Fonterra wins first FSSC2200-Q certification

Fonterra Te Awamutu has become the first site in the world to be awarded the newly created Food Safety System Certification 22000 – Quality, an internationally recognised food safety accreditation.

Where previously food safety and food quality have been audited and assessed separately, the new certification gives companies the option of combining their food safety and quality management systems into one certification. This provides customers with the assurances of international best practice in both food safety and quality.

Fonterra Director New Zealand Manufacturing Mark Leslie said this highlights the Co-operative’s commitment to producing the highest quality dairy nutrition and world-leading service.

“At Fonterra safe food, safe people and world class quality underpins everything we do. We do not compromise on any of these and one does not take precedence over the other. This certification is in keeping with the importance we place on each of these critical aspects of our business and a vital step in continuing our journey in becoming the world’s most trusted source of dairy nutrition.

“This certification is testament to the hard work of our teams and reassures our customers of our strong commitment, team at Fonterra Te Awamutu have done a great job in achieving this world first,” said Leslie.

All Fonterra New Zealand-based ingredient sites already hold the baseline certification – and several sites, including Eltham, Kapuni and Pahiatua are on track to join Te Awamutu soon in achieving the gold standard FSSC2200-Q certification.


Australians making the switch to gluten as gluten-free labelling increases

A nationwide survey conducted by the CSIRO has found that a greater number of people are making the choice to go gluten or wheat-free as consumer foods are increasingly labelled as either gluten or lactose free. 

In recent decades, the focus on ‘bad’ dietary factors has shifted to gluten: a protein found in cereal grains such as rye, barley and oats. For consumers diagnosed with a wheat allergy, the avoidance of wheat and other gluten-containing foods is essential. 

Food billed as “gluten-free” isn’t necessarily healthier. Gluten-free products can be high in calories, fat and carbohydrates, leading some people to gain weight when going gluten free. 
With coeliac disease, the body’s immune system reacts to consuming gluten by damaging the lining of the small intestine, which interferes with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Gluten intolerant or sensitive people experience negative reactions to gluten, but do not actually have coeliac disease. 

To add to the confusion, you can also have a wheat allergy, which is an aversion to wheat itself, so a gluten-free product may not necessarily be OK for those with a wheat allergy. With so many different causes, conditions and symptoms, diagnosis is extremely hard, and there is a lot of misinformation about gluten.

The data collected revealed that as many as 1 in 10 Australian adults, or approximately 1.8 million people, were currently avoiding or limiting their consumption of wheat-based products –with women more likely to be avoiding wheat on average than men. 

According to current Australian Dietary Guidelines, both grain and dairy based foods are an important part of a balanced diet through contributing to the daily dietary fibre and calcium intake of both adults and children.

“Our findings, plus the extraordinary rise in popularity of the gluten-free diet in Australia and elsewhere, suggest that, apart from the coeliac disease and wheat allergy, other conditions associated with the ingestion of wheat are emerging as health care concerns. Currently, the driver of most of the research activity in this area is the concept of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS),” CSIRO said on it’s blog website.

CSIRO believes that the significant proportion of Australians undertaking restrictive diets may pose the potential danger of associated nutritional imbalances. A majority of symptomatic respondents appeared to be bypassing conventional medical advice in their decision to go wheat-free, raising the potential risk of a clinical condition going undetected. 


New salt-reducing ingredient introduced in Hamburgers and Processed Meats

A new Salt of the Earth ingredient for Fi Europe hamburgers and processed meat has been launched to significantly reduce the amount of salt and MSG.

Derived from tomato, shiitake mushroom and kombu seaweed, Umamix aims to enhance flavour while reducing sodium in processed meat applications by up to 45 per cent.

Salt is widely used in meat processing as a flavour enhancer as well as a functional ingredient. Hamburgers or meatballs typically contain 1.2-2 per cent salt.

Marketing Manager for Salt of the Earth, Revital Ben Shachar said Umamix had the potential to help decrease sodium by 45 per cent in hamburgers and meatballs without affecting the taste of the final product.

