Coke, Pepsi changing ingredients to avoid cancer warnings on products

Coca-cola and Pepsi are being forced to alter the way they make the caramel colouring that is added to their soft drinks in the US.

A new Californian law has changed the way drinks containing specified levels of carcinogens are labelled, meaning the drinks would have to carry cancer warning labels.

The beverage companies say they will continue to use caramel colouring but will make changes to the way it is manufactured too make it safer.

Coca-Cola representative, Diana Garza-Ciarlante, said the company has told the suppliers of the caramel to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole in the products.

Trace amounts of 4-methylimidazole are present in many foods, and many experts are concerned about the levels people are unwittingly consuming.

For the cancer side-effects to happen, a consumer would have to consume about 1000 cans per day.

"While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning,” Garza-Giarlante said in a statement.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently examining a petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group in the US, filed a petition to ban the use of ammonia-sulfite caramel colouring.

Despite California’s decision to closely regulate the chemical, down in Australia authorities are less concerned.

"Colours are only permitted to be used if they have been assessed as safe for the intended use by FSANZ, including allowing for high consumers," a Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) told Food Magazine.

"Four different caramel colourings are permitted by FSANZ in many processed foods.

"The caramel in question is generally known as Caramel IV – in the Code this additive has to be declared in the ingredient list as Colour (Caramel IV) or Colour (150d) so that consumers can use this information when choosing food products.

"If new credible scientific information is available for this colouring (or any other permitted additive) FSANZ would review its safety assessment."

Aside from the fact that a person would have to consume 1000 cans per day to reach dangerous levels of the chemical, there is also concern that the only scientific research has been conducted on one group of mice.

Coca-cola Australia has confirmed it will not be changing its recipe without further scientific research.

"The science does not support California’s position, which applies only to that one state within the United States. There is no public health risk in California or anywhere else," a spokesperson said.

"All of our products are safe and comply with regulations in every country where we operate. Regulators throughout the world, including Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), have approved the use of the caramel found in our products."

Do you think 4-methylimidazole should be banned completely in Australia?

Sugar claims “misleading”: Organic producer hits back at Channel 7

Organic food producer Bellamy’s Organic has responded to claims made about the sugar content of some of its products on Channel Seven last night, labelling them “inaccurate,” and “misleading.”

Last night’s Sunday Night program on the Seven Network included an interview with David Gillespie, where he claimed Bellamy’s Organic Apple Snacks contained too much sugar.

“Bellamy’s Organic Apple Snacks is100% pure unadulterated organic apple and nothing else,” it said in a statement today.

“It is free of pesticides, colours, flavours and any other additives.

“As stated on the packaging, the product does not contain added sugar of any type.

“We recognise this is a controversial topic because many people believe excess sugar intake is inextricably linked to the obesity epidemic; however, David Gillespie is mistaken to criticise the sugar content of the featured Bellamy’s product.

“He has reduced serious debate about a properly balanced diet down to oversimplified pseudo-science.

“Almost all dieticians are constantly exhorting Australians, particularly children, to eat two pieces of fruit per day.

The company has also denied claims it adds sugar to the products.

“Guest reporter Peter FitzSimons also mistakenly confused added sugar to a product containing 80% naturally occurring fruit sugar.

“Bellamy’s organic snacks and cereals, including our Bellamy’s Apple Snacks, contain no added sugars,” the statement said.

“The sugar contained within the Bellamy’s Organic Apple Snacks is natural sugar and a scientifically recommended source of carbohydrate in everyone’s diet.

“The drying process that is used to make Bellamy’s Organic Fruit Snacks gently removes moisture from the apple without destroying the flavour and nutrients.

“Medical experts and most of the scientific community are in consensus that naturally occurring fruit sugar, (such as the fructose that is found in apples), as part of a balanced diet, has a positive effect on health.”

Bellamy’s Organic Pty Ltd is said they were not contacted by any representatives from Channel Seven prior to the story going to air.

School lunches still contain “pink slime” in US

Despite major fast food retailers banning the use of “pink slime” in its foods, the additive will still be used in cafeterias across the United States.

In January, McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell in the US announced they had finally agreed to stop using ammonia hydroxide in their hamburger meat.

The product, which is commonly known as ‘pink slime,’ is used to kill E-Coli, Salmonella and other pathogens mostly found in meat that is suitable for dog food.

Beef by-products including cow intestines, connective tissue and other parts that are not used in traditional beef cuts are used to make the slime, and due to their susceptibility to E. Coli and Salmonella, the ammonium hydroxide is added to kill the bacteria.

Industrial cleaning products and an explosive ingredient found in ammonia hydroxide led celebrity chef and health campaigner Jamie Oliver to call for the additive to be banned.

But while the fast food giants are self-regulating to protect the health and safety of adults and children alike, it seems places populated entirely by adolescents – school cafeterias – do not share the same sense of responsibility, with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) telling “The Daily” it is purchasing 7 million pounds of pink slime to use in school lunches.

Oliver has been campaigning not only for the pink slime to be banned in all foods in America, but has also been fighting to improve the quality of school lunches in the country.

The additive has not been banned at this stage and the decision not to use it comes down to individual companies.

