Washdown solutions and stainless-steel hose reels for food processing

Spray Nozzle Engineering has been a leader in water saving and efficient ergonomic washdown systems for over 25 years. Their expertise extends to trigger gun and hose nozzle technology and complete hose handling systems.

Knowing that each washdown application is different, based on water flow, pressure, temperature and operator needs, the company can match the exact water saving nozzle to match applications such as commercial kitchens, brewery floors, dairy processing, meat processing and rendering, just to name a few.

If you need a washdown trigger gun or nozzle that is approved as a water saving device, Spray Nozzle Engineering has the only true low-flow trigger nozzle approved with the WELS Smart Water Tick of approval, and recognised by many water authorities in their water saving device rebate schemes.

Spray Nozzel Engineering and Reel Tech can provide a complete washdown package for all applications designed to save water, store and handle hose safely and remove hose trip hazards from your work environment.

Reel Tech is a manufacturer and supplier of standard and custom stainless-steel safer hose handling and storage reel technology. Reel Tech offers high quality steel reels that reduce the chance of employee and equipment damage due to excessive hose whip during rewind, which is a common problem with spring hose reels.

The benefit of installing Reel Tech stainless steel reels is that they are more robust and durable than competitor stainless steel reels. From washdown to processing, Reel Tech supplies all the reels you’ll need. For sanitary or harsh conditions, our stainless-steel reels are the top choice of OEMs around the world. That means you can trust Reel Tech to provide perfect fit and function for years to come.

Numerous industries, including food, beverage, pharmaceutical and dairy, trust our reels because of their resistance to rust and corrosion and the absence of paint, which can chip and contaminate products.

We offer more models and custom designs than any other reel manufacturer in Australia to meet a variety of needs, applications, installations, and functions. Every reel we build is created for the industry it will be used in – never retrofitted to the job. Our Safe-R-Reel™ speed control is a dedicated mechanical system that does not use oil clutches; which could leak contaminants or be subject to heat slippage. Mechanical speed control is an enclosed low maintenance option available on all reel sizes.

Most of our stainless-steel hose reels are used in the food processing industry for: washdown, chemical transfer, potable water, food ingredient transfer and more. We manufacture our stainless-steel reels to industrial-duty design and construction standards using fine grade 304 stainless steel frames, discs and drums, and stainless internals. Because of their exceptional quality, they require only minimal routine maintenance and will not rust, corrode or break down even in the harshest conditions.

Reel Tech partners with Spary Nozzle Engineering to supply complete washdown solutions to the food and beverage industry with applications ranging from: dairy, caustic materials, air, water and chemical food transfer.







Allergies: why traceability in food is important

Allergies are a life-altering and life-threatening condition. Daily, up to 20 per cent of patients with allergies face the fear of fatal reactions. Currently worldwide, seven per cent of children have been diagnosed with allergies, compared to just three per cent of the adult population. This  increase demonstrates the need for the food industry to do more to prepare for growing levels of dietary delicacy.

Food manufacturers need to understand this delicate balance, but there are often many barriers stopping them from reporting accurately. From food fraud to confusing or conflicting legislation, the barriers to effective traceability are diverse. However, the risk to consumers is high – even one mistake can cause potentially fatal consequences.

Traceability is the ability to track food through all stages of production, processing and distribution. Most legislation requires producers to be able to trace products one step backwards and one step forwards, at any point in the supply chain. This means that as long as every part of the supply chain is reliable it is hard for ingredients to be mislabeled. It’s simple in theory but can often be a difficult concept to implement.

Food manufacturers need to be compliant with the ISO 22005:2007 standard for traceability in the feed and food chain. However, due to the complexity of modern supply chains, it is harder, but also more vital than ever to have a good overview of the complete process.

To this extent, it is good practice for a food and beverage producer to trace every single ingredient throughout the whole of their supply chain. Not only will this have good business applications, because fully understanding a supply chain will drastically reduce the cost of a recall, but problematic steps or points of contamination will become easier to trace, cutting down the number of products that need to be recalled.

There are tools available to improve traceability, including automated control systems that allow manufacturers to give their product a digital, trackable passport. Recording the details of production digitally through automation systems and feeding them into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software or Manufacturing Operations Management suite (MOM), will create a comprehensive digital trace.

ERPs and MOMs work by integrating all facets of a business into a single database, allowing an in-depth view of business operations. The systems can then break down a production plant into distinct steps, meaning plant managers can easily identify when a contaminate, or potential contaminant, is present. Producers can then state exactly what is in their product and plant managers can accurately understand how many batches need recalling if issues do occur.

While more than 50 million Americans sufferer from chronic allergies every year, this number is expected to double by 2025. With the rate of people with allergies rising, manufacturers need to prepare their systems for even more detail and reporting for customers. Installing robust traceability can help eradicate unintended allergic reactions, building strong consumer trust and ultimately saving lives.


