Labelling foods with emoji could improve kids’ diets – study

Labelling foods with emoji-like symbols could encourage children to eat healthier foods, according to research competed in the US.

As the Washington Post reports, research carried out by the University of Phoenix and published in the journal Appetite found that, when ‘emolabels’ were added to food and children were told that happy labels identified healthy foods, most children swapped to the healthy option.

The study involved children from kindergarten to sixth grade who were asked to choose four food items each from two shopping aisles. One aisle included products with the emolables, while the products in the other aisle carried no labels.

In the aisle with the labels 83 per cent of children changed of their choices to a healthier product.

Greg Privitera, research chair at the Center for Behavioral Health Research for the University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies lead the study.

According to Privitera the results “tells us that children are using [this] health information to make choices about their food…and that’s something that they aren’t empowered with now.”

He added that, following these findings, he intends to conduct a large-scale, population-based study in the future.

Coca-Cola defends cans as obesity row rages

Coca-Cola Amatil has said it would prefer to see more Australians drinking less of its products instead of a few people drinking a lot amidst a renewed push against the soft drink industry to tackle obesity.

CCA maintained its high-sugar products, like a 375ml can of Coke are not harmful if one can is consumed a week.

According to CCA managing director Alison Watkins, one can a week is not necessarily considered to be unhealthy.

"We would much rather have lots of people drinking small amounts of our product than to have a small number of people drinking a lot of our product," Ms Watkins said

"We are really wanting to make sure that we are part of solving what is undoubtedly a big problem for society -and that is obesity."

Coca-Cola Amatil was responding to criticisms by leading researcher Professor Marion Nestle from New York University.

Professor Nestle is on sabbatical with the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre and delivered a lecture on Tuesday night to a packed theatre.

She claimed soft drink companies around the world were distorting the truth about their products to keep profits growing.

"There is so much evidence now that drinking sugars in form of liquids is not good for health," she said.

Official figures show that more than half of Australians are overweight or obese. More than a quarter fall into the obese category.

Coca-Cola Amatil told the ABC it will be disclosing details of its funding to research organisations in a couple of months. 

Is that muesli bar you put in your child’s lunchbox actually healthy?

There are rows upon rows of packaged snack foods in supermarkets, including snack bars made from muesli, cereal, nuts, seeds and fruit. Many of the labels on the packages shout out words such as “natural”, “protein”, “oaty”, “super-food”, “wholegrain”, “light”, “gluten-free” and “97% fat-free!”.

But these words can mask unhealthy products. Many processed snack bars are high in added sugar, refined starch and fat.

Knowing what is in snack bars is of particular importance to parents given nearly one in fivetwo- to 18-year-olds consume these muesli or cereal-style bars, and one in four Australian children are overweight or obese.

So, how do you navigate the confusing snack bar terrain? Here are five tips.

1. Check the ingredients on the packets

Choose more products that have the following ingredients in higher quantities. Some, such as nuts and oats, should be listed as the first ingredients on the back of the packet:

  • grains such as oats, barley and quinoa. Even if a product boasts it is “whole grain”, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice. Whole grain usually means higher in fibre, which is good, but can also mean high glycemic index (GI) if the grain has been overly processed
  • nuts and seeds, which provide beneficial nutrients including protein, good fats, fibre, micronutrients and phytochemicals (nutrients naturally occurring in plants)
  • dried fruit, which provides beneficial nutrients including carbohydrate, fibre, micronutrients and phytochemicals. Just remember dried fruit sticks to teeth and can contribute to tooth decay, and some dried fruit can have added sugar, such as cranberries. Whole fruit is always better
  • ingredients like “dietary fibre” (such as inulin or psyllium husk), milk powder or solids and whey/milk protein.

Choose products that contain some:

  • honey, my preferred choice of sweetener, which can be low GI and provides small amounts of proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, trace elements, vitamins, aroma compounds and polyphenols (micronutrients that can prevent disease)
  • coconut flesh, which provides nutrients including fibre, micronutrients and saturated fat, which is likely healthier than the saturated fat in meat, and likely less healthy than the fat and oils in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and fish
  • oils like vegetable oil, sunflower oil and canola oil. These contain n-6 polyunsaturated fats, which may protect the cardiovascular system, but they are also calorie-dense.

I would suggest the following snack bar products over other products (including alternative products made by same brand), as they likely provide better nutrition, including being higher in fibre and lower in GI: Carman’s fruit-free muesli barBe Natural Deluxe Nut Bars Nut Delight and Goodness Superfoods better for U! Cranberry Nut Cereal Bars.

Choose fewer products that have higher quantities of any combination of the following ingredients:

  • added sugars: the list of these is endless and includes sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar (also called sucrose sugar), glucose sugar, golden syrup, malt syrup, brown rice, rice, rice malt syrup and fruit juice. (I have particular issue with things like brown rice syrup, because people mistakenly think it’s “good for you”, when in fact it is a readily digestiblehigh GI sugar mix that provides little else than sugar. Added sugars are a real public health problem and intakes should be reduced in most people)
  • added fats such as butter and cream. These foods are high in saturated fat, which evidence shows can damage the cardiovascular system
  • processed high GI starches such as wheat starch, wheat puffs, wheat flakes, wheat flour, rice flour, rice crisps, puffed rice, maltodextrin and maize flour (the wholegrain options are better, such as wholegrain wheat flour)
  • chocolate or “yoghurt compound” (which is basically chocolate), which is high in saturated fat and sugar
  • salt, which is not good for your cardiovascular system in excess
  • artificial colours and flavours and other additives, which you will see on most ingredient lists of processed snack foods, such as soy lethicin (see below).