“Our sodium reduction ingredient is designed to address these needs and keep the consumer-craved salty, savoury flavour. This highly cost-effective ingredient thus allows processors to meet all consumer demand targets,” Shachar said.

Creating sustainable solutions involving sea salt has been a challenge for the global food industry since 1922.

The National Health and Medical Research Council has set an ‘Adequate Intake’ of 20–40 mmol (460–920 mg) of sodium per day. This corresponds to 1.15–2.3 grams of salt.

Most Australian adults have a daily salt intake of about 10 grams, i.e. many times the maximum value of the Adequate Intake range.

 A ‘Suggested Dietary Target’ of 1600 mg of sodium (equivalent to about 4 grams of salt) has been set for Australian adults. This is about half the average Australian adult’s current salt intake.

Marketing sodium-reduction solutions made from Red Sea salts, Salt of the Earth controls and tracks salt resources in order to promote balanced salt consumption through sodium reduction solutions. 

OOB Organic Blueberry Smoothie

Product Name: OOB Organic Blueberry Smoothie

Product Manufacturer: OOB Organic

Launch date: 26/10/15

Ingredients (as listed on the packaging):     
Organic Blueberries
Organic Kiwi fruit
Organic Banana

Shelf Life: 18 months

Packaging: Stand Up Pouch

Product Manager: Robert Auton

Country of origin: Kiwi -NZ, Blueberries USA/Chile Banana- Peru

Brand Website:

Describe the product: Use OOB organic smoothie as a base for a delicious and nutritious start to your day. Just add your favorite ingredients for a perfect healthy meal solution.
Each smoothie contains frozen pieces of Organic Kiwi fruit , slices of Organic Banana and either organic Blueberries or Strawberries.

Contact Email:

Euromonitor modelling shows Australian shift away from soft drinks

Amidst a global debate concerning the implementation of excise tax proposals on sugary beverages, Euromonitor International has employed an inductive demand model to aid in five-year forecasting. 

The model attempts to identify several measureable and statistically significant demand factors against available data for retail and on-trade beverage category sales weighted in building 2015-2019 country forecasts. 

Australia is currently in the top 10 markets for carbonates consumption in terms of per capita retail volume sold, leading Euromonitor to consider potential impact of a soft drinks tax by recording historical price increases and the effect they’ve had on Australian retail sales of carbonates. 

In a Euromonitor blog post, Howard Telford said “There is greater uncertainty over the impact of a substantial soda tax in Australia, because there is simply no precedent for a substantial price shock in the Australian retail market.”

Telford believed that the introduction of a soda tax would be accompanied by a public health debate in the media that could impact consumer attitudes towards carbonates for reasons other than price. 

Euromonitor’s data showed significant declines in full flavoured cola and wider carbonated beverages in Australia that has resulted in declining prices and a consumer migration to low calorie cola (and non-cola carbonate) alternatives. 

Consumers making well-publicised concerns about existing cola were found to be doing so independent of price considerations and motivated instead by health or taste considerations. 

Whether or not a sugar tax is implemented, the Euromonitor International data clearly showed that consumers had been rapidly changing their attitudes towards health, sugar and lifestyle choices –a move that Telford suggests means that Australian consumers may have already found an alternative to implementing a sugar tax. 


