Does your production line make the grade?

Comply and produce. It is that tricky balance at the foundation of food manufacturing.

Comply with quality and safety regulations without sacrificing productivity. In the technologically-driven modern commerce landscape, product inspection equipment, such as metal detectors and x-ray inspection systems, can play a crucial role in helping food producers achieve that balance between compliance with stringent safety standards while actually maintaining or enhancing output.

But what happens when the regulations change? It is vital that food manufacturers have production lines capable of responding to future developments in food safety standards. Updated International Featured Standards (IFS) Version 6 quality regulations, recognised in major global markets, came into effect in July 2012 and require manufacturers to maintain tighter control over processing lines. 

Food manufacturers must adhere to these new regulations as well as other guidelines approved by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) to continue to supply their products to lucrative markets. Launched in 2000, following a number of food safety crises when consumer confidence was at an all-time low, GFSI is an initiative for the improvement of food safety management systems to ensure confidence in the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide.

Guidelines approved by GFSI, including IFS Version 6, are based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program, which requires manufacturers to audit their lines to identify potential risks to product quality and integrity. The introduction of foreign body contamination during processing could be one such risk. Once identified, the manufacturer must establish a Critical Control Point (CCP) to check product quality and remove any substandard packs to uphold quality and protect consumers. As well as demanding the adoption of the HACCP program, IFS Version 6 includes a number of other amendments to enhance consumer safety.

Key regulatory changes

The key changes in the latest IFS regulations affect global food manufacturers, most critically in the areas of senior management responsibility, production process, and measures, analysis and improvements.

The updated requirements for Senior Management Responsibility relate to ensuring that personnel are sufficiently trained, understand their individual responsibilities in food safety and know that their performance is monitored.

IFS Version 6 puts the onus for ensuring optimum food safety on every person involved in the production process, not just on the machine operatives. Product inspection systems that offer comprehensive monitoring and data collection software as well as options for remote access to contaminant detection records can enable manufacturers to demonstrate they have exercised due diligence in their processes and have adhered to food safety guidelines in the event of a contamination event. Inspection technology with enhanced security features, such as password-protected reject bin locks and touchscreen displays and recording of login attempts optimise manufacturers’ control over their production lines.

There are also new requirements designed to mitigate the risk of contamination of food products from foreign bodies, such as metal and broken glass. These include comprehensive training on any product inspection equipment, such as metal detectors and x-ray inspection systems, used on the processing line for all employees as well as regular changeover of machine operatives to prevent fatigue from affecting food quality. It is important, therefore, that product inspection systems are easy to use to simplify the training process and build operative confidence when using the machine. Product inspection technology with features such as touchscreen Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs), intuitive software and pre-set functions for product changeovers can reduce the amount of training necessary to ensure optimum detection sensitivity and minimise the risk of reputation-damaging product recalls.

IFS Version 6 stipulates that food manufacturers introduce and document procedures describing the steps to be taken in the event of breakage of glass and other brittle material near the production line . These measures should include isolation of affected product batches, which can be achieved with the use of an x-ray machine or metal detector featuring an automatic rejecter and lockable reject bin to quarantine non-conforming food packs. This technology allows manufacturers to re-inspect isolated products, enabling them to be reworked to reduce product waste.

Product labelling is another key focus of the new IFS Version 6. All information must be legible, indelible and meet customer-applicable product specifications . Importantly for food manufacturers, the updated standards stipulate that there should be a process in place to ensure that all product labelling complies with the current legislation of the destination country . This includes the display of ingredients, product weight and expiration date. All information should correspond to the product inside the packaging as well . Food manufacturers can fully automate this process using advanced vision inspection technology, minimising the risk of non-conforming packs reaching end consumers. These systems are capable of examining labelling information at high speeds and removing sub-standard packs from the line. It is important that any vision inspection equipment has easy-to-use HMIs to facilitate the setup of the machine with new information both for product changeovers and for the guarantee of compliance with new legislation in the future without the need to invest in new technology.

IFS Version 6 for the first time contains guidelines regarding traceability of food products to identify the relationship between product batches and their labels . Manufacturers must now store samples of each product batch appropriately until its expiration date and, if required by retailers, for a determined period beyond.

Advanced vision inspection and serialisation technology installed at key points on the production line can help manufacturers comply with these standards by enabling products to be tracked from the raw ingredient stage, through processing to packaging and palletisation until they are ready to be transported to the retailer, storing the information for later use. This ensures manufacturers can easily identify which sample belongs to which batch in the event of a product recall or request by the retailer. Such equipment is already in use in the pharmaceutical industry and optimises food manufacturers’ oversight of the entire production line, helping them demonstrate due diligence in the event of a product recall.

Additionally, the guidelines in IFS Version 6 relating to maintenance and repair of product inspection equipment have been amended, as have those regarding the use of third party service providers. Food manufacturers are now obliged to ensure that all product equipment processes are in good condition without any negative influence on food safety. Where manufacturers require maintenance from a third party, all the manufacturers’ specified material and equipment requirements should be respected by service providers. Food manufacturers can maintain the integrity of their food safety procedures by sourcing maintenance and other services from trusted suppliers. To ensure optimum performance of product inspection systems, they can take advantage of the dedicated service offering of their equipment providers. Service engineers can make necessary repairs, conduct audits or carry out product verification while the machine is in operation, enabling compliance with standards and boosting productivity as well.

