Govt to impose duties on canned Italian tomatoes

The Government will impose import duties on two brands of canned Italian tomatoes, following the recommendations of an investigation by the Anti-Dumping Commissioner.

The Commissioner investigated the alleged dumping of Feger and La Doria canned tomatoes onto the Australian market. (Dumping refers to the practice of selling a product at a price that is lower in the foreign market than the price charged in the market of origin).

The final decision is to apply dumping margins of 8.4 per cent to Feger tomato products and 4.5 per cent to La Doria tomato products.

The decision means that all brands of canned tomatoes imported from Italy are now subject to anti-dumping measures.

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, said in a statement that this was a strong and decisive decision for local producers.

“This ruling will ensure that Australia’s only canned tomato producer, SPC Ardmona, can now compete equally in Australian stores and supermarkets.”

“Feger and La Doria are major competitors in the Australian market.

It will take a ban on caging pigs to clean up the pork industry

A current bill before the New South Wales Parliament proposes to end the use of sow-stalls.

Sow-stalls, sometimes referred to as gestation crates, are small metal and concrete cages measuring 2.2 by 0.6 metres in which pregnant pigs are kept for up to 105 days.

If passed, New South Wales would become the second Australian jurisdiction to do so, after the Australian Capital Territory banned their use in 2014.

But in 2010, Australian Pork Limited (APL), the peak representative body for the pork industry, agreed to a voluntary phase-out of sow-stalls by 2017.

So why do we need a ban anyway?

The problem with sow-stalls

It is hard to say for certain the extent of physical and psychological harm caused by keeping pregnant pigs in sow-stalls. Key pieces of scientific research conducted in this area have been funded either in whole or part by APL. Whether or not this funding influences the research outcomes is difficult to say.

In any event, researchers have found that the lack of exercise caused by such confinement reduces bone strength and muscle weight in sows and they report higher incidences of lameness.

We also know that these intelligent animals will bite the bars of their cage to express boredom or frustration at their confinement. The pregnant sows develop skin abrasions from the metal bars as the stall is not much larger than their body.

Furthermore, such confinement deprives these pigs from exercising natural behaviours, such as foraging for food and nesting. It is these kinds of harms that have seen sow-stalls banned or their use substantially restricted in countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, and New Zealand, among others.

Why is a law to ban sow-stalls necessary?

The voluntary phase-out can be seen as the industries response to market-forces. Retailers such as Coles and Woolworths have already responded to this demand.

Coles' own brand pork products have been sow-stall free since 2013, while Woolworths is committed to sourcing all its fresh pork products from producers who use sow-stalls for less than 10% of the sows' gestation period.

Despite the apparent success of market forces, there remain important reasons why governments still need to regulate farm animal welfare.

There are important limitations to the APL’s voluntary phase-out.

First, the phase-out only applies to APL members. Only 38% of pork producers in Australia are APL members (although they account for 94% of pig meat products), so there will still be animals not covered under the voluntary scheme.

Second, as the phase-out is voluntary, APL members who choose not to comply cannot be forced to do so – although they may be engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct if they promote their products as sow-stall free.

Third, the voluntary phase-out will be policed through industry self-regulation. This appears to involve auditing by the Australian Pork Industry Quality Assurance Program, which is owned and managed by APL.

There are limits to the efficacy of industry self-regulation given the tension that can exist between profit maximisation and animal welfare goals.

Fourth, the voluntary phase-out will not mean pigs are free-range or free from confinement. The APL voluntary phase-out provides a qualified definition of “gestation stall free”, which will allow pigs to be confined to mating stalls and farrowing crates for up to 10% of their pregnancy.

Also, the alternate to sow-stalls proposed by APL is “loose housing”, which will not guarantee any access to the outdoors, opportunities for socialising or access to bedding/nesting materials.

The need for a ban

To protect all pregnant pigs from sow-stalls, laws must be passed in each Australian State and Territory. The ACT has already done so and the current NSW bill aims to follow in its footsteps.

Although the ACT never had sow-stalls operating in its territory, the amendment to its Animal Welfare Act will ensure it stays this way.

The NSW bill is closely modelled on the ACT amendment. Both provide for “appropriate accommodation” for all pigs.

Appropriate accommodation means that pigs must be able to turn around, stand up and lie down without difficulty. The floor is to be clean, comfortable and well-drained. The facilities must enable pigs to maintain a comfortable body temperature and have access to an outdoor area.

Unlike the ACT model, the NSW bill does allow pigs to remain wholly indoors provided bedding material and enrichment objects are made available and the pig is able to move about freely.

Another difference is the requirement that pigs be housed in “compatible groups”, being “a group of two or more pigs that can be kept together without undue stress to any of those pigs.” This will help reduce aggression and fighting between pigs.

A final difference between the ACT legislation and the NSW bill is that farrowing crates (which were designed to reduce the chance of piglets being trampled or crushed by the sow) will also be banned by 2020 if the NSW bill is successful.

Although a voluntary phase-out of sow-stalls may improve the lives of some pregnant sows, a law requiring all pork producers to provide “appropriate accommodation” for the pigs in their care is the better option. This will ensure the rule covers all producers and enables direct governmental oversight.