Mindfulness is a key factor in people’s food choices for 2018

Mindfulness and individual choice are at the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to food choices in 2018.

Although these are not new trends, they are ongoing factors that continue to shape the consumer food market.

Consumers are developing a more holistic way of questioning what they eat.

Rather than random selection, they’re looking to connect with a brand’s values – be it health and wellness benefits, a social conscience, or enhanced nutrition.

READ: The top six food trends for 2018 – a manufacturer’s guide

Consumer packaged goods companies must become more innovative and relevant to meet consumer needs.

This pushes companies to run incubator programs for product innovation and experiment with creative technology in stores to keep consumers satisfied.

Studies conducted by Haines Consulting Group show that consumers are increasingly mindful in their food choices. It is the main driver to consumer behaviour in the food industry.

Modern consumers want to know what is in their food and how it was sourced, so they can make better decisions about their health and how the product impacts the environment and the community.

This behavioural shift means that brands must advertise and create an environment that empowers consumers through convenience, health and choice.

The technology and tools available to consumers mean they have more insight into their personal health than ever before.

Knowing how many steps they’ve taken, calories they’ve burnt, or how much sleep they’ve had, can play a big role in people’s food choices.

For brands, messaging is key, to help consumers make the desired choice for their health.

Consumers are becoming more educated on nutrition and food quality, as they want to make responsible food decisions.

Food is becoming less of a commodity and more of an individual choice.

Preferences need to be catered for and shopping needs to feel relevant and personal.

But, it’s a fine line to find the balance of enough options to overwhelming choice.

The ability to personalise is essential, but people don’t want to be confronted with too many choices.

Brands also need to effectively communicate food messages about nutrition and health.

Another trends that isn’t new, but is proving important to consumers, is fitting products into people’s busy lifestyles.

Products need to be conveniently packaged and marketed to tick the convenience box for consumers.

This trend is evident in the uptake and increase in food delivery services and meal packages, blurring the line between restaurants and supermarkets.

E-commerce is set for huge growth with fast ordering and delivery services, meaning shoppers can get everything they need quickly and easily.

Understanding all of these consumer trends can help business increase engagement and ultimately increase brand sales and success, Haines Consulting Group explains.



Cinnamon oil could trump antibiotics in preventing superbugs

As antibiotics become less effective against superbugs, a Swinburne University of Technology researcher has found that cinnamon oil could be part of the solution.

Dr Sanjida Halim Topa has been focusing on traditional agents to modify the behaviour of bacteria rather than killing bacteria.

As part of her PhD studies, she investigated cinnamaldehyde, a major component of cinnamon essential oil.

“Humans have a long history of using natural products to treat infections, and there is a renewed focus on such antimicrobial compounds. Natural products may offer a promising solution to this problem,” Topa said.

She found cinnamaldehyde inhibited the development of biofilm. Biofilm is a sticky film of bacteria, like the plaque that forms on teeth, which causes infections that resist even the most potent antibiotics.

Alternatives to antibiotics to treat chronic biofilm-mediated infections, that may occur with urinary catheters and artificial joints, are urgently needed.

“Though many previous studies have reported antimicrobial activity of cinnamon essential oil, it is not widely used in the pharmaceutical industry,” Topa said.

“We aimed to search for the molecular activity of this oil, focusing on its major component, cinnamaldehyde. This is the compound that gives cinnamon its flavour.”

Rather than killing the bacteria, Topa modified the behaviour of bacteria by disrupting bacterial communication to prevent biofilm formation.

“We hypothesised that using natural antimicrobials, such as essential oils, might interfere in biofilm formation. Thus, we focused on the impact of different concentrations of cinnamaldehyde in different biofilm development stages.”

Topa tested the effect of different concentrations of cinnamaldehyde on biofilms formed from the pathogenic pseudomonas aeruginosa strain of bacteria.

She found that a sub-lethal concentration of cinnamaldehyde controlled the dispersion of pseudomonas aeruginosa and the development of biofilm.

Dr Topa is now investigating embedding cinnamaldehyde in nanofibres in wound dressings.

Topa’s research has been published in Microbiology.

The research was undertaken with colleagues at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.



New health drink shines

Health drink company shine+, is leading the way in the world of drinkable nootropics, launching nationally a new 400ml range this week.

Following a successful trial, the new range will now be available in the 650+ Caltex Star Mart stores across the country.

Shine+ combines natural and functional ingredients that have been shown to aid mental clarity and concentration. Whilst many assume nootropics are only synthetic, shine+ contains only natural, earth grown botanicals that have been used for hundreds of years with no artificial additives, no added sugar, ensuring both safety and health benefits.