Finally, and most importantly for food manufacturers, IFS Version 6 stipulates that all measuring devices be tested regularly for accuracy, adjusted, and calibrated as necessary under a comprehensive monitoring system. Furthermore, the results of these checks, adjustments and calibrations must be documented and any necessary corrective action on weighing technology or production processes carried out. To comply with these standards, it is important that the product inspection system used be easily recalibrated or re-set in the event of a failed test. Systems with easy-to-use displays and dedicated test procedures built into the software can facilitate this process for properly adjusted equipment. Remote monitoring services can test many product inspection system performance parameters and undertake corrective action in real time without the need to disrupt production. In this way, manufacturers can ensure optimum production line security without compromising downtime.

Being aware of the Standards
Food manufacturers must adhere to the changes to regulations to ensure growth and to retain access to important global markets. Complying with strict quality and safety standards, such as those featured in IFS Version 6, does not automatically mean manufacturers must sacrifice productivity. By selecting the right product inspection technology for your needs, such as metal detectors and x-ray inspection systems, manufacturers can meet regulations while maintaining or enhancing efficiency. To do this, it is vital that manufacturers develop a rapport with an equipment supplier that understands global food safety regulations who will be able to advise them on the most suitable solution for their production lines and to ensure their processes comply with standards well into the future.

Neil Giles is Marketing Communications Manager at the Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection Division of Mettler-Toledo, based in the UK. He currently specialises across all four main product inspection technologies, which are x-ray, metal detection, vision inspection and checkweighing.

About Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection
Mettler-Toledo Safeline is the world’s leading supplier of metal detection and x-ray inspection solutions for the food and pharmaceutical industries. Together with Garvens Checkweighing, CI-Vision and Pharmacontrol Electronic GmbH (PCE), Mettler-Toledo Safeline forms the Product Inspection division of Mettler-Toledo.

The world’s largest chia seed company expands into NT

The Chia Company, the world’s largest producer of chia seeds has now expanded its growing operations into the Northern Territory.

For just under ten years, The Chia Company has been growing the popular ‘superfood’ in Western Australia’s Ord Irrigation Scheme, and has now just harvested its first crop in the Northern Territory, ABC Rural reports.

John Foss, chief executive of The Chia Company says that the first NT crop has performed well and that yields are ‘very positive’.

"We'll be sending seeds off for analysis and ensuring that we've got the quality and omega 3 that we require, so it's early days,” says Foss.

"But so far it looks positive and we can see there's opportunity to expand further across the Territory and then into Queensland."

Foss says that the company has received interest from a number of growers who are keen to grow chia in the NT, and adds that the seed would fit well into particular crop rotations.

“There's probably some opportunities with some horticulture rotations, but the economics have to stick and we have to be sure that we can get that premium-quality product out of the NT before we progress our plans too aggressively, but it certainly looks like an opportunity for us," he said.


Sustainable palm oil pledges made at UN summit

Three of the world’s largest palm oil companies have made commitments to work towards ending deforestation – a by-product of unsustainable palm oil production.

Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources and Cargill made the pledge at a UN summit on the use of palm oil and have also agreed to encourage incoming Indonesian president, Joko Widodo to implement polices on the issue of deforestation, The Australian reports.

According to the UN’s Environmental Protection Agency, palm oil is a leading driver of global deforestation, which causes nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN says that over the past year, a growing percentage of palm oil producers have pledged to use land that has not been illegally cleared and now represents up to 60 percent of global production.

Dave MacLennan, CEO of Cargill said that the company will be making commitments beyond palm oil by avoiding deforestation in all of its products.

“We understand that this sort of commitment cannot be limited to just select commodities or supply chains,” he said.


Maxwell Foods launches children’s Peppa Pig range in Australia

Australian food brand, Maxwell Foods is launching the Peppa Pig brand in Australia and the UK across its range of children's fruit and nut products.

Peppa Pig, which is the star of an internationally successful animated children’s show, will appear on the product packaging of Maxwell Foods’ childrens fruit and nut products including high quality sultanas, apricots, and mixed fruit and nuts.

Maxwell Foods managing director, Chris Spratt says that the manufacturer’s Peppa Pig snack foods provide children with a tasty snack that also boasts a great nutritional profile.

“Giving our kids a special treat with a nutritious fruit and nut base that satisfies their taste buds as well as being branded with one of their favourite characters is a surefire way to encourage kids to eat healthier,” said Spratt.

Established in 1984, Maxwell Foods sources premium fruit and nut products from around the world. The company recently entered into a joint-venture in Turkey to source premium apricots, in addition to its many other existing produce suppliers who deliver quality  almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pinenuts, peanuts, pistachios and walnuts

Products are presented in single serve boxes, pillow pack bags, zipped day pack bags, snack tubs and “on the go” cups.


Waste management online marketplace launched

Waste Choices, Australia’s first waste management and recycling online marketplace where providers bid for posted projects has launched.

Through Waste Choices, businesses of any size can post a one-off project or an ongoing contract for the management of over 30 waste streams.

A range of reputable waste management providers across Australia including URM, 1300 Rubbish, Action Waste, Waste 2 Resources, State Waste Services, Bingo and smaller providers will bid for posted projects and businesses can select whom they wish to work with.

Joel Harrison, Co-Founder of Waste Choices said, “Waste Choices simplifies the management of waste by providing businesses the choice and flexibility of working with different service providers to manage various waste streams in a compliant manner.  The cost of managing and disposing waste has increased over the years. Waste Choices offers businesses a better way to manage their waste streams by providing more options and access to a wider range of service providers.”

Businesses can post a waste project in three simple steps: entering the pick-up location, type of waste to be collected from general waste, liquid waste, recycling to hazardous materials and selecting a bin size to represent the volume of waste. They will be able to select from a range of competitive bids from 14 national and state-based waste management providers and can award a project based on price or reputation of the provider.

Waste Choices offers an automatic alert feature that notifies businesses that are on annual contracts with service providers when they are about to expire. This avoids businesses getting automatically rolled into new contracts with their existing providers which would generally attract price increases of between 10-25 percent on average annually.