This list means trying to avoid a large percentage of the muesli/cereal/nut/seed/fruit bars out there.

2. Look at the food additives

Food Standards Australia New Zealand provides an online list of food additives. Additives are used in processed foods to improve taste, appearance, quality, stability and storage life.

Some people think all additives are bad. Some of them are in fact natural. Vitamin C/ascorbic acid (additive number 300) can be added to foods, but is also naturally present in fruit. The human body can’t distinguish between a chemical naturally present in a food and the same chemical present as an additive.

However, some additives may cause problems such as damage to the guthyperactivity in children and potential cancer links. Don’t demonise all additives but do decrease processed food intake – and for more reasons than just additives.

3. Look at the health star rating

The government’s health star food rating system has its flaws, including that it doesn’t take into account every nutritional aspect of a processed food product. However, it is useful when comparing different snack bars: if you choose one that has five stars it is likely better nutritionally than one with three stars.

4. Home-made is better than processed

This won’t be welcome news to your free time: home-made versions of processed snack foods are the best. Being able to make a muesli bar/slice that is packed with ingredients such as oats, nuts, seeds, free-range eggs and extra virgin olive oil (lightly flavoured) will provide a healthy snack for your child.

Luckily you can make one big batch that should last for a week’s worth of lunchboxes between a few kids. See hereand here for more lunchbox ideas.

5. Mostly and sometimes

I don’t believe in all-or-nothing when it comes to life, including nutrition. Maybe your little one really loves the chocolate- and yoghurt-covered snack bars? Well, perhaps one of each per week in his/her lunchbox is an idea.

You don’t want to be overly restrictive with your child’s food, because this may have the opposite effect to what you intended and increase their eating and weight over time.


Rebecca Charlotte Reynolds is a lecturer in Nutrition at UNSW, Australia.

This article first appeared in the Conversation.

Traces of weedkiller found in German beer

Traces of a well-known weedkiller ingredient, glyphosate has been found in Germany's 14 most popular beers, according to a German environmental group.

Reuters reports that researchers from the Munich Environmental Institute tested the beers and found that all contained levels of glyphosate above the 0.1 microgram limit allowed in German drinking water.

The beer with the highest trace level was Hasseroeder, a beer brewed in Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany, which had 29.74 micrograms a litre; while the beverage with the lowest level was Augustiner, a Munich-made beer, with 0.46 micrograms a litre.

Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment pointed out that the results do not represent a risk to public health.

"An adult would have to drink around 1000 litres of beer a day to ingest enough quantities to be harmful for health," it said in a statement.

Glyphosate is found in the well-known weed killer, Roundup. The World Health Organisation's cancer research committee has said glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans.

Should we eat red meat? The nutrition and the ethics

Many types of red meat and red meat products are available, from farmers' markets, to supermarkets, to restaurants. The impacts of their production and consumption on human health, animal welfare and the environment are complex.

So what should we be thinking about when we’re deciding whether or not to eat red meat?

The nutrition

Consuming lean products and different cuts, or muscles, of meat from cattle, sheep, pig, goat and kangaroo is recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines as part of a balanced diet. Lean refers to animal muscle tissue that has lower amounts of total fat and saturated fat compared to higher-fat alternatives.

Most lean red meats are cuts, rather than processed products such as hot dogs or canned meat. Cuts provide many beneficial nutrients, including: protein, vitamin B12, zinc, iron and unsaturated fat (such as omega-3 polyunsaturated fats).

In comparison, fattier red meat cuts and most processed meat products provide higher amounts of potentially harmful nutrients, such as saturated fats, salt and sodium nitrate.

In general, horse and kangaroo meats have been reported to have the lowest total fat and highest polyunsaturated fat contents. Beef and sheep meats have the highest total fat and lowest polyunsaturated fat. Grass-fed beef is a better source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats compared to grain-fed beef, although fish provides significantly more omega-3 than any red meat.

Australian livestock is mostly grass-fed in fields, rather than grain-fed in feedlots. This is better for both nutrient levels in the meat and animal and environmental ethics. Feedlots are more common in the United States, for example.

The type of grain that is fed to an animal affects its muscle nutrient composition, as well as shelf-life, taste, colour and quality. For example, pigs can be fed on a certain amount and type of linseed to increase omega-3 polyunsaturated fat in their meat.

Associations with ill health

The links between red meat products and human health are not fully understood, but you may have seen recent media reports about processed meat and cancer risk.

It is likely that eating less processed meat will reduce your risk of getting cancer. It’s also probable eating less red meat will reduce your cancer risk.

