration
5. Ingredient list
6. Date marking
7. Storage and usage instructions
8. Nutrition information
9. Characterising ingredients
10. Country of origin
11. Quantity marking

Six reasons why food labelling is important

You have made your resolution to be healthy. You go to the store to choose between two products, looking for the better option. But then what? How do you pick? You read the label.

They are something we take as a given, but they are enormously important to our health and well-being. Food labels guarantee that the food is what we think it is and that products are as nutritious as we think they are. Labels teach us about ingredients and nutrients.

With more and more international trade, it is harder and harder for us to know who our food producers are and exactly where the food comes from. Trustworthy labels help fill this gap. FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) are working together through the Codex Alimentarius Commission to set the global standards for food labelling. Countries must abide by these standards when labelling food, especially those that will be sold on the global market.

Here are six reasons why food labelling is important:

1. Keep healthy – Labels help you to understand the composition of your food: its vitamins, minerals, calories, fats, etc. This information is fundamental in ensuring that you are eating the kinds of food that are good for you. With labels, you can monitor your intake of micronutrients to avoid deficiencies, especially common ones like iron and Vitamin D. You can watch your weight by monitoring calories and saturated fats; you can limit your intake of sugar and salt and make sure that you are eating a balanced diet. All of these actions can help prevent illnesses, like diabetes and certain types of heart disease.

2. Keep you safe – Every year, more than 600 million people get sick and 420 000 die as a result of eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals. Labels provide warnings and important information about the ways to use a product (for example, storage and cooking instructions), which are necessary for keeping food safe.

3. Stops you from buying counterfeit products – Preventing fraud is one of the main aims of food labelling. Without internationally guaranteed labels, food sellers could deliberately mislead consumers through false representation on packaging. When you buy chocolate, you want to make sure it is actually chocolate or when it is fish, that it is actually the fish it claims.

4. Detect ingredients that could cause you harmful reactions – Reactions to food affect 10-25 percent of the population in developed countries. The most common allergenic foods include peanuts, soybeans, milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, wheat and tree nuts. If you did not know the ingredients in a product, you could mistakenly eat something that would cause an allergy attack, some of which are very severe. Food labels let you know what to avoid.

5. Stop you from wasting food – Food labels (when read correctly!) can stop you from throwing out good food. Date marking on food labels lets you know for how long a product is safe to eat. This is important to avoid getting sick from expired food. However, it is also true that confusing “best before” and “use by” dates can lead to more food waste. In the EU, approximately 10 percent of food that is wasted is linked to date marking. Educating consumers and supply chain stakeholders can help to prevent this food waste and to keep date marking true to its purpose of keeping food safe to eat.

6. Support your local food producers – Certain labels that indicate the food’s origin, for example Colombian Coffee (Colombia), Manchego cheese (Spain), Darjeeling tea (India) or Kona Coffee (USA), can attract a customer’s attention and bring more value to the product and thus to the producer. Consumers tend to identity local and typical food products to a specific place and attribute characteristics – such as taste and quality – to geographic locations. In a study conducted by EBRD and FAO, nine products with geographic indication labels increased the price of the final product by 20 to 50 percent. Today, consumers are increasingly linking quality to geographical origins and traditions.

Food labels are easy to ignore as you reach out for your favorite product or snack. They are just one of the many seemingly boring pieces of writing vying for your attention. Yet, information is power and this power can help you take control of your own health. You might not like being called a “health nut” or a “junk food addict”, but you definitely want your tomatoes to be called tomatoes and peanuts to be called peanuts! We strive for a world where there is food for all, taking for granted that it is safe food. Yet, without this essential foundation, we cannot build a #ZeroHunger world.

Country of Origin labelling – how to get it right

From 1 July 2018, Australian businesses will have to fully comply with the new Country of Origin Labelling laws. However food products that are packaged and labelled on or before 30 June 2018 can still be sold without the new labels after that date.   

Do you have a country of origin label on your food? Do you have “Made in Australia” or something similar on your packaging? Or is your food product imported?

You need to be aware that as of 1 July 2016, new laws were introduced requiring a lot more information to be included on food packaging. There is a two-year transition period before the laws become mandatory.

Why are they changing?

For as long as most of us can remember, the country of origin laws in Australia relating to food labelling were controversial. Until now, the laws have been complicated for consumers and food manufacturers alike.

Consumers have been demanding more information with an increasing desire to have clearer and more accurate information on our food.

The new laws in relation to food labelling are set to address this problem with food labels now being required to provide more detail in relation to the quantity of local and imported ingredients.

How are things going to change?