Kate Farms Komplete

Product Name: Kate Farms Komplete
Product Manufacturer: Kate Farms
Launch date: 14 October 2015
Ingredients (as listed on the packaging): Ingredients for chocolate flavour Komplete (the ingredients of the three flavours of Komplete vary slightly)
Purified Water, KompleteGlycemic Blend (Organic Brown Rice Syrup Solids, Organic Blue Agave), Komplete Amino Blend (Organic Rice Protein, Pea Protein), Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Cocoa Powder, Organic Inulin, Natural Flavor, Tricalcium Phosphate, Organic Gum Arabic, Milled Chia, Vitamin Blend (Magnesium Oxide, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Vitamin E Acetate, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Vitamin A Palmitate, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Cupric Sulfate (Copper), Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin D Ergocalciferol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Chromium Picolinate, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Biotin (Vitamin H), Potassium Iodide (Iodine), Sodium Molybdate, Phytonadione (Vitamin K), Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12), Guar Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Dipotassium Phosphate, Spectra 100mg Blend (Concentrates of Broccoli Sprouts, Tomato, Broccoli, Carrot, Spinach, Kale, Brussel Sprouts, CamuCamu, Quercetin, Mangosteen, Elderberry, Garlic, Basil, Oregano, Cinnamon, Sweet Cherry, Açaí, Blackberry, Chokeberry, Raspberry, Bilberry) (Extracts of Onion, Green Coffee, Acerola, Green Tea, Apple, Blue Corn, Turmeric, Black Currant, Blueberry), Quinoa Flour, Carrageenan (Derived from Seaweed), Sea Salt

Shelf Life: 12 months
Packaging: Tetra
Product Manager: Tania Aafos Rees
Country of origin: United States
Brand Website:

How marketers condition us to buy more junk food

Fast food giant McDonald’s has been under a cloud in recent years as its US customers turn to alternatives. In this “Fast food reinvented” series we explore what the sector is doing to keep customers hooked and sales rising.

While excess weight and obesity is a growing global concern, there has been more and more advertising and promotional effort encouraging the consumption of unhealthy food.

In many cases this marketing is targeted at children, and takes place online. In our recent study we investigated the impact of online marketing communications on children and their intention to consume unhealthy food. We found fast food ads on social networking sites can manipulate young audiences – their purchasing likelihood, their views of fast food and their eating habits.

The qualitative study included a sample of 40 Australian children who use social networking sites. Half (21) of the children were male and the average age was 14 (the youngest being 12 and the oldest 16). Their parents were also present during the interview, however they agreed not to intervene during the conversation.

A growing problem

The prevalence of excess weight and obesity among Australians has been growing for the past 30 years. Between 2011 and 2012, around 60% of Australian adults were classified as overweight, and more than 25% of these fell into the obese category. In 2013, more than 12 million, or three in five Australian adults, were overweight or obese. On top of that, one in four Australian children were overweight or obese. Excess weight and obesity is only beaten by smoking and high blood pressure as a contributor to a burden of diseases.

Despite this, the food industry is succeeding in using marketing communications to change attitudes, perceptions and perceived norms associated with unhealthy food.

Consumers are lured by surprisingly cheap deals, which are especially attractive to teenagers and young adults with low income. But sales promotions such as discounts and coupons often offer only short-term benefits to consumers and are usually not effective among middle-age adults.

However, if a promotion is offered for a long period of time (i.e. more than three months), it can actually influence customer habits, encouraging repeat purchases – for example, the $1 frozen Coke.

Similarly, sales promotions can make other brands be perceived as less attractive by customers after a period of time. For instance, the $1 frozen Coke campaigns by McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s affect the perception of frozen Coke in terms of monetary value. Many consumers become less willing to buy a frozen Coke that is more expensive than $1. The same can be said of $2 burgers or $5 pizzas.

The role of social networks

More than half (16 out of 30) of the respondents admitted they tended to change their eating habits after repeatedly being exposed to advertisements on social networking sites.

“Yes, many people say that it is not good to eat fast food. I used to think so but not anymore. Look at their ads, they are colourful, many options and cheap.”

“I just cannot resist it… I had been looking at the ads day after day and I decided that I needed to try these”.

Interestingly, fast food was associated with socialisation and fun among young consumers.

“The ads make me feel like this is where we belong to. This is our lifestyle…where we hang out and can be ourselves.”

“This is about our culture, young, active and free. We are kids but also not kids. We are different.”

Peer pressure

Peer pressure is heavily related to eating habits, especially during puberty when there is usually a shift from home influence to group motivation. Teenagers and young adults in particular tend to choose a particular type of food under peer pressure.