Similarly, if unsaturated fats – especially polyunsaturated fats – replace saturated fats (for example, in red meat) in someone’s diet, the risk of coronary heart disease might be reduced. Further, processed meats have been linked to a higher incidence of coronary heart disease and diabetes.

The ethics

The ethics of consuming food, including animal produce, is a fraught topic for both animal welfare and environmental damage. The vast scale of commercialised livestock production is overwhelming.

Yes, any food that humans consume comes with consequences, especially when that food is mass-produced. However, with red meat, efficiency and cost can outweigh animal welfare when animals become “a commodity, a unit in the production line”. And there is huge environmental damage from livestock production, such as methane from manure and enteric fermentation (that is, farts!).

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations stated in 2006:

The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.

It must be hoped the animal welfare and environmental aspects of food consumption will be highlighted in future revisions of the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

What can you do?

You probably care about your health, and hopefully you care about other animals and the environment. Luckily, you can do a few things to try to improve all of these aspects of red meat and red meat product consumption:

  • When (or if) you eat red meat: choose leaner options that have less total and saturated fat, such as lean beef mince in place of standard beef mince; choose meats that contain more polyunsaturated fats, such as kangaroo or grass-fed beef (I don’t envisage many Australians eating horse, which is also higher in these fats); avoid processed meat such as bacon, sausages and salami; and buy from retailers and eat at restaurants where the red meat is sourced from more ethical, smaller-scale, local and sustainable farms
  • Eat less red meat (Meat Free Mondays is one good idea)
  • Join the 4% of the Australian population following vegetarian or vegan eating habits.


Rebecca Charlotte Reynolds is a lecturer in Nutrition at UNSW Australia.

This article first appeared in the Conversation. You can read the original here.

New test for iron deficiency

Nestlé has assisted in and helped fund the development of the first iron deficiency test that does not require taking a blood sample. The work could benefit millions of people by making it easier and cheaper to detect the condition.

Iron deficiency affects more people than any other health problem, according to the World Health Organization. Women and children are particularly at risk, and left untreated it can cause serious mental and physical harm.

Most iron-deficient individuals are unaware that they need more iron. This is because current tests require taking blood and laboratory facilities to analyse it.

The new test for iron deficiency, described in research published in Nature Communications, takes about a minute and provides immediate results.

It involves using a small optical fibre to shine a blue laser light onto the lower lip. If zinc protoporphyrin – a chemical compound found in the blood of iron deficient people – is present, then it gives off a fluorescent light in response.

Health Check: do we crave the food our bodies need?

Food craving is an intense desire to consume a particular food that is difficult to resist. This is different from hunger, as consumption of any number of foods satisfies hunger.

Food cravings are very common. One study of more than 1,000 people revealed 97% of women and 68% of men experienced cravings. Food cravings occur more commonly later in the day, with an average of two to four craving episodes per week.

Nutritional deficiencies

It has been long thought that food cravings were due to the body’s effort to correct nutritional deficiencies or food restrictions. Under this theory, a craving for a juicy steak might indicate the body’s need for iron or protein. A craving for chocolate may indicate that people lack phenylethylamine, a chemical that has been associated with romantic love. Phenylethylamine is found in significant amounts in chocolate.

Nutritional deficiencies are linked to food cravings in certain situations. Pica is an unusual behaviour where people crave non-food substances such as ice, clay or raw starch. Pica behaviour is sometimes found in conjunction with micronutrient deficiencies such as zinc.

Deficiencies in vitamins may potentially result in food cravings. A severe deficiency of vitamin C led to scurvy in maritime explorers who did not have ready access to fresh fruit and vegetables during their long sea voyages. A British chaplain who wrote about the accounts of sailors suffering from scurvy reported they had intense cravings for fruit and when they finally were able to eat it they experienced “emotions of the most voluptuous luxury”.

In general, however, there is no real evidence to link our common food cravings with nutritional deficiencies.

Firstly, food cravings have been shown to decrease during weight-loss diets rather than increase, as might be expected.

In one study, a group of obese people was restricted to a very low-calorie diet over a 12-week period. Only meat, fish or poultry was allowed and all other foods were forbidden. Their cravings for low-fat, high-protein foods and complex carbohydrates decreased markedly on the diet. There was no reported increased craving for forbidden foods.

Restriction of certain types of foods also appears to decrease food cravings rather than increase them. A study of low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets in obese adults found that restricting carbohydrates resulted in decreased food cravings and restriction of fats decreased their craving for high-fat foods.

If the nutritional deficiency theory were to be true, this does not explain why some foods that are richer in nutrients lead to generally less cravings than other foods. Cheddar cheese and salami, for example, have much higher levels of phenylethylamine than chocolate but not nearly the same intensity of craving.

What causes food cravings?

Food cravings are believed to come from a mix of social, cultural and psychological factors. In North America, chocolate is the most-craved food, but this is not the case elsewhere. In Egypt only 1% of young Egyptian men and 6% of young Egyptian women reported cravingchocolate. Japanese women are more likely to crave rice and sushi, reflecting the influence of traditional food products and culture.