Now, under the new labelling system, businesses that are wanting to use a “Grown in”, “Product of” or “Made in” Australia claim will need to display a kangaroo with a triangle so that consumers can identify the foods’ origin at a glance and a bar chart representing the percentage of the ingredients that are from  Australia.

Therefore, although businesses will still be able to use the “Made in” claims if the bulk of production occurs in Australia, consumers will be able to know whether or not (or how much of) the ingredients are in fact from Australia.

There will also be labels for “Packed in Australia” which will feature just a bar chart indicating the percentage of Australian ingredients and ‘Product of’ for foods products, made, grown or packed outside Australia.

If the products have just been “Packed in” Australia then the labels should feature the bar chart representing the quantity of Australian ingredients, but not feature the kangaroo symbol. 

This article is of a general nature and not meant to replace tailored legal advice.

Sharon Givoni (www.sharongivoni.com.au) can assist with all aspects of commercial law.

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Businesses caught short by new food labelling laws

Time is running out for businesses unprepared for strict new food labelling laws, with an industry expert warning many are at risk of being slapped with fines of more than $1 million for non-compliance.

New country of origin labelling laws are due to come into force from July 1 next year, requiring food manufacturers and importers to clearly identify where products are produced, grown, made or packed.

Design execution services company Task by Kirk has been working with large and small businesses to prepare them for the change, but warns that many businesses are unlikely to meet the deadline to comply with the new Australian Consumer Law act.

“I would estimate that only half of the required changes across product brands have been completed or are in the process of being completed,” Task by Kirk General Manager John Kapiniaris said.

“It’s the small-to-medium-sized businesses that are falling behind because they either don’t have the resources available or don’t have a proper understanding of the requirements under the new laws.

“Any recall or disposal of non-compliant goods may run from the thousands to the millions of dollars, so it’s important to get it right,”  Kapiniaris said.

Task by Kirk has been working with major manufacturers such as Simplot, Riviana, and Cerebos to relabel products, and is preparing for a flood of businesses rushing to comply with the new laws as next year’s deadline approaches.

“The changes aren’t really that complex and we have been able to step businesses through the necessary changes,” Mr Kapiniaris said. “The fact that we provide a design-to-print process saves clients money – up to 40 per cent in some cases – but just as importantly in the world of fast moving consumer goods, we help get products to shelf in half the time.”

Simplot Australia creative services manager Paul Fenech said the new country of origin labelling laws presented a huge undertaking for manufacturers and importers.

Simplot engaged Task by Kirk to relabel hundreds of products across its 14 household brands, including Leggo’s, Birds Eye, John West and Edgell.

“The costs of putting everything back to design agencies and getting it to press was just too expensive and time consuming for us, so we looked for ways we could cut out steps and minimise costs,”  Fenech said.

“Task by Kirk has really been driving it to get it done in time for next July. If companies haven’t started now and they have hundreds of products, they are really going to struggle,” he said.

“If you lose food product off the shelf, it is so hard to get it back on there, so it’s not just costly fines or dumping non lawful product, the real cost for companies can be forfeited future earnings.”

From next July, food made, grown or produced in Australia will feature the image of a kangaroo in a triangle and a bar chart that shows the proportion of Australian ingredients. Food packed in Australia will show the proportion of Australian ingredients, and labels on food imported into Australia will be easier to find.

Corporations who fail to comply with the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 face penalties of up to $1.1 million, while individuals can be fined up to $220,000.

Matthews to showcase top five solutions at foodpro

Matthews Australasia will demonstrate a range of coding, labelling, inspection and integration solutions at foodpro, all designed to allow manufacturers to understand what is happening on the production line.

“Having this information is vital to driving continuous improvement and enhancing a business’s profits,” said Mark Dingley, Matthews’ GM of operations.

“Attendees will see new models on our stand, where we’ll showcase the latest technologies, but we’ll also be showing how humble, end-of-line equipment — such as ‘ordinary’ coding, labelling, marking and inspection devices — can be integrated with a business’s existing systems to deliver real-time intelligent insights. This is where the real power lies to improve business performance: information, delivered immediately, thus allowing perceptive decisions to quickly be made.”