A hot topic amongst wellness trends this year, the nootropics industry has risen steadily since the 1970’s, providing an alternative to energy drinks, coffee or other caffeinated beverages. From a biohacking method only seen amongst the pioneers in Silicon Valley to now mainstream appeal amongst students, professionals and the health conscious, the market once valued at USD 2.3 Billion in 2015, is expected to reach $3 billion by 2024

The key functional ingredients and natural nootropics in the shine+ 400ml range are Ginkgo Biloba, Turmeric, Green Tea, L-Theanine, Green Coffee Beans and natural B Vitamins. The new range comes in three strengths – each differing in the amount of green coffee beans and equivalent caffeine. The combination of ingredients ensures sustained mental clarity and concentration without the well-known ‘caffeine crash’ or sugar crash.

“After we saw the positive response to our first drink, the 110ml smart shot, we asked our fans what they wanted to see next. The two things we heard consistently was ‘make it bigger’ and ‘make something for the fridges’. I’m humbled by the response to the 400ml, it has been even more positive than we originally planned for,” comments CEO Steve Chapman, who founded the Sydney born start up in 2016.

With a wild tropical flavour, the 400ml range is carbonated and served chilled. The range joins the original 110ml version, with a ginger lemon-lime flavour that can be consumed at room temperature or chilled.

The original shine+ 110ml shot that was launched 18 months ago is now available in over 2,000 stores across Australia including Woolworths Metro, IGA, Harris Farm, On The Run and Zambrero Mexican restaurants among hundreds of cafes, grocers and pharmacies. The new 400ml range will be rolling out into existing stockists over the coming months following the exclusivity in Caltex Star Mart.


WHO plan to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids worldwide

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released ‘Replace’, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.

Eliminating trans fats is key to protecting health and saving lives: WHO estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular disease.

Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods, and fried foods. Manufacturers  often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. But healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.

“WHO calls on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply,”said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Implementing the six strategic actions in the REPLACE package will help  achieve the elimination of trans fat, and represent a major victory in  the  global  fight against cardiovascular disease.”

REPLACE provides six strategic actions to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the food supply:

  • REview dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.
  • Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.
  • Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.
  • Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.
  • Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers, and the public.
  • Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.

Several high-income countries have virtually eliminated industrially-produced trans fats through legally imposed limits on the amount that can be contained in packaged food. Some governments have implemented nationwide bans on partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats.

In Denmark, the first country to mandate restrictions on industrially-produced trans fats, the trans fat content of food products declined dramatically and cardiovascular disease deaths declined more quickly than in comparable OECD countries.

“New York City eliminated industrially-produced trans fat a decade ago, following Denmark’s lead,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. “Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed.”

Action is needed in low- and middle-income countries, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker, to ensure that the benefits are felt equally around the world.

Elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the global food supply has been identified as one of the priority targets of WHO’s strategic plan, the draft 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13) which will guide the work of WHO in 2019 – 2023. GPW13 is on the agenda of  the 71st World Health Assembly that will be held in Geneva on 21 – 26 May 2018. As part of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has committed to reducing premature death from noncommunicable diseases by one-third by 2030. Global elimination of industrially-produced trans fats can help achieve this goal.

Image: WHO

Smartphones the stick needed to eat more carrots

Smartphone apps could be key to addressing Australia’s significant under-consumption of vegetables, especially with men and people who are overweight or obese.

Despite evidence that eating vegetables can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer, it is estimated that more than 19 million Australians aren’t meeting their minimum dietary guideline recommendation.

Launched last year, and commissioned by Hort Innovation, CSIRO’s VegEze app uses game-like features to encourage Australian adults to eat more veggies through a 21 day ‘Do 3 at Dinner’ challenge.

More than 4000 people have taken part in the study and of those who have completed the challenge, over 80 per cent are having three vegetables with dinner.

CSIRO scientist Dr Gilly Hendrie said the findings of the research showed that adopting a gamified approach, such as the VegEze app, was an effective way of helping improve Australia’s poor vegetable score-card.

“The app has helped tip the scales the most for obese people, with obese men consuming one extra serve and two extra types of vegetables per day, which is a significant increase,” Dr Hendrie said.

“By the end of the challenge, the percentage of obese men that were meeting the Australian Dietary Guidelines vegetable recommendations had increased four times to 30 per cent.

“Men in general increased their vegetable intake by three quarters of a serve.

“This resulted in 10 per cent increase of number of men meeting the guidelines, but interestingly we only saw an increase of 1.4 per cent for women.”

A report published by CSIRO last year highlighted that women generally eat more vegetables than men, which may account for the smaller increase.

“It’s an encouraging sign of the times to see how technology can drive healthy eating habits, especially for those groups that need it the most, like men and obese adults,” Dr Hendrie said. 

“As Australia’s national science agency, we are focused on delivering solutions that are helping Australians live longer, healthier lives.

“We encourage people to take up the 21-day challenge which is free to download from the app store.”

The VegEze app helps people track their intake and tally up vegetable serves, with daily reminders and rewards to help people stay motivated and on-track.