The nature of the relationship between specific foods and cravings is important. Food cravings can develop from matching consumption of certain foods with hunger, suggesting a conditioning response. In one study, some participants were assigned to eat chocolate only when hungry (between meals). They developed greater cravings for chocolate after a two-week period than other participants who ate chocolate exclusively when full (just after meals).

A theory of food cravings that includes the biological, psychological and social aspects suggests they can arise from matching food intake with other conditions such as emotional states (“stress eating”). Food cravings have been shown to be linked to higher levels of stress.

There is also emerging evidence suggesting our gut microbes (the bacteria in our guts) influence our food cravings.

Controlling food cravings

As described earlier, restricting certain types of foods can decrease food cravings. In the study of obese patients with restriction of carbohydrates and high-sugar foods it was found that food preferences and to a lesser extent food cravings were suppressed during a two-year period, suggesting long-term benefits.

Committing to implementing change is not easy. Cognitive techniques such as mindfulness can help. Researchers gave 110 self-identified chocolate cravers each a bag of chocolates to carry around for a week. They instructed half the group in “cognitive restructuring”, a technique that involves challenging inaccurate thoughts and replacing these with more accurate ones.

The other half of the group was taught a mindfulness-based technique – “cognitive defusion”. Participants were asked not to change their thoughts but to simply notice their thoughts and to visualise themselves as different from their thoughts. At the end of the study participants in the defusion group were more than three times more likely to abstain from chocolate than participants in the restructuring group.

Defusion interventions work to resist food cravings by creating a sense of distance from them rather than trying to eradicate and replace them.


Vincent Ho is a lecturer and clinical academic gastroenterologist, Western Sydney University.

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


Is Margarine dead?

The reign of margarine is almost over. Sales of margarine—a plant-based spread that was once immensely popular because of its purported health benefits—have been rapidly declining and is now a cause of huge concern for Unilever, the world’s largest margarine producer and the parent company of brands that include Promise, Imperial, and Country Crock. The butter-substitute has a long history at Unilever—the company was founded through a merger between a soap maker and a Dutch company that began making margarine in 1872.

But, the truth is that butter has made a comeback: new reports argue that it’s not as unhealthy and artery-clogging as once thought, which has pushed margarine into quick decline. In response, Unilever last year created a separate business unit for its margarine operations, a move that its chief executive compared to “putting a sick child in a separate room from siblings, and showering extra care on them.” But the results have remained the same.

Margarine never had it easy

The rise and fall of margarine has been dramatic. According to researcher George W. Ladd, who documented trends in the state legislation of margarine, between the last half of the 1920s and the first half of the 1950s, per capita consumption of butter halved, while per capita consumption of margarine tripled. Using 1956 prices, this led to a $240 million loss to dairy farmers, a $430 million loss in the retail sales of butter, and a $240 million gain for margarine. One of the reasons for this dramatic increase was the repeal of various state laws that actually restricted the sale of margarine.

Given margarine’s recent decline, it’s perhaps interesting to look at the history of the anti-margarine laws of the twentieth century. They were mostly spearheaded by Big Diary, especially in Midwestern states where the dairy industry is key and, of course, loathe to lose millions in income. Consequently, in April of 1960, two Midwestern states—Minnesota and Wisconsin—were still one of the last two states to continue prohibiting the dying of margarine yellow to look more like butter.

In New York, for example, a law required retailers to tell customers in writing that what they were buying was not butter. The federal government passed a two-cent-per-pound tax in the Margarine Act of 1886, and the tax was quintupled just a few years later.

But Wisconsin was and continues to be its most vicious critic. It passed its first anti-margarine law in 1881, quickly followed four years later by the color law (which restricted the dying of margarine to resemble butter). Wisconsin didn’t repeal the law until 1967, long after margarine had become a commercial success in the U.S. Today, margarine is still prohibited in restaurants in Wisconsin unless specifically requested by a patron. This law failed to be repealed in 2011.

This article first appeared on JSTOR Daily.


Jstor Citations

Trends in State Margarine Legislation

By: George W. Ladd

Journal of Marketing, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Apr., 1960), pp. 65-69

American Marketing Association

Cacao & Mint Protein Crunch

The union of irresistible cacao and cool mint with added protein crunch is genius. Our all-natural protein keeps you full for longer while activated buckinis keep things nice and crunchy.

Product Manufacturer  Pure Good Bars

Launch date (must be in the last 3 months to be eligible)               January 2016

Ingredients (as listed on the packaging)                


Raw Cashews


Organic Pea Protein

Organic Raw Cacao

Organic Activated Buckinis

Organic Mint Oil

Organic Coconut Oil

Himalayan Salt

Shelf Life             12 months

Packaging            Foil wrapper

Product Manager             Lindi Glass

Country of origin              Australia

Brand Website       

Contact Email

Cranberry market growing in Australia, albeit slowly

Ocean Spray was formed in 1930 and since then, the cranberry cooperative has grown to encompass more than 700 grower families all across North America.

While cranberries cannot be grown commercially in Australia, the US-sourced cranberries are still a ‘new’ product with the future for the little red fruits quite a bit brighter these days with their addition to a variety of snacking options.

According to Elissa Booth, General Manager of Ocean Spray Australia, Australia’s US-sourced cranberry stocks are used in a variety of Ocean Spray new products.