Five solutions Matthews will showcase:

  • Inkjet: Continuous inkjet coders (CIJ) are suitable for marking irregularly shaped products and high-speed lines in food, beverage and grocery with graphics (such as logos) and text. They code variable information, including date codes, batch numbers, promotional codes, serialisation codes and product-identification codes.
  • TTO: Matthews will also demonstrate its Linx thermal transfer overprinters (TTOs), coding on to flexible packaging films and self-adhesive labels. TTOs are suitable for date/batch codes, logos, product descriptions, ingredients lists, nutritional panels and fully compliant high-density barcodes. TTOs print easily onto generic film packaging, so are a cost-effective printing solution, especially for snack foods, confectionary and fresh produce. 
  • Serialisation: Matthews’ serialisation solution makes it more difficult for counterfeiters to sell fake product, because it is difficult to duplicate valid encrypted codes. Serialisation codes are applied during manufacturing using specialised marking technologies.
  • Lasers: Matthews’ laser coding solutions can apply permanent barcodes and human-readable text on primary and secondary packaging, including glass, plastics (such as PET, polystyrene and polypropylene), metal and cardboard. With no consumables and easy implementation, the laser coders are fast and cost-effective, with high quality results.
  • Labelling: Matthews will have a wide range of labelling technologies on display, including Label Printer Applicators (LPA), Label Applicators (LA) and label printers.

Bulla Dairy Foods to adopt new Country of Origin Labelling

Bulla Dairy Foods (Bulla) will adopt Australia’s new Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) changes early, including voluntarily adopting them on ice cream products.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and the Member for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson, today visited the Bulla factory to welcome the move, which will give consumers the extra level of information they are seeking around where their food was grown, made or packed, and how much was sourced from Australian farmers.

“The Coalition Government welcomes Bulla’s commitment to deliver the Government’s new CoOL reforms one year ahead of time on all their chilled dairy products, including ice cream, which is not mandatory under the changes,” Minister Joyce said.

“It is clear that Bulla is proud to be an Australian company and wants to use the labels to show consumers where their food comes from, and that the milk they use is proudly all Australian, supporting Australian dairy farmers.

“It is encouraging to see Bulla is also making a concerted effort to source more ingredients from Australian farmers, where possible, as it embraces the CoOL changes and the information it displays.

Bulla CEO, Allan Hood, said he is committed to increased labelling reform for greater transparency for all consumers.

“As one of Australia’s largest family owned dairy companies, we are proud to be leading the way to the new CoOL reforms in our category, transitioning our ‘chilled products’ to the new labelling one year ahead of the mandatory timeline,” Mr Hood said.

“In support of transparency across the dairy and wider packaged food industry, we have also voluntarily implemented these changes for our ice cream, with our flagship product, Creamy Classics Vanilla the first to transition in September 2017.

 

Rugged 2-inch mobile label and receipt printers

Brother International (Aust), provider of mobile printing solutions, has launched its RJ-2 Series of two-inch mobile label and receipt printers.

According to the company, these 2-inch format printers are the fastest, most compact, lightweight, and notably versatile printers in their class, incorporating the rugged durability and rock-solid reliability which have made the existing RJ lineup popular.

Designed to wirelessly print both labels and receipts, the series was engineered to meet the varied and rigorous demands of today’s mobile environments. Available in four models, the printers support Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology, in addition to iOS, Android, Windows mobile and Windows operating systems capability. Of special significance is the IP54 certification and 8.2 ft. drop protection, and advancements in speed and power further differentiate the new series.

The RJ-2050 and RJ-2150 models are the first in the 2-inch category market to feature both Apple MFi certification and Apple AirPrint compatibility – allowing easy wireless printing from iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Smaller size, rugged construction and broad flexibility, make the series well suited for applications in industries such as retail, public safety, parking, pharmacy, lab, hospital, field services, manufacturing, warehouse, route accounting, and more.

An experienced Brother Corporate Division is available in Australia to deliver the right solution for nearly any field application, including development support to utilise the Software Development Kit (SDK) available for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile.

Key features include:

•    Versatile Functionality – Prints labels, tags and receipts from 1” to 2” wide. One mobile printer can be used for a variety of mobile receipt and label printing applications

•    Lightweight, Ergonomic Design ‒ Weighing  465 – 545g with the battery, RJ-2 printers can be easily worn or carried for extended periods of time

•    Wide selection of accessories – Batteries, Shoulder Strap and Multiple Vehicle Adapters

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GLM-Ievo labelling system coming to Foodpro

The GLM-Ievo, the high-performance labelling system for the food industry is designed to make future objectives achievable today.

Bizerba’s intelligent labelling line, GLM-Ievo, is designed for automatic weighing and labelling of pre-packaged products. Due to its modular design, it can be optimally configured for products and performance requirements in the food area.

Thanks to the modular system and performance up to 200ppm, there are no limits for today’s and future requirements in the industrial food area. Besides its flexibility, this labelling system stands out in terms of its robustness and an easy-to-clean design. With intelligent visual quality control and automated activation of process data via the new function Plug-In-Label, operation is easier thereby reducing errors during the packaging process.

All GLM-Ievo versions are network-compatible, individually expandable and have the best labelling technology features that are easy to operate and service. They include a quick belt change system, and an all new modular designed control cabinet for simplified error analysis.