No doubt the bill will have some limitations. However, as the community’s expectations shift, the decision to end the use of sow-stalls should rest with parliament, not industry.

The Conversation

Aaron Timoshanko is Sessional Academic and Research Assistant at Flinders University, PhD Candidate at Monash University.
Joanna Kyriakakis is Lecturer in Law at Monash University.

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


$35,000: the cost of three fingers

A New Norcia farming company and a company Director have been fined a total of $35,000 over an incident in which an employee had parts of three fingers amputated by an auger hopper.

GP Mackie and Co Pty Ltd was fined $25,000 and company Director Peter Gilbert Mackie was fined $10,000 in the Moora Magistrates Court this week.  The company and Mackie both pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee.

The incident occurred at Mirridong farm in New Norcia, a cattle and hay farm where crops and grains are also grown, and machinery including air seeders with augers attached are used.

In May 2012, an employee of GP Mackie was working alone, auguring fertiliser into the bin on the air seeder.

He thought he saw a piece of rock in the hopper and reached for it, believing he was well out of reach of the flight from the auger.  He suffered partial amputation of the middle three fingers on his left hand, which required surgery and rehabilitation.

There was no guard fitted to the auger hopper.  The guard had at times been intentionally removed from the auger due to difficulties with the fertiliser clumping and not getting through the guard.

Mackie was aware of the removal of the guard, and GP Mackie’s sister company (which had the same Directors and shared the same workplace) had been given ten improvement notices by WorkSafe inspectors between 2005 and 2009 for guarding issues.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said that machinery guarding was absolutely essential and it was never safe to allow the moving parts of machinery to remain unguarded.

“It is up to the employer to provide a safe work environment for all employees, and this includes providing safely guarded machinery,” Mr McCulloch said.

“The Magistrate in this case made the point that family farming is not exempt from this responsibility to provide a safe workplace, and that the penalty must reflect the seriousness of the incident.

“Subsequent to this incident, the employer installed a guard on the auger that was made from scrap materials and so cost very little.

“If this had been done earlier, this incident would not have occurred and the employee involved would have been spared a great deal of suffering.

“The fact is that Mr Mackie would have been well aware of his responsibilities as an employer after being issued ten notices for guarding offences.

“Guarding of the dangerous moving parts of machinery is such a basic and easy precaution to take, and it really is time for employers to take a good hard look at the guarding situation and stop exposing employees to the risk of injury.”


Murray Darling Basin CEO’s establish group to lobby government

CEO’s from five major commodity sectors have formed a group to address issues surrounding the ongoing implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) Executive Director Dean Logan said, “Over the last two weeks I’ve met with and discussed concerns regarding the Murray Darling Basin Plan process with CEOs across five major commodity sectors equating to tens of billions of dollars of investment. The overwhelming response? Policy makers, families, communities and farmers alike deserve a much more constructive, mature and less emotive debate that ultimately leads to real solutions being placed on the table.”

In his meetings with CEO’s, Logan discussed the need for and policy and institutional reform.

The group is concerned the Senate Inquiry will not deliver the outcome needed, as solutions require both State and Federal Government cooperation and political buy-in. In response to the challenges facing the area, the Logan said it is now up to the group “to stand united to help Government deliver social, environmental and economic certainty and reform.”

“A key point we are raising as basin CEO’s is that while social, economic and environmental decline is measured in decades not years, we must look forward positively when seeking to address reform,” Logan said.

“What shouldn’t be missed is that amongst all this so called ‘turmoil’ the rice industry alone, six weeks ago, delivered growers and basin communities an additional $40M of income on top of last year’s crop returns. This is a positive story that demands a more constructive debate when moving forward and working through concerns.

“As CEOs we all agree change is needed and we won’t walk away from a fight, but the Murray Darling Basin is at a critical juncture that demands leadership and calm heads to prevail.

“It is vital we maintain a sense of bipartisanship and inter-jurisdictional leadership and dialogue. We must, this time, get this right. We stand committed with Government – of all persuasions – to do whatever it takes,” Logan said.

The basin group of CEOs will be formalised over the next two weeks. The initiative has been discussed with senior policy makers and leaders at both the State and Federal level and will be officially launched in Sydney.


Ministers to reconsider legalising hemp for food

Australian and New Zealand government ministers will reconsider legalising hemp for food in the first quarter of 2016.

The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) met in Hobart to discuss a number of food regulation matters.

Before the ban on low THC hemp food may be reconsidered, there are some “knowledge gaps” which the Forum has requested be addressed first.

The FRSC Working Group is addressing the knowledge gaps identified regarding roadside drug testing, cannabidiol levels, legal and treaty issues and concerns that the marketing of hemp in food may send a confused message to consumers about the acceptability and safety of cannabis.

In February, the Forum decided to maintain the ban on low THC hemp as food because of concerns that police drug testing would be compromised by the legalisation of the product.

The Forum has asked officials to progress this work as quickly as possible and has agreed to consider the report on the project outcomes in the first quarter of 2016.