Harrison added, “Many businesses get stuck with their existing service providers because their annual contracts are automatically rolled over. Australia has over 2 million business waste generators and Waste Choices will free them from long term fixed contracts, help drive down the cost of waste management and increase the transparency through a system of bidding.”

For more information, click here.


Artificial tongue used to taste tannins in wine

Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark have developed an artificial tongue that uses a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) based nanosensor to measure the dryness of wine.

The research, which has been published in ACS Nano, says that the artificial tongue detects the effects of tannins in the mouth by using proteins found in human saliva. The researchers are looking at how the proteins change when they interact with wine, and then use this to describe the effect of the wine.

According to researchers at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre of Aarhus University, this marks the first time that a sensor has been produced that not only measures the amount of proteins and molecules in the mouth when wine in consumed, but also measures the effect of wine (or other substances) entering the mouth.

The sensor is said to benefit wine producers greatly as it makes it possible from them to control the development of astringency during wine production right from the beginning of the process. At present, the level of astringency can only be measured once the wine is ready, and only by a professional tasting panel. The sensor however enables producers to work towards the desired level of dryness before the wine is ready.

“We don’t want to replace the wine taster. We just want a tool that is useful in wine production. When you produce wine, you know that the finished product should have a distinct taste with a certain level of astringency. If it doesn’t work, people won’t drink the wine,” says PhD student Joana Guerreiro.

“The sensor expands our understanding of the concept of astringency. The sensation arises because of the interaction between small organic molecules in the wine and proteins in your mouth. This interaction gets the proteins to change their structure and clump together. Until now, the focus has been on the clumping together that takes place fairly late in the process. With the sensor, we’ve developed a method that mimics the binding and change in the structure of the proteins, i.e. the early part of the process. It’s a more sensitive method, and it reproduces the effect of the astringency better.”

Although artificial tongues are not in themselves new, this new sensor differs in that it can measure an effect rather than just a number of molecules.

"Understanding the effect is an important prerequisite for producing better and more targeted medicine. The sensor can be used for diagnostic purposes, so it could possibly be helpful for discovering and even preventing diseases,” says Duncan Sutherland, research director for the study.


APEC economies address food security and environmental challenges

In an effort to ensure safe, accessible and sustainable food supplies into the future amid changing global conditions, food and agriculture ministers from APEC economies have outlined a new innovation-based cooperation network.

Following the third APEC ministerial meeting on food security which was held in Beijing on Friday, ministers issued the Beijing Declaration on APEC Food Security which includes new measures on how to feed the regions 2.8 billion people and alleviate hunger.

“Despite the enormous progress made in agriculture by the Asia-Pacific region, there is still imbalance among economies and our food security still faces great challenges,” said Wang Yang, vice premier of China. “Population growth, climate change, environmental pollution and natural disasters are posing new difficulties to agriculture development.”

Ministers welcomed an action plan which is designed to enhance connectivity of APEC food standards and safety assurance by placing an emphasis on strengthening food safety management through international standards alignment, the development of risk-based requirements and establishment as well as the improvement of early warning, traceability and recall systems.

Commitments to personnel training on trans-boundary animal and plant diseases as well as the strengthening of information exchange and cooperation on safety of food imports and exports were also made.

“Our economies are utilizing a Policy Partnership on Food Security as an efficient tool for integrating with business to achieve food security,” noted Nikolai Fyodorov, agriculture minister of Russia. “Innovative development of agriculture as well as its infrastructure based on the wide investment calculation and trade development are key priorities.”

In relation to climate change, ministers agreed to pursue joint research of new eco-friendly technologies, planting patterns and disease and pest control methods. A new APEC action plan for reducing food loss and waste was also welcomed.

“There’s a whole set of questions about food in global value chains,” said Dr Alan Bollard, executive director of the APEC Secretariat. “We know that a lot of food is actually lost in the distribution process and the topics of research and development, science, regulation and environment are much more complex in the area of agriculture.”


Simplot workers vote in favour of industrial action over pay deal

Vegetable processing workers at Simplot’s Tasmanian and NSW plants have voted in favour of industrial action over the company’s pay offer.

The Manufacturing Workers Union said that results of a workplace ballot indicated that 70 percent of respondents were in favour of industrial action as they believed that Simplot’s pay offer would remove conditions for casual workers.

John Short from the Manufacturers Workers Union said that the union doesn’t want to take industrial action and are encouraging Simplot to “sit down and negotiate an agreement”.

"You know, we don't want to take industrial action but obviously now the workers have got the right to," Short told ABC News.

"We'll just talk to our members and say 'you have the right to take it, do you want to take it? When do you want to take it and what type of action do you want to take?' "he said.

"Could be a couple of weeks away…"

Managing director of Simplot, Terry O’Brien said that the pay deal offered to workers is fair, and that industrial action would impact heavily on operations.

“The potential threat of industrial action has come at a time when harvesting is at its peak,” O’Brien told ABC News.

“We believe Simplot has proposed a very fair and reasonable offer for our employees considering the economic climate and industry challenges."


Seine Australia workers reimbursed nearly $43,000

Six workers at a meat processing plant at Casino, in regional NSW, have been reimbursed almost $43,000 after they were wrongly stood down for two months on annual leave and leave without pay.

An investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman found the conduct of the employer, Seine Australia Pty Ltd, contravened the stand-down provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009.

Seine’s factory at Casino processes left-over meat and offal products from abattoirs into powder and liquid products that are exported as seasoning and stock.

On 4 June 2013, employees were called to a meeting and told that because the factory was over-stocked, it would be closing temporarily from 5 June until 5 August.