“Ocean Spray has been in Australia since 1995 and the variety of cranberry we use here is less sweet and more austere, which is why it goes well with fruit flavours.”

“The top-selling SKUs in the Ocean Spray portfolio are Cranberry Classic Juice Drink, Craisins Original Dried Cranberries, and Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce,” noted Ms. Booth.

“In 2015, Ocean Spray launched Craisins Reduced Sugar Dried Cranberries with 50 per cent less sugar than our Original Dried Cranberries, which is one of the leading new products in dried fruit.”

“We have also launched a new line of Ocean Spray Low Sugar Juice Drinks that are naturally sweetened primarily with stevia, and contain only 10 calories per serve.”

Craisin market growing down under

Australians’ appreciation for this iconic North American fruit is expanding, if the latest figures are to be believed.

“We have a growing market here in Australia, with a growth rate of about 5-10 per cent per annum,” said Ms. Booth.

“At the moment, the main area where cranberries are used is in baked goods, juices, yoghurts and in cereals.”

As for Ocean Spray, their recent release of a number of dried cranberry combinations has been used in snacking options like Greek Yoghurt, Milk Chocolate and Trail Mix ready-to-eat packets.

This is a sector where Ms. Booth sees the biggest growth potential.

“The snack pack size of Ocean Spray Craisins Dried Cranberries is available in Coles stores nationally.  We are exploring other opportunities for distribution.”

Over the past 12 months, according to Ocean Spray figures, retail grocery dried cranberry segment sales are growing at +5.2 per cent for the latest 52-weeks ending 29.11.15 (Value Sales, Coles & Woolworths Grocery Sales). 

“Ocean Spray Craisins Dried Cranberries are the dried cranberry brand leader with 72 per cent value share and are driving the majority of the Dried Cranberry Segment growth.”

While Craisins used are often enjoyed on their own as a delicious snack right out of the bag, their versatility, vibrant taste and colour makes them suitable as a topping or ingredient in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. 

“Craisins are often used as a topping on yoghurt, muesli, and fruit salads, blended into smoothie, and green or grain salads, or used in baked goods such as muffins, breads and biscuits for a little extra burst of colour and flavour.  Craisins dried cranberries are a good source of fibre and a convenient serving of fruit,” noted Ms. Booth.

Craisin health benefits coming to the fore

“Not only are cranberry products great for the taste buds, but they can also be part of a healthy balanced lifestyle to help promote good health,” said Ms. Booth.

“There is more than 50 years of evidence supporting the role of cranberries in helping to fight reduce the risk of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).”

“Research suggests that reducing the risk of recurrent UTIs with cranberry juice can be a nutritional approach to reduce the use of antibiotics and prevent increased resistance – a phenomenon whereby viruses and bacteria are able to resist the effects of antibiotics.”

“Additionally, studies reveal that drinking low–calorie cranberry juice twice a day can assist in lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke when consumed as part of a healthy balanced diet, while there is also new evidence that reduced sugar dried cranberries could improve sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes compared to other commonly consumed fruits like bananas.”

Raw Paleo Bar

Product Name: Raw Paleo Bar

Product Manufacturer: At One

Launch date: 30 November 2015

Ingredients: Cacao mint raw paleo bar – dates, cashews, cacao solids (9%), coconut, mesquite powder, sea salt, peppermint oil (0.05%)

Coconut goji raw paleo bar – dates, cashews, coconut (12%), goji berries (8%), coconut oil (2%), cinnamon

Shelf Life: 18 months

Packaging: single serve 40g bars

Product Manager: Andrew Terlich

Country of origin: Australia

Brand Website:

Describe the product: On a stifling hot day in the midst of a 250km marathon in the Sahara Desert, our co-founder Andrew finally woke up to the truth about regular so-called 'nutrition' bars. Armed with a vision to create a truly nutritious and delicious snack bar, a vision to empower us all to be our best, At One bars were born!

The At One raw paleo bar range is made from fruits, nuts, seeds and nothing else. They won't crumble, break or melt, so they're the perfect addition to your carry bag for an anytime healthy snack. And being paleo, vegan and gluten-free, these bars won't mess with your tummy!

Contact Email

FSANZ detects ‘potentially concerning’ amounts of phthalates in food from packaging

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has found worrying levels of plastic softeners in samples of popular foods.

Fresh bread, takeaway hamburgers and meat pizzas are some of the foods in which chemicals may have migrated from packaging into food are a low risk to public health and safety.

Out of the six takeaway hamburgers tested for the phthalate DEHP, four contained between 67 and 180 per cent more than the amount permitted under European Union laws to be released from packaging into food, which is 1.5 milligrams a kilogram.

In samples tested for the phthalate DINP, Food Standards found a takeaway hamburger sample had 14mg a kilo and a pizza topped with meat and vegetables had 16mg a kilo –both exceeding “tolerable daily intake” levels.

According to Food Standards chief executive Steve McCutcheon, the Australian Total Diet Study into chemical migration from packaging into food detected very low residues of some chemicals in a small number of samples.

“After undertaking a very conservative safety assessment on these very low levels, FSANZ has concluded there are no safety concerns,” McCutcheon said.