More than 70% of teenagers will choose a food according to the preference of their friends. This means marketing communications promoting fast food consumption can create a snowball effect within this group of customers. For example, Jack, Sara and Park go out together. If Jack and Sara order Big Burgers with extra cheese, the likelihood that Park will order another Big Burger with extra cheese is approximately 75%. In contrast, only 2.7% of people aged over 40 choose fast food because of their peers.

It’s clear marketing efforts by fast food chains can promote unhealthy eating habits. Also, peer influence plays an important part in forming eating habits. This means the intervention of government and health organisations should concentrate on increasing customers’ attention to health issues, self-efficacy and perceived norms, and at the same time, lessening the influence of marketing efforts aimed at motivating unhealthy eating habits.

The Conversation

Park Thaichon, Assistant Professor of Marketing, S P Jain School of Global Management and Sara Quach, PhD Student, Swinburne University of Technology

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

Junk food shrinks your brain claims study

New research has shown for the first time that the part of the brain used for learning, memory and mental health is smaller in people with unhealthy diets.

 The results of the study by researchers at Deakin University and the Australian National University (ANU) suggest that older Australians with unhealthy diets have smaller hippocampi – the hippocampus is a part of the brain believed to be integral to learning, memory and mental health. It has also shown that older people with healthier diets have larger hippocampi.
Associate Professor Felice Jacka, lead author of the study and researcher with Deakin University’s IMPACT Strategic Research Centre in Geelong, said that as the negative impact of unhealthy foods on the waistline of the population grows, so does the evidence suggesting that our brain health is also affected.
“It is becoming even clearer that diet is critically important to mental as well as physical health throughout life,” Associate Professor Jacka said.

“We’ve known for some time that components of diet, both healthy and unhealthy, have a rapid impact on aspects of the brain that affect hippocampal size and function, but up until now these studies have only been done in rats and mice. This is the first study to show that this also appears to be the case for humans.”
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the size of hippocampi (there are two in the brain – left and right) in Australian adults aged 60-64 years and participating in the PATH study – a large longitudinal study of ageing conducted at the ANU. They also measured the participants’ regular diets and took into account a range of other factors that could affect the hippocampus.

The results of the study, now published in the international journal BMC Medicine, suggest that older adults who eat more unhealthy foods, such as sweet drinks, salty snacks and processed meats, have smaller left hippocampi. It also shows that older adults who eat more nutrient-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits and fish, have larger left hippocampi. These relationships existed over and above other factors that may explain these associations, such as gender, levels of physical activity, smoking, education or depression itself.
These findings have relevance for both dementia and mental health, Associate Professor Jacka said.
“Mental disorders account for the leading cause of disability worldwide, while rates of dementia are increasing as the population ages,” she said.
“Recent research has established that diet and nutrition are related to the risk for depression, anxiety and dementia, however, until now it was not clear how diet might exert an influence on mental health and cognition.
“This latest study sheds light on at least one of the pathways by which eating an unhealthy diet may influence the risk for dementia, cognitive decline and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety in older people.
“However, it also points to the importance of diet for brain health in other age groups. As the hippocampus is critical to learning and memory throughout life, as well as being a key part of the brain involved in mental health, this study underscores the importance of good nutrition for children, adolescents and adults of all ages.”

Alcohol warning labels a bit blurry says new study

 Australia’s current alcohol warning labels are failing to effectively convey health messages to the public, according to a new study from Deakin University.
Researchers with Deakin’s School of Psychology examined awareness of the voluntary warning labels and the ‘Get the facts’ logo that directs consumers to the industry-led informational website DrinkWise, and whether alcohol consumers visited this site.
The study found that recall of the current, voluntary warning labels on Australian alcohol products was non-existent, overall awareness was low, and few people reported visiting the DrinkWise website. 
“These findings demonstrate that the current approach of industry self-regulation is a straightforward case of regulatory failure,” said one of the report authors Peter Miller, Associate Professor of Psychology at Deakin.