Workers were told that they would be placed on stand down and paid annual leave, long service leave or leave without pay.

A number of the affected employees later contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Fair Work inspectors firstly determined that some employees, who had been getting paid $16 an hour for all hours worked, were receiving less than their minimum lawful entitlements, when the minimum rate of pay for a level 4 meat industry worker was $16.70 an hour from July, 2012 and $17.37 from July, 2013.

Secondly, inspectors found that employees working the night shift were only getting a 15 per cent allowance, when it should have been 21 per cent from July, 2012 and 23 per cent from July, 2013.

Finally, the Fair Work Ombudsman determined that the employees were entitled to be paid wages they would otherwise have received for ordinary hours worked had they not been stood down for two months.

They employees should also have been credited with annual leave entitlements during the stand-down period.

Contraventions in relation to employment records were also identified. Employees were required to “clock” on and off at the start and finish of their shift, but the company did not retain individual employee records, as required.

Seine Australia first came to the attention of the Fair Work Ombudsman in 2009 when it found the company had underpaid 35 employees more than $116,000.

Those outstanding entitlements were rectified by agreement and no further enforcement action was initiated against the company.

Seine Australia has again co-operated with the Fair Work Ombudsman in relation to the latest breaches, and agreed to sign an Enforceable Undertaking.

The Enforceable Undertaking required the company to reimburse all outstanding entitlements and issue a written apology to the affected employees expressing its “sincere regret” for its conduct.

The company also committed to a number of measures to ensure future compliance with Commonwealth workplace laws.

These include undertaking workplace relations training on employee entitlements under the Fair Work Act and to engaging independent, external consultants to review and report on its compliance each year for the next three years.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the matter should serve as a timely reminder to all employers of the importance of understanding stand-down provisions in circumstances where the business needs to close temporarily.


Food process workers back-paid $20k

Seventeen employees of a Melbourne company have been back-paid almost $20,000 following an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Kanodia Nominees operates a food manufacturing business trading as Glendal Foods in Albert Street, Brunswick.

Fair Work inspectors found that Glendal Foods had failed to pay some employees in accordance with the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award, 2010, underpaying process workers amounts ranging from $106 to $4,896 between January 2010 and August 2012.

Employees were underpaid base minimum rates, overtime rates and annual leave loading. Some also failed to receive paid rest breaks when working more than 1.5 hours of overtime above their ordinary hours.

The company also failed to keep correct employment records, and had made and kept false records in relation to several employees.

Kanodia has since signed an Enforceable Undertaking with the Agency. The terms of the undertaking required the company to apologise to each of the affected staff and give an unqualified commitment to comply with all requirements of Commonwealth workplace laws in future.

Kanodia also agreed to engage an independent, specialist workplace relations auditor to further review and report on the company’s compliance with workplace laws.


Maggie Beer’s labelling lessons from the ACCC

When South Australian chef and businesswoman, Maggie Beer received notice from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that the labelling on four of her top selling products was found to be misleading, she made the decision to tackle the incident head on.

In mid-August, the ACCC released a statement detailing that Maggie Beer Products Pty Ltd had accepted a court enforceable undertaking for misleading customers following an investigation by the competition watchdog.

The text, A Barossa Food Tradition can be found on the bottom of the Maggie Beer pheasant logo which is displayed across the entire range of Maggie Beer products. Unlike the other 200 products in the Maggie Beer range which are manufactured in the Barossa Valley or South Australia, four products – extra virgin olive oil, aged red wine vinegar, rosemary and verjuice biscuits and the Maggie Beer ice cream range – are manufactured at facilities in Victoria and Queensland.

In addition to the text within the logo, the words ‘Maggie Beer Products: 2 Keith Street Tanunda South Australia 5352’ also appeared of the packaging of each product.

As a result of these representations, the ACCC concluded that a reasonable consumer would assume, or would have gained the overall impression that each of these products was manufactured in Tanunda, the Barossa Valley or South Australia.

The ACCC also made reference to misrepresentations made by Maggie Beer Products during a “Local Fair” held at a Woolworths supermarket in Mitcham, South Australia in April last year when a representative of the company stated that its ice cream products and Rosemary and Verjuice biscuits were made locally, when they were not.

Place of origin claims

According to the ACCC, place of origin claims are to be used only when a good originates from a more localised region or place than the country that it is manufactured in. All false or misleading claims about the place of origin are specifically prohibited under Australian Consumer Law and as such, businesses found to be using such claims must ensure that it does not mislead customers.

Food Magazine recently spoke with Beer about the misrepresentations. According to Beer, the products were initially made in the Barossa, however a steady increase in demand together with new product developments meant that the company had to look interstate to manufacture those four particular product lines.

“Everything started here in this Barossa kitchen,” Beer told Food Magazine. “We only went interstate when we didn’t have the equipment or technology to do a product that I wanted to put on the market efficiently, and that is honestly the only reason.

“I had no idea that anyone could be misled by it, and as soon as I was told by the ACCC, I absolutely said 'we’re going to make sure that this can never happen again.'

“We put on our website for anyone and everyone to read why something was made interstate – we’ve never hidden it. But I never, ever, want anyone to think that I set out to mislead so if anyone was misled, my apology is so heartfelt, but I truly believed that I was never doing anything wrong.”

To rectify the situation Beer says that she will be modifying each label on her entire range which spans over 200 products and will include added information on the State in which each product is made to ensure that there is no way a similar event can be repeated.

“We have gone far beyond what the ACCC has asked us to do, so we have made the decision to take A Barossa Food Tradition off every label because having two different logos from a marketing perspective is just absolute chaos, so the idea – sad as I am to take it off – is to use the back story to celebrate provenance, so I’m just tackling it in a different way.”