Quality Check Inside System

Packages are fed with high speed, weighed, labelled and controlled via the integrated “Quality Check Inside” system. A range of applicators are available which insures an optimised solution for the packaging and environment.

The GLM-Ievo integrates seamlessly into the Bizerba class leading software BRAIN2 which optimises the packaging process. With features like automated machine backups to the cloud, automatic reporting and Overall Equipment Effectiveness all data is easily and centrally located. Find out more about the Bizerba range.

The GLM-Ievo series and Bizerba product specialists will be available on the Multivac stand, Stand i30 on Level 4 at foodpro for any specific questions.

tna to celebrate 35th anniversary at Auspack

Food processing and packaging solutions provider tna will be celebrating its 35 year-anniversary at this year’s edition of AUSPACK in Sydney by showcasing some of the leading equipment designs from its ever-growing portfolio of food processing and packaging solutions.

Headquartered at Sydney’s Olympic Park, it’ll be a real home show for the Australian manufacturer, who started operations back in 1982 and rapidly ascended from packaging pioneer to a global supplier of complete food processing and packaging lines.

With 30 offices around the world and over 14,000 systems installed across more than 120 countries, tna now offers over 140 products, covering everything from fryers, freezers, conveyers, seasoning and coating systems to complete turnkey packaging systems with integrated metal detectors, scales, date coders, inserters, labellers and film splicing technology.

The company’s equipment at booth 85 will include the third generation of the ground-breaking tna robag high-speed VFFS packaging system, the hygienically designed tna roflo horizontal motion conveyor and the flexible tna intelli-flav OMS 5 seasoning system for both liquid and dry flavour applications.

Visitors will also have a chance to find out more about the versatile labelling and inserting solutions from tna’s Unique Solutions brand. Now available fully integrated into the company’s robag packaging system, the PouchPlus 1000 and LabelPlus 360 provide food manufacturers with a cost-effective way to deepen consumer engagement and encourage repeat purchase by adding promotional items, such as coupons, toys or seasoning sachets to their primary packaging.

BCDS Group to distribute key labelling automation products

 

BCDS Group has been appointed master distributor for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Rim region by labelling automation manufacturer FOX IV Technologies.

FOX IV systems will be offered through ALS (Auto ID Labelling Solutions), a BCDS company, which is headed up by Bill Boursianis who has had more than 10 years’ experience with both FOX IV products and other printing and labelling equipment.

BCDS Group was selected due to their technical expertise, regional sales and service coverage, as well their ability to provide complete solutions from supplies to installation.

“BCDS’s expertise in integrating barcode, auto-ID and RFID equipment made them an excellent fit for representing FOX IV,” said Rick Fox, President and CEO.

“It was clear that they share our commitment to our customers in Australia, New Zealand and the region.  Through BCDS, FOX IV customers can continue to expect quality equipment as well as knowledgeable support and service.”

Ian Jefford, Managing Director of BCDS, concurred. “This new appointment by FOX IV comes with much excitement within the BCDS Group, allowing us to further succeed on our business purpose of making our clients lives easier,” he said.

Over the past 20 years, more than 1000 FOX IV print and apply systems have been installed in Australia.  BCDS will provide parts and service for existing FOX IV equipment as well as supply new FOX IV equipment, including the 2010 Series and FOX IV’s innovative Zebra based print and apply systems.

 

Woolworths commences roll out of Country of Origin labelling

From this week Woolworths customers will begin to see new Country of Origin labelling on a variety of Fresh Cut products in stores across Australia.

The move comes ahead of the mandatory deadline set by the Australian Government of July 2018, with 25 Woolworths own brand products to carry the new label by the end of next month.

The new labelling is part of the Government’s Country of Origin labelling Scheme and includes products that are 100% Australian through to products that include a percentage of Australian sourced ingredients.

“Woolworths is a long-time supporter of Australian-made and grown products with 100% of our fresh meat and 96% of fruit and vegetables sourced from Australia. We believe the new labelling reforms are great news for our customers,” said Woolworths Head of Sustainability, Adrian Cullen.

“We are working closely with our suppliers in Australia and overseas to ensure our products will carry the new Country of Origin labelling ahead of the deadline.”

Country of Origin labels will make it clearer to determine where an item has been produced, grown, made or packed, and will include the addition of an Australian Made kangaroo logo.

“We know our shoppers love to buy Australian products and this system will make it easier to find Australian made products and understand what percentage of the ingredients are from Australia,” added Adrian.

The first Woolworths own brand fresh produce to include Country of Origin labelling includes 120g and 280g Spinach and 120g Red Leaf mix.