The app and associated research was funded by Hort Innovation and developed in partnership with digital health solution provider SP Health.

Hort Innovation Chief Executive John Lloyd said the findings gave Australian vegetable growers a snapshot into the vegetable eating habits of Australians, with the aim to better serve consumers.

“Australian vegetable growers are constantly adjusting their business practices to best cater to shifting consumer demands,” Mr Lloyd said.

“We have seen this in the rise of easily accessible vegetable snacking options such as smaller-sized beetroots and carrots, cauliflower rice and pre-cut celery.

“With this insight into potential gaps in the market, growers can now see where innovations are needed to help Australians eat more vegetables, while giving them the best produce possible.”

Image:  ©Dario Gardiman

Healthy millennials changing Aus food culture – report

Millennials are now the largest healthy eating consumer group in Australia (32%), showing that this age group is breaking with previous generations to embrace more fresh, healthy food choices.  Healthy-eating commercial consumption accounted for $5.8 billion and 644 million visits, creating a 14% traffic share within foodservice in 2017, finds a new CREST report released by leading global research company, the NPD Group.

Health-lead visits have stayed relatively stable over time. However, growth for health-motivated meals has outpaced the industry growth both this year and long term. QSR has seen 2% growth in a year, and healthy eating 6%, according to the NPD Key Foodservice Trends Report.  The meaning of healthy eating has evolved. No longer does it revolve around low calories or low fat. Clean eating and transparency around ingredients are now more important. Interestingly, Australian owned and grown is seen as most important to the millennial generation when considering healthy eating (36%), followed by locally grown (31%) and no additives or preservatives (24%).

The NPD report also finds that this generation has created a ‘healthy indulgence’ culture into Australian foodservice.  This includes a large shift to ‘natural’ food and beverages; with high protein and no additives or hormones being the most sought-after factors.  Health-lead visits have stayed relatively stable over time. However, growth for health-motivated meals has outpaced the industry growth in both recent years and long term. QSR has seen 2% growth in a year, and healthy eating 6%.

“Providing easy access to healthier meals made with high quality, local ingredients steering away from ‘low-fat and low calorie’ options are a ‘must have’ for the most health-conscious generation of Australians.  These health-lead, quality assured meals and snacks can no longer be an option in foodservice, but a ‘need-to-have’ offering within the industry,” says Gimantha Jayasinghe, NPD Deputy Managing Director. “Foodservice operators seeking to gain more visits and grow their bottom line should carefully consider their offerings to attract the most health-conscious generation.”

The growing numbers of Millennials searching for quality, healthy snack option does not solely rely on in-store purchases.  The increasing reliance on tech within the foodservice space is key when attracting a new generation of consumer.  Whilst still in its infancy in Australia, digital ordering of food services has doubled in volume in the last five years.  Within that time, it has grown from $643,000 in 2013 to $1,369,000 in 2017.  In 2013, 67,000 Australians were using online food services, and this has jumped to 134,000 in 2017, the NPD report found.

Convenience is the number one traffic driver when using online services (35%), and consumers are willing to pay more for the privilege.  The higher costs associated are usually attributed to delivery charges or spending more to hit the delivery amount required.

Jayasinghe commented: “The tech space is growing rapidly as digital convenience tools continue to evolve.  Mobile Apps is one area of tech that is second nature to many of us, especially the Millennial generation, and this includes the food industry.  Those within the industry need to consider their digital platforms going forward if they wish to stay competitive in the foodservice space and to appeal to the new generation of consumer.”

Customers prefer to order via a dedicated restaurant app, rather than ordering via traditional methods or just the internet.  63% of consumers use internet digital orders versus 72% of us preferring a mobile app based ordering system.

Why people choose gluten-free

Research from and Charles Sturt University has shone new light onto why some people who don’t suffer coeliac disease choose gluten-free foods.

PhD candidate at the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Functional Grains (FGC)  Kyah Hester’s research is focused on non-coeliac gluten avoidance.

“The popularity of gluten-free diets has gained traction over the last decade, to a point where up to 20 per cent of the population is estimated to be engaged in gluten avoidance behaviours,” Hester (pictured) said. “This far exceeds the estimated prevalence of gluten-related disorders, such as coeliac disease, suggesting that people are choosing to go gluten-free for a range of reasons which may not be medical in nature.”

Hester’s research involved an online study which weighted its demographic data against information held by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in order to gain an accurate representation of gluten avoidance within the population.

“The research indicates that gluten avoidance rates have plateaued,” Hester said. “The implication for the industry is that, while gluten-free products remain a vital niche market for suffers of coeliac disease, products containing gluten will continue to be used well into the future by healthy consumers.”

The online survey was followed up with an indepth study of non-coeliac gluten avoiders to measure the frequency of avoidance behaviours, participants’ perceptions, determinants of food choice, interpersonal experiences relating to their diets and a wide range of psychological variables, including personality traits.