Take everything into account

When asked about the advice that she would give to fellow manufacturers to prevent such events from happening, Beer says that absolutely everything needs to be taken into account.

“You have got to look at it from far beyond FSANZ (Food Standards Australia and New Zealand) regulations,” she says. “You have think, ‘what can a consumer possibly get out of this?’

“I think there is no doubt that we are going to be a good example… What the ACCC is saying and what I have always believed is that provenance is so vitally important, so this is really opening up the conversation, and is putting the headlights on the fact that provenance is absolute."

The issue of accurate labelling – particularly regarding provenance – has been in the spotlight for quite some time, and as a result consumers are scrutinising labels now more than ever before. Beer believes that this is something that should be encouraged.

“Customers are reading labels and I’m glad that they are – I think that it’s a good thing that they do so.

“I just don’t want there to be anything that anyone can think of – that I can’t think of – that could possibly mislead. I want to go so far and beyond that.”

Beer's daughter, Saskia Beer, was also pulled up by the competition watchdog earlier this year, for making false or misleading representations in relation to product labelling.

Saskia Beer’s Barossa Farm Produce Pty Ltd was found to have made representations between 9 December 2010 and 28 May 2013 that the pork used in its “The Black-Pig” smallgoods range was that of heritage Berkshire pigs, or other heritage black pig breeds when that was not the case.

Barossa Farm Produce Pty Ltd accepted the court enforceable undertaking from the ACCC for the misrepresentations stating at the time that the incident was an isolated one.

“This is an isolated instance that arose as a result of miscommunication on the part of our supplier and a failure on our part to adequately verify, in this instance, the source of the product,” Saskia Beer said at the time.

“There was no intention to mislead or misrepresent in any way the origin of the product.”

Supermarket giant Coles is another manufacturer to be pulled up for misleading or deceptive conduct by the ACCC for its ‘Baked Today, Sold Today’ and ‘Freshly Baked In-Store’ claims on various ‘Cuisine Royale’ and ‘Coles Bakery’ branded bread products.

The ACCC said that the marketing of these products was misleading as the bread is partially baked and frozen off-site, transported to Coles stores and ‘finished’ in-store.

Carlton & United Breweries were also in the spotlight in relation to representations that Byron Bay Pale Lager was brewed by a small brewer in Byron Bay when that was not the case.

Even though manufacturers may have the best of intentions and genuinely believe that they are fully compliant with all of the relevant regulation, it is possible for things to slip through the cracks. Beer says that the investigation served as a wakeup call for her, and she urges fellow manufacturers to carefully consider each message that is sent to consumers on product labels.

“The labels must be accurate and looked at with a consumer’s eyes so there is no possibility of a customer being misled,” she says.

“I think every food company tries its absolute best. But remember we were doing everything perfectly to the book of our FSANZ regulations – no one has any argument about that – so we thought we were ok, we really believed it, so this came as a real shock. But that will, as I said, open up the conversation for other food producers.”


Serialisation: protecting brands and supply chains

Serialisation is not new. It’s the process of putting a unique number on a product. While the idea has been around for a while, its use has come back into the spotlight because of the benefits it offers in an increasingly complex global supply chain.

At the consumer level particularly, a serialised unique identification process enables traceability and authentication via systems such as chain of custody, chain of ownership, product identifier authentication or recall – and readily available technology can be used with all of these.

The pharmaceutical industry has quite well developed serialisation, but changing regulations in various countries around the world will most likely see mass serialisation become a reality across a host of industries.

So why is it necessary?
There is a lack of real-time transparency with products changing ownership a number of times. Serialisation gives complete traceability and enables authentication at every level in the supply chain — especially at the consumer level.

Along with the complexities of an increasingly world-spanning supply chain, counterfeiting is another major reason why serialisation is becoming necessary. Counterfeiting affects not only company bottom lines, but in the case of foods and pharmaceuticals, poses a public health risk.

Business benefits
While there’s consumer-level and supply chain justifications for serialisation, there are also several business benefits:

  1. Brand protection: it gives the ability to detect and manage counterfeit product threats
  2. Reverse logistics and recalls: it gives greater granularity of data to aid recalls, returns, withdrawals and rebates, and shrinks loss recovery.
  3. Inventory control and supply chain visibility: it improves visibility of the exact item and quantities delivered at each point in the supply chain, so provides a better insight into raw materials ordering as well as process scheduling. 
  4. Consumer connection: it gives the ability to build consumer trust through product verification or authentication, and, therefore, the opportunity for the brand to connect directly with the consumer.
  5. Returns: it gives the ability to detect returns that were not originally sold to the customer.

Implementing serialisation
To effectively implement serialisation and traceability, a business needs to understand the requirements from a compliance perspective, as well as their brand objectives. Typically, a traceability/serialisation system has these building blocks:

  • unique identification codes
  • data-capture mechanisms
  • managing links across the chain
  • data communication across the supply chain

Flexibility is key. A system that meets current regulations is great, but it should also be able to accommodate change if regulations alter in the future. (With the way regulations have changed so far, that’s really “when” regulations change.)

Serialisation can be implemented in three stages:

  1. At the consumer level, with a unique number on the unit using a data carrier (e.g. data bar, 2D code, numeric code).
  2. Using the existing Global Trade Item Number (GTIN); a serialised GTIN can be used for a more integrated approach.
  3. Across the supply chain, including cartons and pallets, for complete supply chain visibility and end-to-end track and trace.