The limit of labels: ethical food is more than consumer choice

Over the past hundred years, industrial agriculture and the globalised food system have produced cheaper, longer lasting and more diverse food items. We can now enjoy tropical fruits in winter, purchase whole chickens at the price of a cup of coffee, and eat fresh bread long after it was baked.

Once celebrated as the benevolent results of food science and ingenuity of farmers, these cheap and safe foods are dismissed by critics as the tainted fruits of “Big Food” – the culinary version of Big Tobacco and Big Oil.

Food is no longer simply a matter of taste or convenience. Our food choices have become ethical and political issues.

An innocuous but central strategy in these debates is the food label.

No Logo by Naomi Klein
Picador

In recent years there has been an explosion of ethico-political food labels to address concerns such as slavery, nutrition, environmental degradation, fair trade and animal cruelty. These disparate concerns are unified by their connection to the amorphous culprit “Big Food”.

The idea is that by knowing what is in our food and how it was produced, we will reject unethical food corporations, buy from ethical producers and thereby promote justice.

But is this necessarily so?

The power of truth to awaken the slumbering consumer giant has been in place since at least the mid-1990s. In the introduction to her landmark book, No Logo (1999), Naomi Klein outlines her hypothesis:

that as more people discover the brand-name secrets of the global logo web, their outrage will fuel the next big political movement, a vast wave of opposition squarely targeting transnational corporation, particularly those with very high name-brand recognition.

According to Klein, when the veil is removed and people discover the “secrets” behind their consumer products, an outrage will be unleashed that will transform the global web of capital.

We see this logic in calls for food labels to reveal unethical food production practices of Big Food. By giving consumers more information, it is believed they will use their buying power to force change. Perhaps.

Limits of ethico-political consumption

First, a danger of ethico-political consumption is that citizens are transformed into consumers, and political action is reduced to shopping. Rather than holding companies and governments to account for unethical practice, it becomes a matter of consumer choice.

For example, most of us would consider a proposal to use consumer choice as a way of resolving slavery in the American cotton industry during the 19th century to be a perverse idea. Slavery, we like to believe, should be outlawed. It is not an issue to be solved through consumer preference. Yet today we find ourselves in a situation where we are trying to solve issues of slavery and exploitation through consumer choice.

Today, 45.8 million people are living in slavery. According to the Global Slavery Index, 4,300 are working in Australian food production or sex industries. Many more work in the global food system, of which Australia is a part.

As Nicola Frith has previously argued in The Conversation, the slavery used in the global food system that supplies prawns to UK and US supermarkets should not be considered an issue of consumer choice but a crime.

A second problem with ethico-political consumption is that the consumer response is susceptible to co-option by the very corporations that are being protested. Due to the vast array of products sold by trans-national corporations, it is possible for corporations to maintain highly profitable but “unethical” products, along with less profitable but “ethical” products.

For example, Pace Farm is one of the largest producers of cage-eggs in Australia, yet they also sell free-range eggs. They also have other brands that are not obviously associated with Pace Farm, like Family Value.

In 2013, Oxfam launched Behind the Brands. This campaign draws attention to the influence of multinational food corporations on the global food system and negative impacts on women, workers, farmers, land, water and climate. Although the campaign uses a variety of strategies to critique these corporations, much of the focus falls on consumers.

A popular image associated with the campaign shows the way hundreds of popular food brands are actually owned by ten corporations. It’s worth noting this chart is several years old and some of the listed brands have changed hands, but its point remains.

The illusion of choice. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Oxfam/Behind the Brand

The image has been repeatedly shared on social media and is commonly accompanied with the text “the illusion of choice”. However, clearly there is choice here – there are hundreds of brands, each with thousands of products. Of course, the sentiment of the “illusion of choice” statement isn’t simply that we have only a single choice of soft drink or cereal, but that all choices lead to one of ten transnational corporations.

The more troubling illusion, however, is not that the thousands of products lining the supermarket shelves are owned by ten corporations, but that political consumption – the proverbial “voting with your wallet” – is illusory.

The illusion of consumer food choice as an ethico-political act is not the pernicious creation of food corporations, but co-creation of public health experts, consumer advocates, governments, food ethicists and a host of others.

Even if these labels serve to disrupt corporate brands, they also trap individuals into responsibility for systemic and global issues, such as public health, global poverty, animal welfare or fair working conditions. This isn’t to say we are absolved, but the idea that more consumption will solve the problems of consumption is self-defeating.

Using labels or apps to draw attention to the political and ethical features of consumer choice is a fine objective, but largely symbolic. If certain activities of food corporations and the global food system are considered unethical, then a plurality of approaches is needed – one of which needs to be international and domestic legislation.