“The results suggest that non-coeliac gluten avoiders don’t just steer away from gluten but also avoid other food types, such as dairy or eggs,” Hester said. “They were also significantly more likely to experience frequent adverse physiological symptoms, both after the consumption of foods and on a general daily basis.”

Hester hopes her research can be used to give doctors an insight into why people choose to go gluten-free.

“My research highlights that many non-coeliac people aren’t satisfied by the treatment response they get from doctors, leading them to look for solutions online or via experimental diets.

“I hope my research provides insight for doctors, so that they may improve their interactions with this population, helping to reduce the risk of adopting a self-managed diet without proper investigation of their symptoms.” Hester said.

Hester’s research is supervised by Professor Anthony Saliba from CSU’s School of Psychology and Dr Erica McIntyre from the University of Technology Sydney.

Professor Saliba said most research has focused on wheat avoidance but that only tells part of the story.

“Gluten avoidance is characterised by a complex interaction between bodily symptoms and the psychology of individuals. At present, there is a gap in medical care for individuals who present with gastrointestinal symptoms that they feel relate to gluten consumption. This research tells us a lot about those people,” Professor Saliba said.

Hester was awarded a scholarship by FGC. Funded by the Australian Government through the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme, the FGC is administered by CSU and is an initiative of the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

Sixth person dies as result of listeria linked to rockmelon

A NSW woman in her 90s with significant underlying health conditions has died from listeriosis, taking the number of deaths linked to contaminated rockmelon to six – three people from NSW and three from Victoria.

The total number of people affected nationwide remains at 19.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health said the woman had developed listeriosis before the outbreak was identified.

“There have been no new cases notified associated with the outbreak in NSW since 19 February when it was first identified,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“It is still possible that more cases will be linked to the outbreak given the incubation period for the disease is up to 70 days, however there is no ongoing risk of listeriosis from rockmelons now on sale.

“It is important to know that people fall ill with listeriosis every year but most of the cases are never related to an outbreak like we are seeing. Sadly, up to one third of those who do contract the disease will die.”

Listeria is found widely in the environment and rarely causes serious illness in the general population but for vulnerable people, such as those who are over 70, pregnant, or have diabetes or suppressed immune systems, it can be extremely serious or even life threatening.

NSW Health was first notified on 19 February of possible links between two NSW listeriosis patients and a Victorian patient, which indicated there could be an outbreak. NSW Health and the NSW Food Authority acted immediately to examine those cases and find the source of the infection.

Once the investigation identified the source of the infection – rockmelons from a single farm – these rockmelons were immediately recalled from market.

“People at risk of listeriosis should always take care with handling and storage of food, including not purchasing pre-cut melons, salads, bagged lettuce, deli meats, raw seafood and sprouted seeds,” Dr Sheppeard said.

Platypus milk may help save lives

Platypus milk has taken a step closer to being used to fight superbugs and save lives, thanks to a team of researchers at CSIRO working with Deakin University.

In 2010 scientists discovered that platypus milk contained unique antibacterial properties that could be used to fight superbugs.

The new research solves a puzzle that helps explain why platypus milk is so potent. The discovery was made by replicating a special protein contained in platypus milk in a laboratory setting.

“Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry,” CSIRO scientist and lead author on the research published in Structural Biology Communications , Dr Janet Newman said.

“The platypus belongs to the monotreme family, a small group of mammals that lay eggs and produce milk to feed their young. By taking a closer look at their milk, we’ve characterised a new protein that has unique antibacterial properties with the potential to save lives.”

As platypus don’t have teats, they express milk onto their belly for the young to suckle, exposing the mother’s highly nutritious milk to the environment, leaving babies susceptible to the perils of bacteria.

Deakin University’s Dr Julie Sharp said researchers believed this was why the platypus milk contained a protein with rather unusual and protective antibacterial characteristics.

“We were interested to examine the protein’s structure and characteristics to find out exactly what part of the protein was doing what,” she said.

Employing the marvels of molecular biology, the Synchrotron, and CSIRO’s state of the art Collaborative Crystallisation Centre (C3), the team successfully made the protein, then deciphered its structure to get a better look at it.

What they found was a unique, never-before-seen 3D fold.

Due to its ringlet-like formation, the researchers have dubbed the newly discovered protein fold the ‘Shirley Temple’, in tribute to the former child-actor’s distinctive curly hair.

Dr Newman said finding the new protein fold was pretty special.

“Although we’ve identified this highly unusual protein as only existing in monotremes, this discovery increases our knowledge of protein structures in general, and will go on to inform other drug discovery work done at the Centre,” she said.

In 2014 the World Health Organisation released a report highlighting the scale of the global threat posed by antibiotic resistance, pleading for urgent action to avoid a “post-antibiotic era”, where common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.