The voluntary consumer messages on alcohol products were put in place in 2011 by DrinkWise – a ‘social aspects/public relations’ organisation, which is funded and governed by the alcohol industry – in response to a recommendation by an independent government review that all alcohol product labels depict a health warning.
The most recent audit showed that these labels are only depicted on around one third of alcohol products.
“Given that the majority of the Australian public support the introduction of mandatory health warning labels for alcohol products, and the success seen from strong, research-based tobacco labelling, it is time for the government to put in place mandatory, highly visible, black and white warning labels on the front of all alcohol products,” Associate Professor Miller said.
“We cannot continue to rely on voluntary industry-led measures where these important messages are being obscurely placed and take up less than five per cent of the product label.”

The study included 561 participants aged between 18-45 years, who completed an online survey to assess their alcohol consumption patterns, awareness of the ‘Get the facts’ messages, and their use of the DrinkWise website. Participants were asked about the series of DrinkWise warning labels, including ‘It is safest not to drink while pregnant’, an image of a silhouette of a pregnant woman with a strike through, ‘Is your drinking harming yourself or others?’, and ‘Kids and alcohol don’t mix’.
The results showed that no participants could spontaneously recall the ‘Get the facts’ logo. Around 16 per cent of participants could recall warning labels on alcohol products when prompted with images, 25 per cent recognised the logo and 13-38 per cent recognised the warnings. Overall, only 7.3 per cent of participants had visited the website.

Awareness of the ‘Get the facts’ logo and warning labels was also found to be positively associated with younger drinkers, increased frequency of binge drinking, consuming alcohol straight from the bottle or can, and being a supporter of warning labels.
“Our study demonstrated a low awareness of Australian alcohol warning labels, and a lack of consumer use of the industry-funded website. This highlights that while the DrinkWise brand might be a very successful marketing ploy by the alcohol industry, it doesn’t translate effectively into consumer knowledge or behaviour,” Associate Professor Miller said.
“Further research is now needed to evaluate the effectiveness of a consumer targeted alcohol control website.
“Information presented on an alcohol consumer information site needs to be evidence-based, useful and provide practical health advice. Currently, the DrinkWise website is used to create an impression of corporate social responsibility, but it does not promote evidence-based interventions and alcohol-harm reduction strategies.”


Orgran launches gluten-free breakfast cereals

Orgran has expanded its breakfast range with two healthy new cereal options suitable for the whole family.

Orgran’s Quinoa Puffs and Quinoa Flakes are the newest additions to the breakfast cereal range that also have a 4.5-Star health rating, and are gluten, wheat, egg, dairy and yeast free. 

The new cereals are also low in fat and low in sugar and will be available in independent supermarkets and health food stores from September, 2015.

Aussies turning to discretionary food: ABS

In every State and Territory, Australians love their treat or discretionary food – food high in energy but low in nutritional value – according to a report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The results are from the Australian Health Survey showing different eating habits for each State and Territory. Louise Gates from the ABS says that while the report shows all Australians enjoy a treat there are interesting differences by state.

"The report tells us Australians obtain over a third (35 per cent) of their energy from discretionary foods.” said Ms Gates “Tasmanians and Northern Territorians obtained the highest proportion of energy from discretionary foods at 38 per cent while Canberrans had the lowest at 33 per cent.”

The choice of treat also differs with Northern Territorians' being soft drink with one in three (33 per cent) drinking it, the highest in the country. They were not as keen on confectionary (20 per cent) and snack food (13 per cent), being the least likely to consume these foods.

Tasmanians were the most fond of confectionary with over a third (37 per cent) consuming and snack foods were most popular in New South Wales where 16 per cent of people ate them. On the other hand, soft drink was least popular in Canberra where only 23 per cent of people reported drinking it.

For recommended intakes, Tasmanians had the highest proportion of people, nine per cent, meeting the recommended daily intake of vegetables compared with only five per cent in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Canberra. However, Tasmanians were least likely to meet the recommendations for fruit (48 per cent), while people from New South Wales and Canberra were the most likely (54 per cent).