“The screening study identified that further work was required for two of the chemicals tested for [phthalates] and FSANZ will be sampling a wider range of foods for these chemicals so a full dietary exposure assessment can be undertaken.”

Phthalates are plasticisers that can be found in PVC tubing, gaskets, cling wraps, printing inks, paper and cardboard packaging and laminated aluminium foil.

A University of Michigan study published in the medical journal JAMA Paediatrics found increased levels of some phthalates in urine during pregnancy correlated with higher odds of premature birth.

Catherine Itman, a research lecturer in physiology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, said Food Standards' results were "potentially concerning", considering the conclusions of various animal studies.

"However, we must recognise firstly that we are exposed to phthalates from many different sources, so it must be considered whether the phthalates present in some foods do substantially contribute to our overall phthalate exposure," Itman said.

"Secondly, we actually have very little direct information about the human health impacts of phthalates, as most toxicology studies have been performed using concentrations that do not reflect typical exposure levels and our knowledge of the effects of exposure to combinations of phthalates or phthalates plus other chemicals is wholly inadequate," Itman said.

"Until more is known, we should be cautious with regard to how much phthalate exposure we consider to be acceptable."

Overall poor industry performance on global food issues

A report ranking multinational companies for their performance in marketing, labelling and nutrition says the world’s biggest food companies are too slow in reacting to the double burdens of obesity and undernutrition.

Companies were put under the microscope for their performance on corporate strategy, management and governance related to nutrition; formulation and delivery of appropriate affordable and accessible products; and having a positive influence on consumer choice and behaviour, through nutrition information, food marketing and labelling.

In the index compiled by Dutch not-for profit organisation Access to Nutrition Foundation, no company scored higher than Unilever’s fairly modest 6.4 out of 10 and Nestlé’s 5.9 –and not a single other food and beverage firm scored above five for overall ranking.

According to ANF executive director Inge Kaur, industry should view the poor results as a new opportunity.

“Given the global reach of their products, food and beverage companies have a critical role to play in helping to tackle the growing global health crisis caused by poor nutrition. While companies have a social responsibility to tackle global nutrition challenges, doing so also presents a business opportunity as consumers worldwide demand healthier foods,” Kaur said.

Nestle scored especially high for governance with 8.7 and was praised by the foundation for extending its previous definition of a child audience to include new media.

Despite this, the report says that the company has failed to address other key issues raised in the 2013 index, such as raising the definition of the age of a child to 16. It also failed to improve its approach to developing independent consumer-orientated healthy eating programs. 

Do we really have to wash fruit and vegetables?

There is a growing demand for fruit and vegetables across the Western world, thanks to increased awareness of their nutritional and health benefits. But we’ve always been taught they might not be safe to eat straight out of the supermarket, and they have to be washed first. Is this the case? And what might happen if we don’t?

What’s in a veggie?

Fruits and some vegetables are often consumed raw, fresh-cut or minimally processed, which is often why there are concerns about their safety. Fresh fruits and vegetables and unpasteurised juices can harbour disease-causing bugs (knows as pathogens) such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria and Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (strains of E.coli). They can also contain pesticide residues and toxic compounds produced by moulds on the surface or even inside tissues of these foods.

Fresh fruits and vegetables may also contain allergens, which may be naturally occurring or contaminated, that can cause severe discomfort to people suffering from an intolerance. Of the potential risks, contamination with tiny bugs or organisms called microbes is the most prevalent.

The ingestion of very small numbers of dangerous bugs may not be harmful as our immune system can fight them off. But problems begin when the body’s defences fail, causing these “bad bugs” to multiply and spread throughout the body.

In recent years, fruits and vegetables such as sprouts, celery and rockmelons were identified as potential sources of food-borne pathogens. They are more susceptible to being contaminated. This has caused a number of health and social issues and major economic losses worldwide.

Last year there was an outbreak of listeriosis in the US, a disease caused by the ingestion of bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, linked to commercially produced, prepacked whole caramel apples. Thirty-five people from 12 states were infected with the disease, and three people died.


There could be more than caramel lurking in there. from


In May 2011, Germany experienced the largest epidemic of hemolytic–uremic syndrome (a disease characterized by anemia, acute kidney failure and low platelet counts), caused by Shiga-toxin–producing E.coli associated with fresh produce such as fenugreek sprouts. Over a period of about three months nearly 4000 fell ill with symptoms such as headache and diarrhoea, and a further 800 contracted hemolytic–uremic syndrome. Authorities reported 53 deaths.

In the US in 2011, cantaloupes become contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. One-hundred and forty-six people in 28 states were sick and 30 died.

While Australia is considered one of the safest food suppliers in the world, a significant number of foodborne illnesses are still reported every year. The government-funded organisation OzFoodNet reported 674 outbreaks of enteric illness, including those transmitted by contaminated foods, in the last quarter of 2013 alone.

Does washing help?

The washing of fruits and vegetables is one of the most important processing steps at the industrial level. Washing is designed to remove dirt and dust and some pesticides, and to detach bugs. Washing improves not only the safety and quality, but also the product’s shelf-life.