Health Star Rating update

The ministers discussed the progress of the Health Star Rating roll out. The Forum tasked the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) to provide advice in relation to the clarity that is required on the HSR Terms of Reference to strengthen the governance. This will include advice regarding the process for consultation with and oversight by jurisdictions.

Nut- and seed-based beverages in the Health Star Rating system

The Forum considered a request to classify nut- and seed-based beverages as Category 1D dairy beverages’ for the purpose of the HSR system.

A majority of Forum members agreed that under the HSR system, nut- and seed-based beverages may be classified as Category 1D products, if they meet the calcium requirements for that category.

The Forum also agreed to seek further consideration by the FRSC, with advice from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) on how dairy alternative beverages should be categorised within the HSR system, and how they should be treated under the relevant food standard. The Forum is also seeking further advice about reconciling recommendations received from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). This will also include the outcome of the current application that is under consideration by FSANZ.

Vitamin D in breakfast cereal

The Forum has asked FSANZ to review a draft standard to permit the voluntary addition of vitamin D to breakfast cereals, to ensure consistency with the ‘Ministerial Policy Guideline for the Fortification of Food with Vitamins and Minerals’. Permitting the addition of vitamin D to breakfast cereals of poorer nutritional quality (e.g., cereals high in fat, sugar or salt) is not consistent with this Policy Guideline. The Forum also agreed that the Policy Guideline will be clarified in conjunction with the FSANZ review.

Country of Origin Labelling

The Forum noted that there was broad community interest in improving the Country of Origin Labelling framework for Australian food. New Zealand didn’t participate in the discussion, as it plans to continue with its current voluntary Country of Origin Labelling scheme.


$4 billion investment announced in Agriculture White Paper

Biosecurity, international trade and supply chain transparency are some of the priorities of the Agriculture White Paper.

The Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper pledged $200 million funding increase for biosecurity across Australia to improve biosecurity surveillance and analysis nationally, including in northern Australia.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said “this $200 million over four years will improve our ability to understand, detect and respond to pests and diseases that could hurt our farmers, rural communities, agricultural productivity and economy.”

"It will build intelligence and scientific expertise and put more boots on the ground. It will also support development in the north and ensure the northern barrier remains intact.

The Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper also provides an additional $12.4 million over four years to modernise Australia's traceability systems. This will provide even greater assurance that the agricultural goods we send to trading partners can be traced quickly to the point of origin so the source of any disease or residue contamination can be effectively managed.

International Trade

The investment in biosecurity is part of a plan to help farmers’ access premium markets.

The government has also pledged $30.8 million ​to break down technical barriers to trade and appointing five new Agriculture Counsellors.

There will be an additional $12.4 million to modernise Australia’s food export traceability systems to further enhance our food safety credentials.

Supply chain transparency

The White Paper commits $11.4 million to establish an ACCC Commissioner dedicated to agriculture as well as supporting capability at the ACCC concerned with agriculture supply chain issues.

"Many stakeholders were concerned with the lack of transparency in supply chains and the anti-competitive distortions that can result—all too often to the detriment of our farmers," Joyce said.

"The new Commissioner, combined with the new dedicated agricultural-focus of the ACCC, will give the ACCC additional agricultural skills and knowledge to address the concerns of farmers.

"These new resources will enable ACCC staff to attend the saleyards or visit farmers to see the market in action and gather necessary evidence.

The government has also put forward $13.8 million towards educating farmers and providing them with materials on alternative business models like cooperatives and collective bargaining.

"Knowledge is power. A strong supply chain advocate, proactive ACCC investigations and information on alternative business structures will go a long way to reducing farmers' vulnerability to the market power that can be wielded by large processors or retail chains.

"These measures, combined with work this government already has in train through our forthcoming response to the Competition Policy Review; the current review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct; and the establishment of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, show we are serious about ensuring our farmers get a fair deal for their efforts.

Better regulation

The White Paper announced it will be reducing red tape from the economy by $1 billion a year.

$20.4 million has been allocated to further streamline agricultural and veterinary chemicals approvals. Farmers will get access to new farm chemicals more quickly, reducing the cost of doing business.

The Australian Government also reiterated its commitment to improve country of origin labelling.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said considerable public interest in the issue made it clear that consumers wanted to know whether the products they were buying were sourced locally or from overseas.

The Australian Government is currently consulting with industry and the community about the best way forward before engaging with state and territory governments.

The White Paper was informed by stakeholder consultation—more than 1000 submissions were received and the government talked face-to-face with more than 1100 people across the country in developing this document. The White Paper is available at


Calls for Australia’s leaders to reduce food waste

OzHarvest will team up with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN’s Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction (SAVE FOOD) to lead the third annual Think.Eat.Save campaign in Australia and raise awareness on global food loss and waste reduction.

The campaign will launch at Parliament House Canberra on the eve of World Environment Day, June 4, and culminate in the national Think.Eat.Save event taking place across seven Australian cities (capital and regional) on Monday, 27 July.

Environment Minister the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Shadow Environment, Climate Change and Water Minister the Hon Mark Butler MP, Deputy Greens Leader Senator Larissa Waters, UNIC Director Christopher Woodthorpe and OzHarvest CEO and Founder Ronni Kahn will come together to launch the 2015 Think.Eat.Save campaign, bringing attention to the impact of global food waste and raising national debate on how food sustainability and food security can be addressed at a local level.