“We also found 22 per cent of people in the Northern Territory ate fish making them the most likely state or territory to eat fish but least likely to eat fruit (53 per cent).” said Ms Gates

“Tasmanians on the other hand were least likely to eat fish (13 per cent), however they matched South Australians as the most likely to enjoy cheese (36 per cent compared to 32 per cent of all of Australians).

“Canberrans were most likely to enjoy a glass of wine (22 per cent) while in the Northern Territory, beer is the alcoholic drink of choice (21 per cent).

“Adults in Western Australia were most likely to have an alcoholic beverage (39 per cent) and Victorians and Tasmanians were least likely (30 per cent).”

The report also covers food avoidance with Canberrans most likely to avoid food due to allergy or intolerance (21 per cent) and Queenslanders least likely to avoid particular foods for cultural, religious or ethical reasons (four per cent).

“The report also contains new data on food security with rates similar for all states and territories.” said Ms Gates.

“Nationally, four per cent of people lived in a household that, in the previous 12 months, had run out of food and could not afford to buy more, and 1.5 per cent of all Australians were in a household where someone went without food when they couldn't afford to buy any more.”

ABS has compiled a full report for each State and Territory. Further information is available in Australian Health Survey: Nutrition – State and Territory results, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.009) available for free download from the ABS website.


“Strong evidence” frozen berries caused outbreak: Dept of Health

The Department of Health said there is “very strong evidence” linking Nanna’s recalled berries with an increased risk of developing Hep A.

Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Fiona Nash, said rigorous scientific analysis of information from interviews with affected people, comparisons with people who were not ill, as well as tracing the source of berries eaten by affected people, had been extensive.

“There is very strong evidence that consumption of Nanna's 1kg fresh frozen mixed berries led to an increased risk of developing Hepatitis A infection in this outbreak,” Senator Nash said.

“Cases with an identical genetic strain of Hepatitis A virus occurred across Australia reporting the common consumption of that product.

“Although testing of food is an unreliable way to detect Hepatitis A virus, as Patties Foods Limited have noted, the Victorian state Health Department testing of the product in question has now confirmed evidence of Hepatitis A virus at trace levels from a sealed packet of the product.

“Hepatitis A virus was also detected in an open packet of Nanna's 1kg fresh frozen mixed berries from a case.”

On Wednesday (15 April), Patties Foods issued a release announcing they had completed its microbiological and viral testing and found no Hepatitis A or E.coli on recalled products.

Patties will reintroduce Nanna’s and the Creative Gourmet brand berries back to the marketplace under a ‘positive release’ protocol. This means every batch will be tested in Australia for Hepatitis A and E.coli, and will only be released to market when negative test results are provided.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce said “the berries used to generate new product will be sourced from new farms and factories and subject to stricter microbiological testing than ever before.

“This testing includes microbiological testing for Hepatitis A virus, E.coli and coliforms.

“Patties berry products from the Chinese factories and farms associated with the recall are all still being held at the border, in line with directions given to Patties by the Department of Agriculture. The media statement made by Patties does not change the status of these consignments.

“Patties Foods has worked closely with my department throughout this food safety incident to help identify and hold berry product that potentially poses a risk to human health.

“All imported product that was linked to the outbreak of Hepatitis A in Australia was recalled by Patties and will never be put back onto the market.” 

Minister Joyce said new import requirements for frozen berries were underway.

​“More broadly, my department is working with Food Standards Australia New Zealand to ensure that the import requirements for all frozen berries, from all sources, comply with the stringent food safety requirements set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code,” Minister Joyce said.

“I expect that we will be in a position to announce these new requirements in the coming weeks.”


Today’s World Health Day dedicated to food safety

WHO is highlighting the challenges and opportunities associated with food safety under the slogan “From farm to plate, make food safe.”

According to WHO, new data on the harm caused by foodborne illnesses underscore the global threats posed by unsafe foods, and the need for coordinated, cross-border action across the entire food supply chain.

“Food production has been industrialized and its trade and distribution have been globalized,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “These changes introduce multiple new opportunities for food to become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals.