As the American economist Robert Reich argues,

Companies are not interested in the public good. It is not their responsibility to be good…if we want them to play differently, we have to change the rules.

For the past decade, there has been an over-reliance on self-regulation and naïve expectations about corporate social responsibility. This needs to change, and not by simply adding a new label to our food.

The Conversation

Christopher Mayes, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Bioethics, University of Sydney

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

Top image:  Shutterstock

Rice up to the clean label challenge

Consumer expectations have shifted greatly in recent years when it comes to nutritional food choices and functionalities. Consumers are now actively choosing food products to maintain their well-being. They are also going for products that fit their individual lifestyles.

Increasingly, consumers want to find out what is in their food products as well as to understand the ingredients list. In Asia Pacific, 70 per cent of the consumers say that they almost always or at least often look at the nutritional information and ingredients list of their food and beverage product[1].

Consumers have also been more vocal about wanting more natural ingredients. 62 per cent of Australian consumers indicated they are interested or extremely interested in natural foods according to a research survey carried out by Healthfocus International[2]

In short, consumers are looking for ‘clean label’. For them, ‘clean label’ means fewer ingredients, clear origin of the used ingredients, no added colour, artificial flavours or synthetic substances. Hence, it is important for manufacturers to devote more attention to what is written on the product pack. While claims such as gluten-free, less fat or sugar are important, helping consumers to identify a product with natural or clean labels matter even more. In doing so, consumers will also feel that their concerns are being addressed by the industry.

Consequently, clear and transparent information is imperative in providing products with a clean label and natural appeal to consumers. Given the ever-increasing importance of this aspect of the industry, as demanded by consumers, how then can manufacturers go about addressing the challenge to offer clean label products with good stability and texture while continuing to meet consumers’ high expectations?

Demanding processing conditions

Food manufacturers can now turn to functional clean label rice starch to meet this challenge. Undergoing a thermal production process, the rice starch granules are strengthened, hence achieving performance levels similar to chemically modified food starches without the use of chemicals.

BENEO AsiaPac Managing Director_Christian Philippsen

Rice starches are unique compared to other commonly used starches in the food industry. They come with a neutral taste, white, very small starch granule size (2-8µm), the ability to create soft gel structures, as well as creamy and smooth textures with a good stability. The latter features are related to the unique molecular differences of rice starch (versus other food starches) at the level of amylose (being branched) and amylopectin (lower tendency towards retrogradation).

Ready for Remypure

BENEO, a manufacturer for rice starch, recently launched Remypure – a functional native rice starch that is suitable for multiple applications, including recipes that require severe processing conditions such as sauces, baby food jars, dairy desserts and fruit preparations. This is because the strengthened starch granule provides high stability during processing and performs well, even under demanding processing conditions, like low pH, high temperature or high shear. Consequently, Remypure allows viscosity build-up suitable for both gentle and demanding processing conditions.

This combination of rice origin and innovative technology makes functional rice starch a unique offering for food manufacturers. This modern day rice starch has created new opportunities for manufacturers, as they are now able to come up with clean label benefits as well as unique textures and excellent product stability even under severe conditions.

Most importantly, manufacturers can now leverage native rice starch to achieve what was previously only possible with additives like modified food starches and gums. Also, with BENEO’s rice starch, they can now achieve all these while retaining the ‘clean label’ too.

Consumers today are looking to healthy and nutritious food products that are in line with their individual lifestyles, especially products with clean and natural appeal. Food manufacturers are under pressure to cater to this clean label shift. With the right choice of rice starch in their food formulae, manufacturers can now make the most of this trend by delivering products with cleaner labels, improved taste and texture profiles.

[1] BENEO Consumer Research 2015

[2] Healthfocus International 2015

[Christian Philippsen (picture above) is  Managing Director, BENEO Asia Pacific]

Sam Kekovich joins Australian Made Campaign

Australian media personality Sam Kekovich has teamed up with the Australian Made Campaign (AMCL) to encourage shoppers to look for the famous Australian Made, Australian Grown logo when they shop.

The well-known ‘Lambassador’ has taken to the airwaves for AMCL, voicing radio advertisements encouraging consumers to look for genuine Aussie products that carry the logo and buy with confidence.

“There’s nothing more Australian than supporting local products and produce by looking for the iconic green and gold kangaroo logo,” Kekovich said. “You know it makes sense to buy Aussie.”

The radio campaign comes just weeks before the introduction of the Federal Government’s new food labelling program, which will see nearly all food products made or grown in Australia carry the famous Australian Made, Australian grown logo.