OzHarvest is calling on the nation’s leaders to set a target to reduce food waste by 50 per cent by 2025 following the example set by EU nations such as France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. Food waste is currently costing Australians up to 10 billion dollars each year.

At the launch event, a lunch made from rescued surplus food will be prepared and served to Australia’s leaders by IHG Executive Chef at Parliament House Cris Purcell together with OzHarvest’s Chef for a Cause Travis Harvey.

Members of the public will also be encouraged to make a personal pledge to reduce food waste through a digital Think.Eat.Save campaign launching on the same day.


Trade Mission to China opens opportunity for SA

A large trade mission from South Australia to China begins today with a focus on securing new markets for food and wine from South Australia.

More than a quarter of the 250-strong delegation visiting the South Australian sister province of Shandong, China, are from the food, wine and agribusiness industries.

The unique mission is the culmination of four years of relationship building between the two areas and will include the second South Australia–Shandong Cooperation and Development forum that begins today in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province.

South Australian Minister for Investment and Trade Martin Hamilton Smith said the timing of the trip was important to help Australian companies understand the Chinese market to take advantage of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Shandong has a population of about 100 million and a gross domestic product of close to $AUD1 trillion.

“A broad range of sectors will be represented on the trip, including representatives from the agricultural, arts, education, health, mining and resources, tourism, and wine sectors,” Smith said.

He said that South Australia’s food and wine, the state’s largest export earner, will be a focus of the trip.

“South Australia has premium products and services that the Chinese are looking for, but we don’t have the size to get attention in the massive Chinese market which is being flooded by business from America, Europe and the rest of Asia. That is why we are consolidating our efforts into this strategic and focussed approach,” Smith said.

Catherine Barnett, the CEO of Food South Australia, said there would be a number of high level meetings with government and industry in Jinan, Beijing and Qingdao.

“There is a significant focus on food and wine and the combination of government and industry will provide a strong and united South Australian presence which should provide significant trade opportunities,” Barnett said.

Today’s mission comes less than a month after Barnett hosted the Australian contingent to SIAL, China’s largest food trade show in Shanghai.

“Shows like this indicate the opening up of the China market and the demand for safe food,” she said.

Daren Thomas, the CEO of Thomas Foods International, said trips to the provinces of China gave him the opportunity to meet buyers for his meat that he could not get if he were to stay in the capitals. He said the trade mission also gave South Australian food producers and processors the backing and depth needed to trade in China.

“China is such a large place that there is no one company or agency that you can deal with to reach consumers across the country. Meeting the business leaders in each province is essential,” Thomas said.


SPC opens first stage of $100 mill redevelopment

SPC has delivered of the first stage of a $100 million investment program with the completion of a snack line.

“Today we celebrate the completion of our new snack line. The $100 million co-investment between our parent company Coca-Cola Amatil and the Victorian Government, has been put to work to drive new product innovation,” said SPC chief financial officer James Harvey.

“SPC is an Australian brand icon and, with the support of the Victorian Government, I’m pleased to say that our future is bright. We thank Premier Andrews and his team, who have been unwavering in their support for SPC. They have played a critical role in assisting us with our transformation plans and helping to secure the company’s future in the Goulburn Valley.”

The new SPC Snack Line will improve quality and innovation capability.

“SPC has worked with our suppliers to deliver this first major milestone in our investment plan in just six months – that’s record time from ordering to operating. We were determined to produce this season’s fruit using the new line with our new-look snack cups, which are in store now,” Harvey said.

The new line can produce any of SPC’s food products in cup format. It has an improved gentler cooking process that produces higher quality product.

One of SPC’s new innovations is SPC ProVital – a brand that delivers high quality product for people who have difficulty opening packaging or in some cases swallowing food. “We’re excited about the potential of SPC ProVital because it’s the first of its kind for the healthcare market. It’s a range of easy-open portion-control fruit that is more accessible for patients and reduces waste during serving and consumption,” Harvey said.

“We’re proud to be recognised for our strong commitment to Australian grown and made food. Due to its popularity, this week we’ve extended our #MyFamilyCan campaign to promote our farming families.”

SPC’s incoming Managing Director, Reg Weine, said he was excited by the opportunities ahead. “Our $100 million investment program will continue to build SPC’s capability and capacity as we transition to a modern branded food business. Importantly, it allows us to deliver product and packaging innovation, efficiency and productivity improvements and extend the brand as we enter new channels and markets.”


Mid-size food producers looking for share of the budget pie

The $24.6 million to promote Australian products in markets where free trade agreements have recently been signed; is a step in the right direction. However more could have been done.

If Australia is to truly capitalise on the export potential of the Agribusiness, Food & Beverage Industries, real incentives must be provided to our mid-size operators to reach their full potential. We call on the Government to provide export opportunities that extend beyond small businesses.

Government action needs to be bold and facilitate growth conditions for the sector’s mid-size businesses to maximise export potential, according to Tony Pititto, National Head of Food & Beverage, Grant Thornton Australia.

“While small business emerged the big winner of this year’s budget, we would like to see meaningful tax incentives for mid-sized businesses in this sector with aspiring export earnings.