“A local food safety problem can rapidly become an international emergency. Investigation of an outbreak of foodborne disease is vastly more complicated when a single plate or package of food contains ingredients from multiple countries.”

Unsafe food can contain harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, and cause more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Examples of unsafe food include undercooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and shellfish containing marine biotoxins.

Today, WHO is issuing the first findings from what is a broader ongoing analysis of the global burden of foodborne diseases. The full results of this research, being undertaken by WHO’s Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG), are expected to be released in October 2015.

Some important results are related to enteric infections caused by viruses, bacteria and protozoa that enter the body by ingestion of contaminated food. The initial FERG figures, from 2010, show that:

  • There were an estimated 582 million cases of 22 different foodborne enteric diseases and 351 000 associated deaths;
  • The enteric disease agents responsible for most deaths were Salmonella Typhi (52 000 deaths), enteropathogenic E. coli (37 000) and norovirus (35 000);
  • The African region recorded the highest disease burden for enteric foodborne disease, followed by South-East Asia;
  • Over 40% people suffering from enteric diseases caused by contaminated food were children aged under 5 years.

Unsafe food also poses major economic risks, especially in a globalized world. Germany’s 2011 E.coli outbreak reportedly caused US$ 1.3 billion in losses for farmers and industries and US$ 236 million in emergency aid payments to 22 European Union Member States.

Efforts to prevent such emergencies can be strengthened, however, through development of robust food safety systems that drive collective government and public action to safeguard against chemical or microbial contamination of food. Global and national level measures can be taken, including using international platforms, like the joint WHO-FAO International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), to ensure effective and rapid communication during food safety emergencies.

“It often takes a crisis for the collective consciousness on food safety to be stirred and any serious response to be taken,” says Dr Kazuaki Miyagishima, Director of WHO’s Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses. “The impacts on public health and economies can be great. A sustainable response, therefore, is needed that ensures standards, checks and networks are in place to protect against food safety risks.”


AUSVEG has said the focus on food safety is just another demonstration of why Australia needs a better Country of Origin Labelling system and tougher checks on imported food.

“The problem is that our current Country of Origin Labelling laws are not clear enough and don’t always allow consumers to exercise choice, and our imported food inspection scheme only screens the majority of imported fruit and vegetable consignments at a low rate of only five per cent.”

“The recent hepatitis health scare involving imported berries from China sparked a chorus of calls for stricter testing of imported produce and clearer country of origin labelling to provide consumers with more accurate information about the food they are eating, and it is time for meaningful action.”

“AUSVEG appreciates the fact the government has recognised the overwhelming level of consumer support for action on this important issue, given around 26,000 Australians have written to Agriculture Minister the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP urging meaningful reform of Country of Origin Labelling.”

“We support the Australian Government consulting with consumers and industry in relation to improving Country of Origin Labelling and we look forward to seeing meaningful changes enacted by the Government following consideration by the Cabinet in August.”

“Given World Health Day’s focus on food safety, there is no better time for key decision makers in the Federal Government to ensure Australian’s get the fully transparent Country of Origin Labelling system they are crying out for.”


WHO recommendations put the spotlight on “hidden” sugars

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5 percent or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.

The recommendation may have implications for food manufacturers, as the free sugars WHO warns needs to be limited refers to monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer. It also includes sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

WHO said much of the sugars consumed today are “hidden” in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of free sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of free sugars.

The WHO guideline does not refer to the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, and sugars naturally present in milk, because there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming these sugars.

The release yesterday of the guidelines has prompted a coalition of leading health organisations to call for a national strategy around obesity that includes policies to directly impact the amount of added sugars in Australians’ diets.

Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, Jane Martin said at present, Australians consume far more than the recommended 6 teaspoons of free sugar a day.

Most of the added sugar comes from the sugary drinks and highly processed ‘extra’ foods that make up more than a third of our diet.  

“While sugary drinks have to be the number one target to reduce our sugar intake, we also need to pay attention to the highly processed foods, like breakfast cereals and yoghurts which people often don’t realise are high in sugar.