The team of scientists at CSIRO and Deakin are seeking collaborators to take the potentially life-saving platypus research to the next stage.

Image:  ©Laura Romin & Larry Dalton




Listeria outbreak linked to rockmelon claims two more victims

Four Australians have now died after eating rockmelon contaminated with Listeria.

According to NSW Health, in total, 17 people across the country have been affected by the outbreak. Two of the deaths occurred in NSW and two in Victoria.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said both new cases became ill before the contaminated rockmelons were recalled from market on 28 February.

“Listeriosis has a long incubation period – up to 70 days. Therefore there are multiple foods consumed and retailers used by the cases, which need to be thoroughly investigated and the findings matched to specialist laboratory test results, to determine the source,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“NSW Health responded immediately with the NSW Food Authority and other state health departments to pinpoint the cause and advise vulnerable groups how to minimise their risk.

“All state and national guidelines have been followed and public warnings issued here and interstate when the food source was identified.”

Listeria is found widely in the environment and rarely causes serious illness in the general population, but for vulnerable people, such as those who are over 70, pregnant, or have diabetes or suppressed immune systems, it can be extremely serious or even life threatening.

“Typically around one third of people who fall ill with listeriosis die every year. Most of the cases are never related to an outbreak like this one we’re seeing with the rockmelon contamination,” Dr Sheppeard said.



Food companies and grocery retailers stepping up to tackle obesity: report

Results from the latest Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Health & Wellness Progress Report, prepared in conjunction with Deloitte Global, indicate steady progress is being made by consumer products companies towards the goals set by the organisations for themselves in the global battle to tackle obesity.

The report is based on a global survey of 83 retailers and consumer goods manufacturers of which 45 per cent are based here in Asia-Pacific. The respondents represent a collective value of more than US$3 trillion in revenues and impact billions of lives on a daily basis.

Now in its fifth year, the report details how members of the CGF are working together to empower consumers and employees around the world to live healthier lives. It acknowledges more work remains to be done, and to meet the long-term objective of creating healthier communities, the CGF has committed to strengthen its leadership in the area of health and wellness for the next five years and beyond.

Key findings from the report include  that 88 per cent of companies introduced products that have been formulated and/or reformulated to support healthier diets and lifestyles; and that there was a 12% increase over the last year in the number of companies which are (re)formulating products to include less salt and less sugar.

In addition, there was more reporting from personal care companies on the reformulation of products including parabens, phthalates, microbeads and fragrances. Also,  58 per cent of respondents participated in food bank programmes, with 180 million meals distributed and over 77,000 tonnes of food donated.

“Unhealthy lifestyles leading to diseases such as obesity are huge global problems, not least here in Australia where three out of four adults are predicted to be overweight or obese by 2025 ,” said Vanessa Matthijssen, Deloitte National Consumer Products Leader.

The report also acknowledges the evolving preferences of customers towards retailers who can demonstrate health, transparency, and are aware of their responsibilities and social impact.

Two NSW deaths linked to listeria-infected rockmelon

The deaths of two people in NSW have been linked to a listeria outbreak. In addition, a further eight people in NSW, Victoria and Queensland have fallen ill as a result of the outbreak.

All 10 people consumed rockmelon prior to their illness.

The NSW Food Authority said in a statement it is advising consumers who are most vulnerable to Listeria infection such as older persons, and people who have weakened immune systems due to illness or pregnancy, to avoid eating rockmelon after a recent spike in listeriosis cases in elderly people has been linked to the fruit.

As a precaution, consumers particularly those who are elderly, pregnant or immune compromised who may have rockmelon already in their home are advised to discard it.

Listeria is found widely in the environment and rarely causes serious illness in the general population but for vulnerable people, such as those who are over 70, pregnant, or have diabetes, cancer or suppressed immune systems, it can be extremely serious or even life threatening.

The outbreak has been linked to a grower in Nericon NSW. The company voluntarily ceased production on Friday 23 February 2018, shortly after being notified of a potential link to illness and is working proactively with the Authority to further investigate how any contamination could have occurred in order to get back into production as soon as possible.

Any affected product is being removed from the supply chain, so consumers can be assured rockmelons currently available on shelves are not implicated in this outbreak.

Listeriosis starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and sometimes diarrhoea. The symptoms can take a few days or even up to six weeks to appear after eating contaminated produce.

People at risk should consult their local doctor as early as possible should symptoms appear.

Healthy foods the ‘new normal’ in WA public schools, research finds

The traffic light policy for canteens has made the food and drinks provided in WA public schools healthier and provided a good opportunity to teach children about healthy eating, the majority of stakeholders surveyed in new research led by Curtin University say.

The research, which was funded by the WA Department of Health and conducted in partnership with the WA School Canteen Association, investigated the impact of the Healthy Food and Drink Policy for schools a decade after it was introduced to public schools and examined any resulting implications for the profitability of canteens.