“Real incentives, such as reducing company tax rates for mid-sized agribusiness and food and beverage exporters, would truly encourage these companies to focus on export opportunities; especially the growing Asian market.

“Company tax reductions for the sector must be linked to exports. This could be done by granting reductions in company tax on export income to those food producers with turnovers of less than $250 million; which achieve export revenues of up to $100 million.

“These measures would undoubtedly encourage a real export focus and growth for the sector, said Mr Pititto.

Development of local infrastructure for the sector was a welcomed announcement to further facilitate the export opportunities.

“While the Federal Government is yet to release its white paper on developing Northern Australia, it has promised to help private developers and state governments get concessional loans, of up to $5 billion, for infrastructure like dams, pipelines and power plants, providing more efficient channels to export and local markets.

“The new $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads Fund will make targeted upgrades to key roads necessary for transporting cattle in northern Australia and provide further efficiencies to market for mid-size operators looking to optimise export opportunities,” said Mr Pititto.


Australian wines the toast of China trade shows

Two NSW wines are generating huge interest from wholesale buyers at trade shows held in Eastern China.

NSW Business Chamber representatives recently showcased Australian products at a series of trade shows in Zhejiang Province, south of Shanghai, including at the Hangzhou Wine Fair, as part of their Export Growth China program.

 “Drayton’s Family Wines and Brothers in Arms Vineyard were the toast of the Hangzhou Wine Fair. The event had more than 200 wholesale buyers in attendance, and generated 20 firm sales leads which will now be followed up by our specialist trade advisors in Shanghai to ensure these businesses are matched with the right buyers for the best chance at success,” said NSW Business Chamber General Manager, Paula Martin.

“NSW Business Chamber has opened a custom-designed showroom in the heart of Shanghai’s international trading district, which we are currently filling with Australian products, including samples from top Australian winemakers.

“Although the showroom will be officially launched in August, our staff on the ground in China are already proactively marketing these products to wholesale buyers and providing real-time feedback on potential sales leads,” Martin said.

John Drayton of Drayton’s Family Wines said the company joined the Export Growth China program to learn about the market in China and gain greater awareness and exposure of Drayton’s brand products in the Chinese market.

“Drayton’s Family Wines have been exporting to China for over 10 years.  During this time we have been only supplying “buyers own brand” to Chinese buyers as they approach us, however we have now made a conscious decision to attempt to supply our Drayton brand products. 

“We feel that the overall Chinese market is still in the early days of maturity and the potential is huge to not only supply softer full bodied red wines but from experienced gained from the Chinese tourist that visit our winery in the Hunter Valley fruiter soft white wines could become popular in the Chinese market. 

“From such hands on cellar experience that our staff are experiencing here in Australia we feel that it is only a matter of time before the market in China starts to accept such softer fruiter style white wines that would go very well with Chinese food.


Parmalat issued with notice from EPA following odour complaints

Dairy company Parmalat Food Products has been issued with a Prevention Notice by the EPA following complaints about foul odours coming from its factory in western Sydney.

Neighbours of the dairy processing facility on Birnie Avenue in Lidcombe have complained for the last two months about the problem. Residents have complained that the smell is like ‘sour milk’ and a ‘sewer’.

Following multiple site inspections where EPA officers detected the strong and offensive odours offsite, Parmalat has been issued with the notice requiring them to engage a suitably qualified consultant this week to deliver recommendations to the EPA by May 27.

The consultant will be required to undertake a comprehensive site odour assessment identifying and prioritising potential sources that may be contributing to the offsite odour and developing short, medium and long term management options.

EPA Manager Sydney Industry Greg Sheehy said the Prevention Notice was designed to provide expedited relief to nearby residents and businesses while the EPA’s investigations continue.

The EPA will continue to work with Parmalat throughout this process and encourages anybody with odour concerns about the site to report their complaint to the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555.

“We believe that the initial odours may have been related to 360,000 litres of wastewater that turned anaerobic so our investigations are looking into why this occurred and how the company then dealt with the incident,” Sheehy said.

“EPA inspections have also identified other potential sources of odour which is why the Prevention Notice requires a range of onsite sources to be investigated.

“These odours have been very unpleasant for neighbours of the Birnie Road site so our aim is to address this issue as quickly as possible.

“By getting an expert on-board to assess the situation we hope to get some practical solutions in place to mitigate the offsite impacts and hopefully eliminate them from re-occurring down the track.”

Competition policy roundtable in Sydney today

Competition policy experts from government, the private sector, NGAs and academia are meeting in Sydney today.

The ICC Roundtable on Competition Policy, an initiative of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), will see participants from around the world discussing issues such as anti-trust compliance for small business, best practices in pre-merger control and the increasing importance of foreign investment reviews.

The event is hosted by the ICC and the ICC Australia, the Australian national committee of the global organisation. The ICC Australia is part of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).

Kate Carnell AO, the CEO of the ACCI, said: “Competition policy is always a hot topic for the business community and regulators, and the ICC Roundtable on Competition Policy is a fantastic forum for experts in the field to come together to tease out issues.