The USDA has defended its decision in a statement to The Daily.

"All USDA ground beef purchases for the National School Lunch Program must meet the highest standards for food safety," it said.

"This includes stringent pathogen testing and compliance with all applicable food safety regulations.

“USDA would only allow products into commerce or especially into schools that we have confidence are safe."

But even if pink slime is in food products in the country, consumers would not know about it, because the Food Standards Authority considers ammonia “a processing agent,” which exempts it from having to be listed on packaging.

Health Reporter Dr. John Torres told The Daily that ammonia does not cause a major health risk to human bodies and he would be more concerned about the possible E. coli and Salmonella that could still exist in the beef by-products, even after the chemical treatment.

The by-products used do not have the same nutritional value as pure ground beef, which is also a point of worry for Torres.

"The big concern is that this is a chemically processed food, it doesn’t have nearly the nutrients of normal beef," he said.

"It’s one of those things, ‘Do I want my child to have this?’

“On a short-term, moderate basis: maybe. On a long-term basis: no."

Beef Products Inc, which produces the slime, estimates the slime is used in 70 percent of the ground beef sold in the United States.

Food Magazine contacted Hungry Jack’s and McDonald’s Australia in February to out whether pink slime is , or was, used here, and spokespeople from both confirmed that the products has not ever been used.

Are you ready?

 Ready meals are not what they used to be.

Gone are the days of soggy green mush masquerading as peas, meat processed to within an inch of its life and gravy and sauces made almost entirely of salt and MSG.

Nowadays, consumers are demanding fresher ingredients, healthier, portion-controlled meals and simplicity in preparation.

And the manufacturers are listening, because, truthfully they would be insane not to.

In one of the fastest- growing food industries, it is crucial for companies to be on top of the game, or risk losing out to competitors.

Kit Rahman, McCain Foods marketing manager told Food Magazine the range offered by the company, including Healthy Choice, is continually changing and improving quality, in line with consumer demands.

“Food expertise, food knowledge and food experimentation are at unprecedented levels in Australia through an explosion of food-related media,” he said.

“Restaurants have increased their quality, everyday people are a bit more concerned with what they put into their mouths and a renewed interest in cooking has led to a greater range of cuisines being explored.”

Tony Rollandson from Gippsland Food Company, which produces the Lean Cuisine range, told Food Magazine that as people get busier, sales of ready meals are seeing a spike in popularity.

“Consumers who are time short are buying into market as well,” he said.

“Our traditional target market is extending, there are more consumers than ever heading to the supermarket to pick up something quick and easy.

“If you look at it from Lean Cuisine’s perspective, the amount of time and effort we put behind improving the cuisine type, type of meals we offer and dramatically improving the of quality of meals has been huge because the market is demanding that.

“As they’re looking for more exciting meals and healthier meals we had to move with the times.”

Rahman agreed, explaining Healthy Choice’s goal is to make healthy and tasty meals in the ready meal category more exciting for consumers, who are not only busy but also living alone more than ever before.

[Being busy] is definitely a factor – we also have changing population demographics with greater numbers of single-person households, and cooking for 1 person isn’t much fun,” he told Food Magazine.

“The typical consumer of Healthy Choice would be a single female, 30-40 yrs old, interested in maintaining her health and weight-conscious but not to the point of extreme dieting or calorie-counting.

“She works, leads a full life outside of work and packs a lot into her schedule.”

Rollandson is less inclined to speculate about the type of consumer Healthy Choice attracts, explaining that the demographic is constantly shifting as obesity and associated disease remain front page news.

“It’s quite varied,” he explained to Food Magazine.

“A considerable number are baby boomers who’ve hot dispensable income and are looking for a healthy alternative, others are middle aged men and women who are simply time poor with work and other things.

“There are all types of people looking for a healthier alternative these days, particularly those in single households.”

Some shoppers Food Magazine spoke to said the price of a single meal often puts them off buying Ready Meals, but Rollandson explained that using fresher ingredients and healthier alternatives cannot be done as cheaply as using low-quality products.

“If looking at the price points, they from $4.50 to $9, so if you compare that to other food or drinks they’re relatively inexpensive for what you’re getting,” he said.

“Our steamed range for Lean Cuisine is growing dramatically at the moment, as are our premium options, which offer a split tray with protein separated from the carbohydrates.”

Over at Healthy Choice, Rahman notes a different growth pattern in cuisine types, with people choosing heartier, comfort-type foods.

“The most popular meals in the McCain range are the traditional “classic” meals including Chicken Parmagiana, Lasagne, and Roast Chicken,” he told Food Magazine.




More sugar in fruit drinks that fizzy beverages

Beverages labelled as ‘fruit drinks’ are confusing consumers into thinking they’re healthy, when in reality many are worse than fizzy drinks.

A report earlier this year found that a tax on sugary drinks could save 26 000 US lives per year, and Australian experts want mandatory warning labels on energy drinks, after a spike in heart tremors, chest pain and sleep deprivation as a result of the beverages was observed.

This info graphic paints a scary picture of what sugary drinks are doing to people’s health, and it’s not just soft drinks in the firing line, with research finding fruit juices are just as bad.