Here are a few things to think about before implementing serialisation:

  • review data management from an enterprise level (ERP/MES), a plant level (MES), line level (SCADA) and machine level (PLCs and equipment)
  • consider the impact on your existing processes and line speeds
  • determine the code’s location and permanency
  • choose the right data carrier (i.e. QR, Datamatix, GS1 Datamatrix barcodes)
  • use GS1 standards
  • think of aggregation strategies when serialising beyond the consumer-unit level
  • choose a technology partner who understands serialisation and can provide serialisation-ready devices and solutions

From our experience with serialisation, here are a few more things to think about:

  • move 2D barcodes away from other barcodes on the packaging so your scanning is efficient
  • use a data reader for online verification
  • make sure any rework or removing samples for QA doesn’t cause serial number linking to go out of sync
  • test print on several substrates
  • use barcode grading
  • control pallet aggregation and avoid cartons being moved around before a pallet is completely wrapped up and labelled
  • control products being picked up from the line
  • make sure your existing network can handle the data flow
  • ensure your existing systems can inter-operate with serialisation-control software
  • have clear processes on how will any rework (if needed) will be handled
  • use validation processes in line (vision inspection, data readers)

Serialisation has many business and supply chain benefits. As with every new process, make sure it really is right for your business. If you’re unsure, start with a pilot program and evaluate from there.

Mark Dingley is chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association and heads operations at Matthews Australasia. Contact him at

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Scandinavian pension fund invests $20m in Murray Goulburn

Murray Goulburn has sourced $20m from a Scandinavian pension fund to purchase nine dairy farms which have now been leased to the dairy co-operative.

MG managing director, Gary Helou said the investment has resulted in the addition of 30 million litres of milk into the co-operative’s milk supply which represents 39 percent of the national pool, SMH reports.

Helou said that Asia’s demand for Australian milk and dairy products has made the nation’s agricultural market highly appealing for offshore investors, particularly international pension funds within the US and Europe.

"The superannuation funds are interested in the sector," Helou said. "They like the concept of Australian and New Zealand milk going into Asia."  

MG’s executive general manager of shareholder relations, Robert Poole said that although they is interest from pension funds in agriculture, securing funds in quite a difficult process.

"I think agriculture will successfully attract more and more non-farm capital but companies like Murray Goulburn are going to have to work hard to facilitate that," Poole said.

"We didn't necessarily want to go into this avenue but we could see that if we were going to grow milk supply and attract capital we needed to be a party … and as a co-op we were well placed to link equity to farmers."


Nestle announces global animal welfare commitment

Swiss food manufacturing giant, Nestle has announced a major pledge to improve the welfare of animals within its supply chain following the signing of a partnership with NGO, World Animal Protection.

The move will see hundreds of thousands of farms within Nestle's supply chain tighten their animal welfare standards to be in line with new guidelines which were developed in conjunction with World Animal Protection.

Nestle has around 7,300 suppliers from which it purchases a range of animal-derived products including milk, meat and eggs. Each of these suppliers, in turn, buy from others meaning that Nestle’s new animal welfare guidelines will apply to hundreds of thousands of farms around the globe.

"We know that our consumers care about the welfare of farm animals and we, as a company, are committed to ensuring the highest possible levels of farm animal welfare across our global supply chain,” said Benjamin Ware, Nestle’s manager of Responsible Sourcing.

Nestle’s new animal welfare guidelines will cover a host of issues including the specification of spacing requirements for the rearing pens of cows and pigs to ensure that they are not cramped. The guidelines will also minimise pain for farm animals by using veterinary practices that reduce pain, while some practices will be completely avoided in the first place by using different animal husbandry practices.

Nestle will be conducting audits of its suppliers via independent auditor SGS, to ensure that the new standards are met. When a violation is identified, Nestle will work with the suppliers to improve the treatment of farm animals and ensure that they meet the required standards. Should the supplier be either unable or unwilling to show improvement following guidance from Nestle, they will no longer supply the company.

“Our decision to work with Nestlé is based upon their clear commitment to improving animal welfare and the lasting change this can have on millions of farm animals around the world,” said Mike Baker, World Animal Protection Chief Executive.

The World Animal Protection agreement forms part of Nestlé’s broader Responsible Sourcing activities which  cover human rights, health and safety and environmental issues.


Wheat production plant to be built in Tamworth

OGL Resources Limited has announced it has signed strategic agreements with Henan Lotus Flower Gourmet Power Co and Gezhouba Xinjiang Co.

The agreements are aimed at tapping into the latest wheat-based monosodium glutamate (MSG) production and management technology and establishment of the first of four wheat based food ingredient and ethanol production plants in Australia, with the first plant at Tamworth in the next three years.

Executive director of OGL, Mathew Kelley said the plant in Tamworth “has the potential to become a key infrastructure asset for the local and global food community.”

Construction for the $300 million plant will begin once the necessary approvals have been secured, which is anticipated to be in the second quarter of 2015 and expected to take between 12 and 18 months.


Bega announces a $66 million 2013/14 profit

Bega Cheese has announced a 160 percent profit increase for the 2013/14 financial year on the previous 12 months.

One driver behind the success of the New South Wales processor is the sale of the Warrnambool Cheese and Butter shares for $99 million after Bega failed in its takeover bid for, ABC Rural reports.

“We have an extraordinarily strong balance sheet with no net debt. No net debt, in fact, cash in the bank,” executive chair Barry Irvin said.

It also included the $25 million allocated to producers as part of the Milk Sustainability and Growth Program.

“The result highlights we have had a revenue growth of 6.5 per cent, mostly on the back of stronger commodity prices and the growth in our infant nutritional business.”

Despite commodity prices falling since the start of the year, Irvin said, “they are coming off very large highs and some of those falls are not unusual in the industry in terms of the timing of the falls.”

There is also the uncertainty of the impact of Russia's sanctions on some Australian agriculture products imposed earlier this month, including dairy.