“This event again shows the value in Australian businesses playing their part in international cooperative efforts to improve policy outcomes.

“I look forward to welcoming Roundtable participants from around the world to Sydney. We hope they, and many others, will return to Sydney in 2017 when the city hosts the World Chambers Congress, another initiative of the ICC.”

The event is recommended for anyone interested in genuine exchange with competition agency officials and private sector experts.

Participants on the Roundtable include:

  • Kate Carnell AO, CEO of the ACCI
  • Paul Lugard, Chair of the ICC Competition Commission (Belgium)
  • Rod Sims, Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
  • Anne Riley, Group Antitrust Counsel at Shell International Limited (Britain)
  • Anny Tubbs, Chief Compliance Officer at Unilever Legal Group (Belgium)
  • Patrick Hubert, Partner at Clifford Chance Europe (France)
  • Hardin Ratshisusu, Acting Deputy Commissioner/Head of Mergers and Acquisitions at Competition Commission South Africa
  • Calvin S. Goldman QC, Partner at Goodmans (Canada)
  • Andrew McBride, Acting Chief Compliance Officer at BHP Billiton (Britain)

Govt releases Energy White Paper

The federal government’s Energy White Paper, released yesterday, has been largely welcomed by business leaders but criticised by environmentalists.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the government wants to ensure Australians receive competitively priced and reliable energy supplies into the future.

According to the White Paper, this can be best achieved by promoting competition in energy markets, increasing energy productivity and facilitating investment in energy resources development.

“The measures in the Energy White Paper will deliver stable energy policy and efficient transparent markets that give consumers information to make choices about their energy use and industry the confidence to invest,” Macfarlane said.

As AAP reports, the paper suggests consumers pay more for energy during peak hours and less during times of low demand.

It also includes policies the government has already announced, such as encouraging states to sell off electricity assets.

It suggests increased use of coal seam gas and leaves open the possibility of the future introduction of nuclear energy. It says international nuclear energy developments should be monitored.

However, it rejects the concept of a domestic gas reserve.

Controversially, the White Paper says future energy policy should be "technology neutral". In other words, high polluting fossil fuel energy sources should be treated in the same way as clean renewable sources.

Environmentalists attacked this position. For example, the Climate Institute called it a "fantasy of climate ignorance", while Greens leader Christine Milne said the paper should be "binned along with the Warburton review into the RET".

Industry was more positive.

Welcoming the paper, Kate Carnell AO, CEO of the ACCI said, “The White Paper shows that Australia can reap substantial benefits by meeting global energy demand, which is expected to rise by over one-third by 2040. We can only achieve this by streamlining regulation and attracting investment into new projects and supply.

And the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) CEO Gary Dawson said, “In releasing the Energy White Paper, the Australian Government has agreed with industry’s calls for gas market reform by increasing gas supplies, improving competition and increasing information about gas supply availability and pricing.”


Popularity of food ‘Made in Australia’ on the rise

The proportion of Australians over 14 who are more likely to buy food labelled ‘Made in Australia’ has risen to 88 per cent from 85 per cent two years ago, according to the latest research.

The survey by Roy Morgan Research also found that 6 per cent of Australians over 14 prefer food marked ‘Made in China’, compared to 5 per cent two years ago.

Those who prefer the goods ‘Made in China’ tend to be younger (under 35) and less concerned about whether their food is fattening, genetically modified, or additive-free. And they are more likely to buy frozen or chilled ready-made meals, takeaway food, and to avoid dairy products when possible.

“Among the small percentage of Australians who are more likely to buy food if it’s labelled ‘Made in China’, certain attitudes towards food stand out. These same attitudes – from ‘I often buy takeaway food to eat at home’ to ‘I avoid dairy foods wherever possible’ – are also more widespread among Aussies aged under 35 than those aged 35+,” said Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research.

In addition, Australians from an Asian background are more likely to prefer goods ‘Made in China’. However, those from this group are still much more likely to prefer food labelled ‘Made in Australia’.

Meanwhile, the Australian Made Campaign has welcomed the Government’s decision to consult with stakeholders and undertake consumer research into its proposal to introduce a mandatory ‘Australian content’ symbol for all locally produced food products.

“The Australian Made Campaign applauds the Ministers for Agriculture and Industry making country-of-origin branding a priority and looks forward to working closely with the Government on the introduction of the new system,” Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison said in a statement.

It is believed the Ministers will be submitting further recommendations to Cabinet in August on changes to the current labelling laws, and what the proposed new symbol will look like.

The rules for using the logo on food products are more stringent than the rules for making country-of-origin claims under Australian Consumer Law. The Australian Made Campaign has been lobbying for that gap to be closed, and an education program to be rolled out to help increase understanding of country-of-origin claims and the value proposition of buying Australian made and Australian grown products.


2015 wine vintage research underway at DAFWA

The capacity of the Department of Agriculture and Food’s winemaking laboratory has been enhanced to facilitate new and increased winemaking research activities.

The wine laboratory at the department’s Bunbury office has been boosted with a new 80kg capacity press.

Department viticulture research officer Richard Fennessy said arrival of the new equipment was timely and provided significant processing efficiencies for the winemaking component of viticulture research activities.