However, the quality of water used for washing is crucial. Washing water can serve as a source of cross-contamination as it may be re-used during harvesting and processing stages. Washing with sanitising agents is much better; washing removes microorganisms by detaching them from the products, and sanitising kills them.


Washed and ready to use? Safer to wash it again. Screenshot from Woolworths website, CC BY


Although this first stage of washing can significantly reduce the level of pathogens, infiltration of pathogens into cracks, crevices, and between the cells of fruits and vegetables has been shown to be possible.

Once positioned in these niches, pathogens may survive and multiply by the time the infected produce is consumed. Therefore pre-washed produce may not be 100% safe. Peeling can help to get rid of bugs on the surface, but it also risks cross-contaminating the inner part of the product.

Cooking temperatures kill most of the pathogenic bugs, but the compounds produced by them (metabolites) may be heat-tolerant and can cause serious health issues. Washing may help to remove some of these compounds, but not necessarily all.

What to do

The risk of eating contaminated produce is much greater now than it has been in previous centuries because primary production, processing and trade of fruits and vegetables occur in diverse climates and within different countries' rules and regulations and food processing systems.

Most of these foodborne illnesses are preventable. Washing in clean running tap water significantly reduces the level of E. coli bacteria on broccoli and lettuce, although it doesn’t completely eliminate it. Therefore washing fruits and vegetables using clean water at home – including pre-washed products – before consumption may help minimise the risk of foodborne infections.

Never eat or buy produce that looks spoiled, however be aware produce that is contaminated may look, taste and smell similar to the produce that is safe to eat. Make sure kitchen surfaces are clean and use the correct temperature and time for cooking.

Washing fresh produce is an important part of ensuring your favourite fruits and veggies are safe to consume, but also be sure to pay regular attention to the media for any outbreaks or updates related to fresh produce safety.

The Conversation

Senaka Ranadheera, Early Career Research Fellow, Advanced Food Systems Research Unit, College of Health and Biomedicine, Victoria University

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

Global public health organisation NSF International acquires New Zealand food safety company

Global food safety organisation NSF International has acquired the Burwater Pacific Group, a leading food safety training, auditing and consulting business based in New Zealand.

With hopes to expand food safety and quality services to a broader New Zealand and Australia food manufacturer and retail market, NSF International will work closely with the Burwater Pacific Group to provide its services for clients in New Zealand.

According to NSF International Senior Vice President, Tom Chestnut, the NSF Burwater team will utilise their 100 years of combined food safety experience to continue to lead food safety operations throughout New Zealand and Australia with assistance from technical experts around the globe.

“The addition of the Burwater Pacific Group to the NSF International Global Food Safety and Quality Division enables us to provide global auditing, certification, training and consulting services to the New Zealand and Australian food industry for our multinational retail customers and complements our current operations in the Asia-Pacific region, where we have offices in Korea, China, Thailand and India,” Chestnut said.

Regional Director for NSF International in New Zealand and Australia, Nigel Burrows, says that NSF welcomes the expertise, strong reputation and shared commitment to food safety that the Burwater Pacific Group brings to NSF International’s food safety and quality business.

“The opportunity to have access to the technical expertise of NSF’s Food Safety and Quality services will benefit New Zealand and Australian Food businesses on a local and global level. We are extremely excited to be part of NSF International as their global leadership in Food Safety and Quality will benefit our existing and new clients,” Burrows said.

As a result of the acquisition, multinational food businesses will have their food safety auditing, certification, training and consulting needs supported throughout New Zealand and Australia. 

Services offered via NSF Burwater include:

·        Technical Consulting – Services for new product launches including product development, label review and development, food control plans and HACCP development, micro and chemical sampling, internal auditing, training and product development.

·        Auditing services – Franchise compliance and operational standards review and audits as well as global standards and third-party regulatory audits including high risk food categories.

·        Training and development – Consultation, coaching and formal training in all areas from basic food handling to food safety program development and allergen management. 

Food standards body close to finalising labelling review work

An independent review into food labelling has received hundreds of submissions and involved several rounds of consultation, including public meetings with the food industry.

Food Standards Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ) concluded that the dietary intakes of trans fats in Australia and New Zealand were likely to remain below World Health Organization limits and that mandatory labelling was not warranted.

Another review recommendation was that total and naturally occurring dietary fibre content should be shown on NIPs. FSANZ looked into this recommendation by reviewing the science on ‘naturally occurring’ dietary fibre.

Consumers were also asked how they understand dietary fibre content and estimated how much it would cost consumers and industry to have dietary fibre information on all foods.

New review standards were also introduced, as FSANZ was able to implement the ability to allow voluntary potassium claims to be made on food labels.

The review recommended that Australia’s existing mandatory country of origin labelling requirements for food be extended to cover all primary foods. FSANZ examined the requirements and extended country of origin labelling to unpackaged beef, veal, lamb, hogget, mutton and chicken in July 2013.

FSANZ also looked at the remaining primary produce that didn’t need to display country of origin information on the label, for example goat meat.

By the end of 2016, FSANZ expects to complete work on its final two recommendations.