“We have designed a business model that, while affected, has some capacity to manage through such circumstances as has been demonstrated in the past,” Irvin said.

“There does remain a strong underlying demand for dairy products in Asia. There is a very good base for expansion using the new capacities that we have created.”


Quality brews: talking coffee with Toby Smith of Toby’s Estate

Toby’s Estate is a brand that is synonymous with quality in Australia’s coffee scene and now it’s cemented its place on the global coffee stage.

Starting out with humble beginnings in 1998, Toby’s Estate has grown to become a household name in the Nation’s speciality coffee market and more recently, has expanded overseas to the likes of Asia and the US.

Food Magazine recently caught up with Toby Smith, founder of the Toby’s Estate brand to talk coffee, farming and how he has managed to maintain an exceptional level of quality as the company has grown over the past 16 years.

Interestingly enough, Smith says that he was first introduced to the world of coffee – for better or worse – by his mother’s inability to make a quality brew.

“My mother had a café and used to make pretty bad coffee,” says Smith.

“It was then that someone taught me a few things about coffee and I started to get a bit more serious about it and thought wow, coffee is actually a really incredible product – this is for me’. So it was that, but to be honest, I was also desperate to get out of working and studying law.”

With the days of his mother’s bad coffee and law class well and truly behind him, Smith has successfully raised the stakes of quality coffee production by purchasing a farm in Panama where he says the best coffee in the world is produced.  

Panama is where it's at

“Geisha is the Grange of coffee,” says Smith. “And Panama is this little country with really small farms that is growing the world’s best coffee… Other countries are growing Geisha but they are struggling to sort of get that unique flavour that Panama has. It really is something special and there are some incredible families with a long history in coffee growing it.”

Smith says that he has been working with a particular farm in Panama for the past three years, so when the opportunity arose to the purchase it, he – together with his business partner Andre – didn’t hesitate.

“Andre is a finance legal guru so he tackled a lot of the issues relating to coming into Panama as a foreigner… There were some pretty involved documents that needed to go through so we could own the farm, but it was all very doable, it just required a lot of patience. So Andre looks after the legal stuff, and then I sort of look after the coffee side of the business – the growing and production.”

Smith said that he has already initiated a number of programs to ensure that the farm employs the best possible farming practices, together with significant upgrades to on-farm facilities.

“We have a little school on the farm which we are upgrading along with a number of roads. We have also upgraded the accommodation for the indigenous coffee pickers that come on mass every year for about four or five months at a time. We’re also mixing up and changing a few of the farming and processing methods, and the agronomist is always working on making the trees look amazing to produce high quality coffee.

“With growing and agriculture it’s not like ‘ok let’s change this’ and it happens within a week or within a year, it can take two, three, four or five years… so we’ve got a nice program in place for the next 3-5 years.”

Now in its 16th year, the Toby’s Estate brand has continued to go from strength to strength and now has a solid presence in New York together with a number of Asian countries. Smith credits this ongoing success to a number of factors, but primarily to the consistency of the product.

Quality is the key focus

“Our greatest focus as we grow larger and as we spread our coffee further is quality. We don’t make a move unless we know that we are on par with what we currently have as far as quality goes, or we’re improving it. That’s always been our philosophy. We’ve always been about sourcing quality beans, and roasting them to the best of our ability, so our growth path is determined upon our ability to uphold that level of quality.

“Obviously we are a big organisation but we actually say no a lot. We go to the extremes of quality assurance and control… we cup everything that comes out of the roasters before its released and we scrutinise and record everything to make sure that we get it right on the outset.”

In addition to maintaining a high level of quality and consistency, Smith says that logistical efficiencies and a highly dedicated team are key factors that have enabled the company to expand while remaining at the top of its game.

“The wholesaling speciality coffee market is often driven by price, and we have a great advantage in that shipping coffee in a container to Australia takes a long time and it costs a lot of money, but in the multiples and the volumes that we import, we get a better price for great quality coffee. So we feel that we are at a great advantage in that way,” he says.

“We also have fantastic equipment that gives us great consistency and we have an incredible team of really experienced guys who have been working with us for many years, and those that are new to the have been trained really well by those experienced ones around them.”


MLA announces job cuts and research restructure

Meat and Livestock Australia has announced that it will be cutting jobs and restructuring its research arm in an effort to reduce costs.

ABC News reports that the MLA is aiming to cut its budget by $6 million or 10 percent of operating costs due to a forecast fall in levy revenue from producers, representing a drop of close to $6 million over a two year period.

In addition to the cuts, two of MLA’s general managers announced their resignation on Monday including Peter Vaughan who was the head of the association’s Livestock Production Innovation research.

Up to 248 staff are also expected to be cut globally within the next four weeks.

In terms of research, MLA’s research in livestock production will be placed under the microscope following a strategic research review last year. The review highlighted 11 recommendations including improving transparency, and a focus on larger, long-term projects.

According to MLA’s managing director, Richard Norton, the association will also be simplifying the system which enables sheep and beef levy payers to have a say in research priorities, allowing these producers to better understand how they can influence the R&D levies.

"Having this level of direct consultation on an annual cycle will be resource intensive, but this structure will allow true two-way engagement on the levy investment," he said.


Maggie Beer Products acknowledges misleading conduct

Maggie Beer Products Pty Ltd has accepted a court enforceable undertaking for misleading customers following an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Beer, who is the founder of Maggie Beer Products Pty Ltd, said that the investigation served as a wakeup call for her regarding accurate labelling and she has urged fellow manufacturers to carefully consider each message that is sent to consumers on product labels.