“The department is contributing to two national research projects that require us to make 38 batches of wine from 1 600kg of fruit,” Fennessy said.

“Batch sizes range from 15kg to 50kg. Prior to the arrival of the new press we processed all grapes using a 15kg capacity press. It suited small volumes of fruit but caused bottlenecks when processing larger volumes.

“The new press will reduce the time it takes to process batches larger than 20kg, and increase productivity in the laboratory.”

Grape pressing is expected to be completed by about mid-April.

The department’s wine research activities contribute to nationwide projects on the genomic basis of clonal variation in Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes and assessing clonal variability in Chardonnay and Shiraz for future climate change.

Fennessy said the viticulture team was also making wine for a new project examining the impact of different crop loads on Tempranillo wine quality from fruit grown in Margaret River.

Tempranillo is a Spanish red wine grape variety gaining popularity in Western Australia.

“The aim of the Tempranillo project is to determine whether cropping at 4t/ha, 6t/ha and 10t/ha influences wine character and quality,” he said.

“This project requires just 90kg of fruit to make into wine which, compared to our other projects, is hoped to make for an easy squeeze.”

The one-year Tempranillo project is funded from the Australian Grape and Wine Authority regional program co-ordinated by Wines of WA.

The department is making the wines in collaboration with a viticulture consultancy which is managing the project for Wines of WA.

All wines produced from the department’s 2015 vintage will undergo chemical and sensory analysis by industry experts.

Bottling is expected to occur in August and sensory assessments in November or December to allow the wine time to rest in the bottle before tasting.

Findings from all research will be shared at industry workshops.


Tasmanian businesses benefiting from Federal Government funding

Tasmanian businesses have received $13 million in grants from the Innovation and Investment Fund as part of the Federal Government’s strategy to bolster local industry.

When added to the $27 million in investment by local businesses, the grants will inject $40 million into the Tasmanian economy and create more than 400 new jobs.

“Forty one businesses across the State will receive from $50,000 to $1.4 million to strengthen their operations, making them more competitive by investing in technology, modernisation and building capacity,” Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane (pictured) said in a statement.

Macfarlane and local MPs Eric Hutchinson and Andrew Nikolic visited some of these businesses yesterday.

One of them, GJ Engineering Pty Ltd will receive $86,738 towards a $173,476 new vertical lathe to diversify and increase the capacity of their production-run machine parts manufacturing plant and general engineering service. This project will create five new ongoing positions.

"GJ's are going to be able to bring in a new piece of equipment, which they've been wanting to buy for some time, but with this grant they're now able to buy it sooner and able to put on two extra people, fully qualified tradespeople," Macfarlane said.

GJ Engineering’s owner Graeme Howard told the ABC it would mean the project would be started and completed sooner.

"I would have done it anyway, but what the grant will achieve is we'll be able to do it a lot sooner," he said.

"So we're starting now, where I probably wouldn't have started looking at this for another year or so.

"This has given me the opportunity to bring all my plans forward by at least 12 months, if not longer."

George Town Seafoods has also been successful with $420,000 towards a $1.3 million project to expand its salmon processing facility, creating an estimated 14 new jobs.

And National Pies in Hobart will receive $695,000 to purchase freezing equipment and manufacturing, supporting access to wider markets. The $1.8 million project will create 12 ongoing jobs.


Class action looms for Patties

A class action suit is looming for Patties, as Slater and Gordon encourage those who contracted Hepatitis A after eating the berries to come forward.

Slater and Gordon said the “nature of this contamination scare may also give rise to claims for compensation, and there are a number of legal issues to consider.”

The Australian Consumer Law regulates matters concerning the safety and quality of goods sold within Australia, and treats the local distributors of imported goods as though they were the manufacturers of their products. In this way, companies that sell consumer products in Australia, whether local or imported, can be held responsible for the quality of the goods they trade in.

Under The Australian Consumer Law, individuals who were injured as a result of a safety defect in goods have the right to claim compensation against the relevant manufacturer.

13 cases of Hepatitis A in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and WA have been linked to frozen raspberries imported from China and repackaged by Bairnsdale-based Patties Foods.

The law firm said it has been contacted by “a number of people” who are concerned about their health and legal rights.

The Department of Agriculture has formally requested a review of the risk status of frozen berries from FSANZ and is seeking assurances from China about the safety of further shipments of frozen berries.

Assistant Minister for health, Fiona Nash, said “Once FSANZ reports back to us with the information it is seeking from Chinese food authorities, we will be able to assess whether further steps need to be taken.

“If, upon consideration of all available information, the circumstances require a review of current arrangements or improvements to the system, we will act on this.”

Products included in the recall are: Nanna’s Raspberries 1kg, Nanna’s Mixed Berries 1kg and Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries 300g and 500g.


Standards Australia to update Organic and Biodynamic Products standards

Standards Australia is currently revising AS 6000 – 2009 Organic and Biodynamic Products to take into account updated requirements, methods and technology.

The objective of AS 6000 is to provide a framework for the organic industry covering production, preparation, transportation, labelling and marketing.

The Standard provides minimum requirements for products with labelling that states or implies they have been produced under organic or biodynamic systems.