“There are a lot of inexpensive and effective policies that the government could implement to reduce the sugar-coated environment in which we live – many countries are moving in this direction. They include restricting the sale of sugary drinks in schools and healthcare settings, ensuring that the star front of pack labels are implemented widely for all packaged foods, restricting marketing of foods high in sugar to children, reformulating foods and taxing high sugar drinks,” Martin said.


Media reports “misleading and wrong”: Dept of Health

The Department of Health has said media reports that suggest health authorities waited a month to act from the first case of Hepatitis is misleading and completely wrong.

In a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday the Department stated that the three people in Victoria showed signs of Hepatitis A in early January. These cases were reported to national health authorities when these cases were confirmed and a potential link was established with the consumption of Patties frozen berries.

When the link was made Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Department of Agriculture ensured there was a voluntary recall of a range of berries from Patties Foods and the Federal Department of Health immediately activated a national health response.

The Department of Health said the first isolated cases that have since been associated with the consumption of frozen berries were notified in January but a pattern of infection could only be established as subsequent cases came to light.

“As each case was notified they were investigated by state health authorities like all cases of Hepatitis A.  A key part of the investigation is collecting and analysing histories of exposure to possible sources of infection. When possible common exposures to a source of infection are identified, further detailed investigation either confirms or dismisses the possible common source. This is important as Hepatitis A infections can arise from sources other than food such as poor personal hygiene or direct contact with infected faecal matter,” Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Baggoley said in a media statement.”

“In this instance, after investigation of cases and detailed analyses of food consumption histories, the Victorian authorities confirmed a possible association with frozen berries on Thursday 12 February 2015,

“We believe the Victorian authorities have acted quickly and diligently in responding to this outbreak,” Baggoley said.

The national foodborne disease surveillance network, OzFoodnet, was advised of the association between the frozen berries and Hepatitis cases on Friday 13 February 2015, and on the same day discussion with the implicated company was initiated.

A voluntary consumer level recall of Nanna’s frozen mixed berries 1 kilogram packs was issued on Saturday 14 February 2015, with subsequent precautionary recalls of Creative Gourmet, made from Sunday 15 February 2015.

As of 11am, February 26, there are 19 confirmed cases that meet the reporting case definition:

  • 7 in QLD
  • 7 in NSW
  • 3 in Vic
  • 1 in WA
  • 1 newly notified case in ACT 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called upon Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to prepare a submission for cabinet regarding country-of-origin by the end of March.


Packaged foods delivering misleading health claims: survey

Some packaged foods carry misleading information about fruit and vegetable content on their packaging, Cancer Council NSW says.

Almost half (48 percent) of the packaged fruit and vegetable-based products surveyed by Cancer Council NSW made fruit and vegetable claims on the packaging, despite some having as little as 13 percent fruit content.

Co-author of the report and Nutrition Program Manager at Cancer Council NSW, Clare Hughes, said that as well as exploring fruit and/or vegetable content, the study also looked at the nutrient make-up of these products.

“What we found was that these products contained much less dietary fibre and much more energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium than their fresh fruit or vegetable equivalent, making them a poor substitute for the real thing,” she said in a statement.

Currently, these foods do not have to meet Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code nutrient criteria to be able to carry these claims and so can appear, without regulation, on products which are nutritionally unhealthy.

Cancer Council NSW is urging the Australian government to strengthen the Food Standards Code which does not currently regulate fruit and vegetable claims on food labels.

“We need tighter regulation of products that may lead Australians to believe they are contributing positively to their recommended two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables per day, where instead they are consuming less fibre, and more energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium,” said Hughes.

Roll Ups, made by Nestle, are a product which makes the claim "made with real fruit" on its packaging.

A Nestle spokeswoman told the Age that was not a health claim, but a content claim.

"Roll Ups contain concentrated puree from real fruit as clearly stated in the ingredient list on the back of the pack," she said.

"Roll Ups are a fun, portion-controlled treat."