“Sam has already been part of something quintessentially Australian in his role as ‘Lambassador’ so it was an obvious choice to get him on board,” AMCL Chief Executive Ian Harrison said.

“Hearing such a well-known Australian identity on radio, encouraging shoppers to buy genuine Australian products and produce will no doubt have an impact,” he said.

The Government’s new food labelling scheme commences on 1 July 2016. Business will have two years to transition to the new food labels.

Food sector offered help with new country of origin labelling

GS1 Australia and the Australian Made Campaign have announced their collaboration to help brand owners in the Food and Grocery sector deliver the new Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) information to consumers and retailers.

From July 1st 2016, the Australian Government is introducing new food labelling legislation. Food businesses selling food in Australian retail stores will begin using new, easy to understand food labels which will clearly show where the food is grown, produced, made or packed.

GS1 Australia and the Australian Made Campaign will support the new food labelling legislation by establishing a database of all food products made or grown in Australia and capture brand owner CoOL data on the National Product Catalogue – the smart, secure way to share product data in a single, accessible location.

Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison, said, “We welcome the collaboration with GS1 Australia as it will provide brand owners and retailers with food labelling consistency, access to country of origin information via the National Product Catalogue, and seamless integration of product country of origin information onto online shopping platforms.”

These new labels will also incorporate the iconic kangaroo in the triangle logo, an Australian content indicator and supporting text.

The new food labelling will be phased in over two years to minimise the impact on food companies of the extensive relabelling requirements. The new scheme will also help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions about the food they are buying for themselves and their family.

According to Maria Palazzolo, GS1 Australia’s Chief Executive Officer this collaboration supports the shared vision of protecting the Australian food supply chain and the safety of consumers.

“Today people want to know where their food is grown, manufactured and packaged. The new labels will alleviate growing concerns about the quality and safety of the food they eat. Capturing and leveraging the CoOL data on the National Product Catalogue using GS1 standards will also allow for better visibility of product as it moves through the value chain.”

Death of boy who drank mislabelled coconut drink prompts inquest call

The death of a 10-year old Melbourne boy who consumed an imported ‘coconut drink’ that contained dairy products has led to a call for a Coroner’s inquest into food imports.

AAP reports that Ronak Warty from Burwood consumed a can of Green Time Natural Coconut Drink on December 13, 2013 after he and his father had checked the labelling and were confident it didn’t contain dairy products.

However, he had a reaction to the drink and died in hospital on December 20.

Sydney-based Narkena Pty Ltd imported the drink from Taiwan. The company pleaded guilty to three charges under the Food Act and was fined $18,000; and ordered to pay costs of $24,000 to the NSW Food Authority.

Tests conducted by Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia confirmed the product contained dairy products and post-mortem tests confirmed Ronak was sensitive to both cow’s milk and also the Green Time Natural Coconut Drink.

The incorrectly labelled product was eventually removed from shelves. However, according to a lawyer for Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia this happened a month after the boy’s death.

He called on the Coroner to investigate “the patchwork of regulation that applies to the test and labelling of imported foods”.

Mars to label savoury products ‘Eat occasionally’

Mars will add new labels to savoury products that do not meet their own nutrition criteria.

The label ‘Eat occasionally, once a week’ will be added to brands such as Uncle Ben’s, Seeds of Change, Dolmio, Miracoli and Masterfoods. This latest initiative is a part of the company’s Global Health and Wellbeing Ambition, which aims to increase the nutritional value of Mars products.

Some products which contain high levels of salt, sugar and fat – such as pestos and lasagnes from the Dolmio and Miracoli range – will not be reformulated so as not to compromise the authenticity of their recipes, according to the company.

However, the company has stated their commitment to reducing the salt, sugar and fat levels in their products, aiming to turn ‘occasional’ products into ‘every day’ products.

The food giant has also set itself the target of cutting sodium by 20 per cent by 2021, and reducing sugar in some sauces and light meals by 2018.

A list of occasional products will be available on the company’s website in the next few months, and the new labelling is due to be rolled out within the next year.

Label applicator increases throughput for Tasmanian meat processor

In 2015, Greenham & Sons came to Result Group with a fairly common manufacturing challenge. Their processing speed far outweighed their ability to label products. As a multi-million dollar meat processing business, Greenham were ready to upgrade their labelling system but just needed direction on the best equipment to do so.

Result Group recommended the HERMA multi-purpose Meat Tray Label and Sleeve Applicator.

Greenham production manager Michael White is extremely happy with the result of the applicator installation.

“The move from hand to automatic label application has effectively quadrupled our through put of beef products. Previously our production limitation was the label application step, but now because of the automatic HERMA label applicator we are more than keeping up with the speed of product processing,” he said.