The Standard aims to serve as a guide to farmers, producers and consumers and to harmonise national provisions for the production, identification and labelling of organically and biodynamically grown products.

The main changes in this revision are to update:

  • Requirements for the conversion of land into a production system for organic or biodynamic products;
  • Conditions for the use of synthetic amino acids;
  • Requirements for Livestock Housing and Range Management; and
  • General principles and requirements for Biodynamic Production.

Richard Souness, chairman of Technical Committee FT-032, Organic and Biodynamic Products, said, “The Australian Standard AS 6000 serves as a guide for industry, producers and consumers on all aspects of the organic and biodynamic industry, from production to labelling to marketing. It aims to protect consumers against deceptive and unsubstantiated product claims, and also protect organic producers against misinterpretation of other agricultural products as organic.”

“The Standard is now being revised to take into account updated requirements, methods and technology. We invite public comment on the proposed revision to AS 6000.”

In accordance with Standards Australia’s standards development process, the proposed draft of AS 6000 will be open for public comment from Tuesday, 17 February, 2015 to Tuesday, 21 April, 2015.

All draft Standards for public comment and instructions on how to comment are listed here.


Australia asks China if further berry shipments will be safe

The Department of Agriculture is seeking assurances from China about the safety of further shipments of frozen berries.

Consumption of Nanna’s brand frozen mixed berries has been linked to the 13 cases of Hepatitis A in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and WA as of Wednesday afternoon (18 February).

The department has engaged with authorities through the Australian embassy staff in Beijing and is tracing products in supply chains as part of working with importers to manage potential risks.

The department has formally requested a review of the risk status of frozen berries from FSANZ. The department will also consider the outcomes of incident investigations conducted by the state and territory food authorities.

FSANZ provides advice to the department on which imported foods are considered to pose a risk to human health. In the case of the frozen berries, the department is working to gather information to determine what further action might be taken.

Assistant Minister for health, Fiona Nash said “Once FSANZ reports back to us with the information it is seeking from Chinese food authorities, we will be able to assess whether further steps need to be taken.

“If, upon consideration of all available information, the circumstances require a review of current arrangements or improvements to the system, we will act on this.”

The Department of Agriculture’s Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS) is a risk-based border inspection scheme.

Food items that pose a medium or high risk to human health are called ‘risk foods’ and are tested at rate of 100 per cent until a good compliance history is established with a particular importer—they are then tested at a rate of 25 percent of consignments, dropping to a minimum rate of 5 percent of consignments if good compliance continues. The inspection rates are established in legislation.

Risk foods are typically pre-prepared, ready-to-eat foods including certain cheeses, cooked meats and seafood, and cured meats.

All other foods are considered to be ‘surveillance foods’. Surveillance foods are randomly inspected at a rate of 5 per cent of all consignments. Samples for laboratory analysis (tests may include chemical residues, heavy metals or natural contaminants) may be taken as well as assessing compliance with packaging and labelling requirements.

Routine testing for viruses in food can be problematic. FSANZ advises that this is because the virus in contaminated food is usually present at extremely low levels where the pathogen cannot be detected by available analytical methods.

The department’s imported food inspection scheme is a risk-based inspection scheme, and the rates of inspection and classification of imported foods can change with new information to hand.

Other government actions regarding the Hepatitis outbreak include:

  • The Department of Health had set up the National Incident Room up in Canberra to deal with the issue and will remain active until this issue is resolved.
  • The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, consisting of all State and Territory Chief Health Officers and chaired by the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, met Tuesday (17 February) to coordinate jurisdictional public responses.
  • The OzFoodNet and the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia are conducting an investigation into the issue.
  • The National Food Safety Network, chaired by FSANZ met yesterday and is seeking further information from Chinese food authorities.
  • The National Blood Authority and the Australian Red Cross Blood Service (ARCBS) are monitoring the situation closely and continue to take steps to protect the blood supply from the virus.
  • The Department of Agriculture formally requested a review of the risk advice from FSANZ about frozen berries, and will consider the outcomes from the incident investigations conducted by the state and territory food authorities.

The recall has prompted calls for stricter country-of-origin labelling.

Choice launched a petition calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, to take action on country-of-origin labelling.

“We are mobilising consumers to put pressure on the government to fix our country of origin labelling laws. The latest frozen food farce highlights how difficult it is under the current system for consumers to make informed choices in the supermarket,” says Choice spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“Confused claims such as ‘Packed in Australia using imported fruit’ or ‘Made in Australia using local and imported ingredients’ offer very little information about a product’s origin and are largely meaningless to consumers. We deserve to know where our food comes from.”

"The petition has only been live for a few hours and already over 1600 consumers have signed up calling for the government to take action on country of origin food labelling," Godfrey said.

“We’ve had inquiry after inquiry on this issue. Year after year it rates as a top concern for Australian consumers. It’s time for action.

 “The best way to create labels for consumers is to test the language to find phrases that most people understand.  Consumer research must be undertaken before making any changes to the current labelling framework.”

“Consumers should be able to make informed decisions about the food they are purchasing and while country of origin labelling isn’t a proxy for food safety, the information is sought after by many shoppers,” Godfrey said.