The policy, introduced to WA public schools in 2007, requires canteen menus to comprise a minimum of 60 per cent ‘green’ healthy choices and a maximum of 40 per cent ‘amber’ choices, with no ‘red’ unhealthy foods permitted to be sold, used for classroom rewards or supplied at school-run events.

Lead author John Curtin Distinguished Professor Simone Pettigrew, from the School of Psychology at Curtin University, said the study found that comprehensive school food policies can positively influence the food and drinks provided to school children without affecting canteen profitability.

“This study found that 85 per cent of respondents believed that the foods offered to school children were healthier after the introduction of the traffic light food policy for canteens, while 90 per cent felt it offered a valuable opportunity to teach children about healthy eating,” Professor Pettigrew said.

Professor Pettigrew said it was important to assess the impact of healthy food policies given the reported link between such policies within schools and lower levels of student obesity.

“While school food policies have been introduced in many countries, relatively few have been independently and/or comprehensively assessed. This is one of the first studies to assess policy outcomes over a considerable period of time, and the results are very favourable,” Professor Pettigrew said.

“The results of this study are encouraging for policy makers in other states and countries considering introducing comprehensive school food policies to help address student obesity.”

WA School Canteen Association Executive Officer Megan Sauzier said: “The findings suggest that the conditions required by the policy have become the ‘new normal’, indicating growing support for healthy food and drinks as more people adapt to the changing expectations.

“The results also indicate that the policy does not appear to have adversely impacted the profitability of school canteens and schools are to be commended for supporting healthy choices for students and staff.”

The research found regional schools may need additional support because they had lower levels of compliance with the policy (72 per cent in regional areas compared to 90 per cent in metropolitan schools). The WA School Canteen Association is working with regional schools to provide training and support, and with food distributors to increase access to healthy choices in regional WA.

The study surveyed 307 stakeholders, including principals, teachers, canteen managers, and parents and citizen committee presidents in 2016, comparing the same survey’s results with 607 stakeholders in 2008.

Sugary soft drinks could increase cancer risk, no matter your weight

Drinking sugary soft drinks could increase cancer risk, regardless of body size, reveals new research from Cancer Council Victoria and University of Melbourne.

People who regularly drank sugary soft drinks were found to be more at-risk of several types of cancer than those who didn’t, according to the study, published in the Public Health Nutrition journal today.

“These particular cancers are commonly associated with obesity, however our research found this risk existed for all participants, no matter their size,” said Associate Professor Allison Hodge of Cancer Council Victoria’s Cancer Epidemiology and Intelligence Division.

The findings are based on a research study of more than 35,000 Australians who developed 3283 cases of obesity-related cancers.

“We were surprised to find this increased cancer risk was not driven completely by obesity.

“Our study found that the more sugary soft drinks participants drank, the higher their risk of cancer. This was not the case with those who drank diet soft drinks, suggesting sugar is a key contributor,” said A/Prof Hodge.

“Even people who were not overweight had an increased cancer risk if they regularly drank sugary soft drinks.”

The caramel colouring (4-methylimidazole) used in cola drinks, and artificial sweeteners, did not seem to affect cancer risk, she said.

“Interestingly, though, we found those who regularly drank diet soft drinks were just as likely to be obese as those who regularly drank sugary soft drinks, which still carries health risks”.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said these findings provide yet another reason for people to cut back their consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

“Sugary drinks, including soft drinks, are already known to be a cause of obesity, which greatly increases the risk of 13 types of cancer,” he said.

“And cancer is just one of many chronic health conditions associated with sugary drink consumption – including increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay.”.

“We need more people to understand the connection and make the switch to water.”

The study looked at adult soft drink consumption, but the problem is likely even more significant in younger Australians, according to Obesity Policy Coalition Executive Manager Ms Jane Martin.

“Younger Australians are consuming significantly more sugary drinks than older people, they are widely available and often discounted” Ms Martin said.

“Big brands bombard kids with marketing for these unhealthy sugary drinks, including through sport, which can set kids up for a lifetime of health problems.”

“A 20% health levy on sugary drinks can help deter people from these cheap and very unhealthy drinks, and help recover some of the significant costs associated with obesity and the increasing burden this puts on our public health care system.”

Ms Martin also said people should still be cautious about drinking artificially-sweetened drinks, as these have also been associated with weight gain and obesity, which is in turn associated with cancer.

A/Prof Hodge said she would like to see these findings confirmed among other populations, and understand why – and the extent to which – sugar seems to increase cancer risk.

“This is one of the first studies to identify an association between sugary soft drinks and cancer risk, and so we hope this study will encourage more research in this area going forward,” she said.

Junk food can harm teenagers’ mental health, say researchers

A poor diet and obesity can lead to mental health problems in adolescents, according to researchers from the University of Tasmania.