The incident in question involves four out of 200 products in the Maggie Beer range; extra virgin olive oil, aged red wine vinegar, rosemary and verjuice biscuits and ice cream –  all of which feature the Maggie Beer logo with the text “A Barossa Family Tradition” as well as “Made in Australia” or “Product of Australia” and the words: ‘Maggie Beer Products: 2 Keith Street Tanunda South Australia 5352’.

The ACCC considered that as a result of these representations, a reasonable consumer would have gained the overall impression that each of these products was manufactured in Tanunda, the Barossa Valley or South Australia.

While the products were initially made in the Barossa, as the company grew and demand rose, the company decided to outsource the manufacturing of these four product lines to third parties in Queensland and Victoria.

Beer says that she has now decided to modify all labels on all 200 products in her range with added information on the State in which each product is made.

In addition to the misrepresentations on product labels, Maggie Beer Products made representations to the public during a “Local Fair” held at a Woolworths supermarket in Mitcham, South Australia in April 2013 that its Ice cream and Rosemary and verjuice biscuits were made locally in South Australia which was not the case.

Maggie Beer Products has acknowledged that its product labelling, representations to the public at the “Local Fair” and representations to Woolworths were likely to have contravened sections 18 and 29(1)(k) of the ACL.

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims said that consumers pay a premium price for local products and that the ACCC views the integrity of credence claims made about food products is a priority enforcement area.

“The Barossa Valley is a nationally recognised premium food and wine destination, and businesses in that region use place of origin claims to promote or distinguish their product from others in the market,” says Sims.

“Misleading representations about the origin of products to capitalise on this demand undermines the integrity of credence claims which are relied on by consumers and, equally important, can harm competing producers whose products are made locally.”

Maggie Beer said that she fully supports the ACCC’s interpretation on provenance in food labelling.

“All four of these products originally were made in South Australia but, as Maggie Beer Products grew to supply larger markets, we were unable to find suitable South Australian suppliers for four of our product lines.  In these four instances our labels, while  fully compliant with Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) labelling laws, did not reflect the ACCC’s interpretation of provenance in labelling,” she said.

“We acted immediately when the ACCC drew this to our attention.  Maggie Beer customers can be 100 percent sure on the provenance of the food that we offer. I apologise to anyone who may in the past have been misled in any way.

"It’s the last thing I would want to do.”

The misrepresentations come just months after Maggie Beer’s Daughter, Saskia Beer accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Saskia Beer’s Barossa Farm Produce Pty Ltd for false or misleading representations.

Between 9 December 2010 and 28 May 2013, Barossa Farm Produce made various representations that the pork used in its “The Black-Pig” smallgoods was from heritage Berkshire pigs, or other heritage black pig breeds; and/or free range pigs, when that was not the case.

Saskia Beer, Barossa Farm Produce’s sole director, also made representations at an Autumnal Cooking Class held at the Maggie Beer Farm Shop in April 2013 that the pork used in “The Black-Pig” smallgoods was from Berkshire or other black pig breeds, when that was not the case.

Maggie Beer has apologised to "anyone who feels they may have been misled" in the video below.

Poultry processors underpaid $20,000

A labour-hire contractor which short-changed 10 overseas workers has agreed to back-pay its former employees more than $20,000 following an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The workers, aged between 21 and 30, were from Hong Kong and Taiwan in Australia on 417 working holiday visas when they were engaged by the contractor to work at a NSW poultry processing plant.

Complaints from the employees that they were being paid as little as $11.50 an hour and sometimes required to work up to 20-hour shifts were assessed by the Fair Work Ombudsman’s specialist Overseas Worker’s Team (OWT).

They employees told OWT inspectors that:

  • Female workers were paid $11.50 an hour to wrap, label and pack trays of meat, while males received $12.50 an hour.
  • Those staff using the mincer were paid $13.50 an hour.
  • Payments were made in cash, with neither tax nor superannuation deducted.
  • Workers were advised by text message of their shifts for the following day.
  • Shifts varied from 8 to 16 hours, but sometimes lasted up to 20 hours.

Fair Work inspectors were also told that workers were directed by their supervisor to live in crowded share houses with up to 30 employees, with sometimes two or more people sharing a single mattress.

Employees claimed that $100 a week was deducted from their wages to cover the accommodation, and they were told they would not receive work if they chose to live elsewhere.

The Fair Work Ombudsman found that the 10 employees had been underpaid a total of $20,250 between May and October, 2013. The amounts for individual workers ranged from $500 to $4300.

Inspectors found they should have been paid between $16.50 and $39 an hour, depending on the day, time and the number of hours worked in the shift.

An agreement was reached with the labour-hire contractor to reimburse all outstanding entitlements.

Concerns about other practices raised by the employees which is outside the jurisdiction of the Fair Work Ombudsman have been raised with relevant authorities.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also concerned about sub-contracting arrangements it identified during the course of its investigations which it believes contributed to poor record-keeping practices and underpayment of minimum entitlements.

For example, it found connections between companies in the contracting line beneath the principal sub-contractor whereby they shared the same accountant, interchanged directors, listed individuals as signatories on bank accounts and transferred supervisors from one company to another as labour hire contracts were signed.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said these observations now form part of a broader review of labour supply chain practices in the meat industry to identify the drivers of non-compliance with workplace laws.

“Our inquiry is conducting an analysis of how contracting supply arrangements are made and whether there has been a growth of contracting supply chains within this industry, and if so, why?” she said.

“This includes a study of the economic drivers behind the supply chain practices and the engagement of overseas workers in the meat industry.

“This analysis will include identifying impacts these practices have on local employment and social trends (eg housing) in geographical locations in which the meat industry is located.”

Ms James says the Fair Work Ombudsman review will also include other areas of impact on the broader Australian economy, such as the ‘cash economy’.