These include expanding the ingredient list on food labels so that the terms ‘added sugars’, ‘added fats’ and/or ‘added vegetable oils’ are used followed by a bracketed list with the names in addition to reviewing the requirement that a food has been irradiated. 

Paleo Diet surges in global popularity

Recent data from Innova Market Insights has seen a surge in the use of the word paleo as interest in the diet spreads out across the globe. 

The share of the USA in paleo launch activity fell from over 80% of the tracked launch total in the 12 months to the end of September 2014 to less than two-thirds in the same period in 2015, despite strong growth in total introductions.

This indicated the emergence of activity in other parts of the world, perhaps most notably Australia, where activity came from virtually zero in 2014 to account for nearly 16% of the 2015 total, putting it ahead of Europe with 10%.

According to Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights, Lu Ann Williams, natural ingredients are becoming increasingly in demand.

“Interest in naturally nutritious ingredients and a return to basics has led to increasing consumption of ingredients such as ancient grains and green foods,” Williams said.

“It has also led to a surge in interest in alternative diets and eating habits, bringing awareness of the Paleo Diet to a much wider range of consumers.”

Paleo-friendly products are increasingly being marketed as high-profile lines feature ‘paleo’ in the product name or brand. 

Science sells a sweet deal to sober up on sugar

Researchers have identified a hormone that can suppress sugar and alcohol cravings in mice.

According to a study recently published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the hormone can send a signal to the brain to reduce the appetite for sugar.

Scientists tested the theory by injecting the hormone into mice then giving them a choice between a balanced diet and a sugar-enriched diet.

By genetically modifying the two sets of mice, distinct differences were observed between a group that did not produce FGF21 and those that had over 500 times the normal levels of the hormone.

According to report co-senior author Dr Steven Kliewer, “The findings raise the possibility that FGF21 administration could affect nutrient preference and other reward behaviours in humans.”

Results were also consistent when applied to alcohol-laced water, indicating that the hormone could be used to treat alcoholism.

“These findings suggest that additional studies are warranted to assess the effects of FGF21 on sweet and alcohol preference and other reward behaviour in humans,” Kliewer said.

Whilst the hormone does not supress the craving for complex carbohydrates such as cake or pastries, it could assist diabetics and obese people with controlling their sugar levels.

New solution for iron deficiency in vegetarians

Frutarom Health BU offers a new approach to tackle iron deficiency in vegan and vegetarian diets.

AB-Fortis, a patented encapsulated iron system, supports vegans/vegetarians, as well as women of childbearing years, who commonly suffer from iron deficiency. 

AB-Fortis, a clean label, GMO-free, all-natural ingredient has a high iron content and can be formulated into a full range of food and beverage applications.

Studies performed in young women and adults have shown that vegetarian (including vegan) men and women have lower iron stores than meat eaters. 

“Because iron isn't as easily absorbed from plant sources, the recommended intake of iron for vegetarians is almost double that of non-vegetarians,” explained Wouter Haazen, Product Manager for Frutarom Health. “It’s hard to increase iron intake from food alone.”

Iron is commonly recognized as a necessary nutrient for human diet. As a crucial component of red blood cells, it is vital to oxygen transport. A thorough scientific evaluation by EFSA led to the recognition that iron is a necessary nutrient that impacts energy metabolism, cognition and the immune system, among other body functions. Scientific studies demonstrate that iron deficiency leads to anemia, causing sufferers to feel chronically tired and out of breath (even after mild exertion), as well as having heart palpitations and a pale complexion.

Traditional iron supplements have a strong metallic taste and powerful oxidative properties—both undesirable for foods. They also are hard to digest, and sometimes cause nausea, constipation, gastric distress, and headaches. 

AB-Fortis is produced by a patented process to provide stable encapsulation with minimal release of free iron into the food matrix. The spherical gelation of ferric saccharate by calcium alginate results in an encapsulated iron salt with a high (40 per cent) iron content. 

Its suitability for food matrices and consumer acceptability was recently demonstrated in a successful bakery product targeted to children and launched in Spain by a market leader in this segment.

Buderim Ginger gets new packaging

Well-known Australian producer of all things ginger has just introduced new packaging for two popular snacking and cooking products: Buderim Ginger’s Naked Ginger (Uncrystallised) 200g pack and Crystallised Ginger 250g pack.

Embracing a more contemporary design, Buderim Ginger has revealed fresh new packaging for its smooth and velvety ginger pieces – with the added benefits of functionality. These two classics are now available to consumers in an easy-to-open and resealable stand up pouch.

Maintaining their strong brand heritage and continuing to embrace their vibrant orange and retro trademark, Buderim has opted for a more functional design that consumers will love. Moving away from a shapeless, pillow-packet format that gets lost in the cupboard and can’t be re-sealed, Buderim’s new stand-alone pouch locks in freshness while still delivering the same great taste.

“In a recent national study of over 1000 people earlier this year we found the majority of our customers either purchased Naked and Crystallised Ginger as a snack or for cooking,” said Buderim Ginger Marketing Manager Jacqui Price.

“However the previous packaging format wasn’t conducive to snacking and cooking usages, whereas the new stand up pack has a lot better presence in cupboards making it easier to store and is completely resealable.”