The association between overweight/obesity and depression is known, but this new research, led by Professor Wendy Oddy from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania and using participants from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study, focused on a possible biological pathway.

The study found that ‘healthy’ dietary pattern (high in fruit, vegetables, fish and whole grains) protects against depression in adolescents through reduced body mass index and associated inflammation.

In contrast, a western dietary pattern (high intake of red meat, refined and takeaway foods, confectionary) is associated with increased depression risk in adolescents most likely through increased body mass index and underlying inflammation.

Approximately 1,600 Raine Study participants were surveyed at the age of 14 years, and more than 1,000 at 17 years, for the study. Questionnaire answers on food and nutrient intake at 14 years were cross-referenced with a mental health questionnaire and clinical data on body mass index (BMI) and inflammation three years later.

People in the study were asked about their usual dietary intake in the past year and their diet was classified as either mainly ‘Healthy’ or ‘Western’. Withdrawal, social problems, anxiety, depression and physical symptoms were assessed by mental health questionnaire.

Professor Oddy said the research indicated a complex association between dietary patterns, overweight/obesity, inflammation and mental health problems, including depressive symptoms. “Scientific work on the relationship between mental health problems and inflammation is still in its infancy, but this study makes an important contribution to mapping out how what you eat impacts on these relationships,” she said.

Professor Oddy said her team of researchers is now studying specific food components and nutrients to try and understand more about the biological mechanisms leading to mental health problems and depression in adolescents and young adults.

The research has been published in Brain Behavior and Immunity.

Chemicals used in food packaging, clothes may cause weight gain – research

A class of chemicals used for more than 60 years in products ranging from food wrappers to clothing to pots and pans may cause greater weight gain after dieting, particularly among women, according to research by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The chemicals—perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)—have been linked with cancer, hormone disruption, immune dysfunction, high cholesterol, and obesity.

The study also found that higher blood levels of PFASs—known as “obesogens” because they may upset body weight regulation—were linked with lower resting metabolic rate (RMR), or slower metabolism after weight loss. Metabolism refers to the chemical processes in the body that convert energy from food, commonly known as “burning calories.” People with a lower RMR, or slower metabolism, burn fewer calories during normal daily activities and may have to eat less to avoid becoming overweight.

The study was published online on February 13, 2018 in PLOS Medicine.

“Obesogens have been linked with excess weight gain and obesity in animal models, but human data has been sparse. Now, for the first time, our findings have revealed a novel pathway through which PFASs might interfere with human body weight regulation and thus contribute to the obesity epidemic,” said senior author Qi Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School.

Studies have shown that PFASs have contaminated drinking water near industrial sites, military bases, and wastewater treatment plants. These chemicals can accumulate in drinking water and food chains and persist for a long time in the body.


Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Being bombarded by TV ads for unhealthy, high calorie food could lead teens to eat more than 500 extra snacks like crisps, biscuits and fizzy drinks throughout the course of a single year compared to those who watch less TV.

Energy and other fizzy drinks high in sugar, takeaways and chips were some of the foods which were more likely to be eaten by teens who watched a lot of TV with adverts.

The report, based on a YouGov survey, questioned 3,348 young people in the UK between the ages of 11-19 on their TV viewing habits and diet.

When teens watched TV without adverts researchers found no link between screen time and likelihood of eating more junk food. This suggests that the adverts on commercial TV may be driving youngsters to snack on more unhealthy food.

The report is also the biggest ever UK study to assess the association of TV streaming on diet. It found that teens who said they regularly streamed TV shows with ads were more than twice as likely (139%) to drink fizzy drinks compared to someone with low advert exposure from streaming TV, and 65% more likely to eat more ready meals than those who streamed less TV.

Regularly eating high calorie food and drink – which usually has higher levels of fat and sugar- increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking, and is linked to 13 types of cancer including bowel, breast, and pancreatic.

Dr Jyotsna Vohra, a lead author on the study from Cancer Research UK, said: “This is the strongest evidence yet that junk food adverts could increase how much teens choose to eat. We’re not claiming that every teenager who watches commercial TV will gorge on junk food but this research suggests there is a strong association between advertisements and eating habits.

“It’s been 10 years since the first, and only, TV junk food marketing regulations were introduced by Ofcom and they’re seriously out of date. Ofcom must stop junk food adverts being shown during programmes that are popular with young people, such as talent shows and football matches, where there’s currently no regulation.

“Our report suggests that reducing junk food TV marketing could help to halt the obesity crisis.”

The Obesity Health Alliance (link is external) recently published a report (link is external) which found that almost 60% of food and drink adverts shown during programmes popular with adults and 4-16 year olds were for unhealthy foods which would be banned from children’s TV channels.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “Obese children are five times more likely to remain obese as adults which can increase their risk of cancer later in life.

“The food industry will continue to push their products into the minds of teens if they’re allowed to do so. The Government needs to work with Ofcom to protect the health of the next generation.”