A key benefit of the HERMA Applicator is its versatility. A number of different product sizes and meat shapes can be put through this single labelling machine.

This sophisticated piece of equipment also weighs every item so the labels not only include the exact weight of each individual pack, they can include the retail price based on the pre-set price per kilo. For Greenham, this results in shelf ready products before they’ve even left the plant. Details are automatically extracted from the Greenham’s ERP system to make it a problem free change over and rock solid data transfers for the production team.

The electronic weight functionality also results in the automatic rejection of packs outside of spec. If a pack is under or over weight it is not put through. This removes the need for the meat to be weighed by hand while processing and therefore creates efficiencies and speeds up the entire processing stage.

The HERMA multi-purpose Meat Tray Label and Sleeve Applicator prints both barcodes and QR codes on the labels for Greenham. And it is also able to top and bottom label products in one pass with excellent accuracy. This is ideal for traceability and multi-lingual labelling for export markets.

Australian Made welcomes progress on changes to food labelling laws

The Australian Made Campaign, the not-for-profit organisation that administers and promotes Australia’s green-and-gold ‘Australian Made, Australian Grown’ logo, today welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement that State and Territory Ministers have agreed to support use of the logo in a new country-of-origin labelling scheme for food products.

Under the new system, all food products made or grown in Australia will carry the iconic kangaroo logo, along with a bar chart showing what proportion of the ingredients come from Australia.

Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison, said the new food labelling scheme had the potential to greatly improve clarity and consistency for Australian consumers and recognised the announcement as an important milestone for the logo.

“The Australian Made Campaign welcomes the endorsement by the State and Territory Ministers of the Federal Government’s proposed new country-of-origin food labelling scheme,” Harrison said.

“More transparent food labelling will give shoppers a better understanding of the provenance of their purchases and provide Australian farmers and manufacturers with a much-needed leg up.”

“Furthermore, widespread use of a symbol incorporating the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo should further boost the logo’s strong connection to Australia, and with that, the sales of great Aussie goods in the domestic and global marketplaces,” Harrison said.

There is still work to be done to finalise the food labelling reforms before they can officially commence as planned on 1 July 2016.  Business will have two years to transition to the new arrangements.

Australia’s top 100 food and beverage companies

IBISWorld has released its annual list of the Top 100 food and beverage companies in Australia. The list offers detailed insight into the largest companies in two of the nation’s most diverse subdivisions.

 
The largest 100 food and beverage companies in Australia generate in excess of $AUD100 billion in revenue (up from over $AUD96 billion in 2014-15) and employ more than 130,000 Australians. 
 
IBISWorld has identified key industry trends underpinning major company movements in 2015-16. 

These include:
·         Strong growth in food processing industries – particularly meat processing – driven by free trade agreements and increasing global demand for Australian produce.

·         Milk production in Australia has benefited from joint ventures and expansion of airfreighted fresh milk exports to growing Asian markets, particularly China.

·         The beer manufacturing industry has struggled as consumer tastes have shifted towards craft beer, and industry revenue is set to decline as alcohol consumption, particularly of traditional beer brands, continues to fall.

·         The wine production industry is moving towards recovery, following a wine glut that negatively affected the industry for the better part of the past decade.

The list also highlights:
·         Fonterra: remained number one on the list of top food and beverage companies by revenue generated.
·         Lion Nathan: remained number two on the list.
·         Coca-Cola Amatil: remained number three on the list.
·         Parmalat: jumped from number 27 last year to reach number 19 this year.
·         Green’s Foods: made it onto the top 100 list for the first time at number 87.
·         a2 Milk: made it onto the top 100 list for the first time at number 100.
·         Goodman Fielder: slipped 3 places to settle at number 11.
·         Mars: slipped 3 places to settle at number 22.
·         Bindaree Beef: moved from number 51 last year to reach 35 this year.
 
“The two newcomers to the list are Green’s Foods and a2 Milk. Green’s Foods has entered the list at rank 87, while a2 has entered at 100. Green’s Foods posted a surge in revenue of 72.6% over the year through December 2014. This was the result of the company’s acquisitions of Goodman Fielder’s and Waterwheel’s biscuit businesses in 2013. a2 Milk posted revenue growth of 40.2% over the year through June 2015, on the back of fresh milk exports to China and substantial sales growth in a2 Platinum Infant Formula across Australia and New Zealand,” said IBISWorld senior industry analyst Spencer Little.
 
“After purchasing the remaining 50% interest in the a2 Milk Company Limited joint venture and converting it to a fully owned subsidiary, a2 Milk began exporting fresh milk to China in August 2014. Sales of the company’s infant formula skyrocketed in 2014-15,” concluded Little.