Wal-Mart offers discounts on healthy foods: should Australia follow suit?

America’s largest supermarket has teamed up with a leading insurance company to offer healthy foods at a reduced price.

Supermarket giant Wal-Mart’s collaboration with Humana Insurance will allow eligible shoppers to get a 5 per cent discount on healthy products, such as fresh fruit and vegetables and low fat dairy.

All the eligible foods, including eggs, wholemeal bread and almonds, will be marked with a “Great For You” icon, allowing shoppers to easily spot the discounted, healthy products.

The offer, to start 15 October, will be available to more than 1 million eligible customers currently covered by Humana insurance.

The grocery giant said the move is part of its plans to make healthier foods more accessible for Americans, which have the highest rate of obesity in the world.

Last year it announced plans to lower salts, fats and sugars in thousands its private label products and agreed to cut produce prices by 2015.

Australian is also struggling with its collective weight, with latest figures showing one in three children and one in four adults is overweight or obese.

The Food and Grocery Council (AFGC)’s Responsible Marketing to Children Initiative (RMCI) has reduced the number of advertisements aimed at children promoting unhealthy foods, and a number of manufacturers have voluntarily begun reducing sugar, fat and sodium content of products, but the problem still remains.

Many experts believe more education is needed to curb the rise in obesity, which poses a threat to Australia’s healthcare system, which will struggle to handle the rates of obesity-related conditions if current rates continue.

The high price of healthy food choices as opposed to low-cost unhealthy alternatives has also been slammed in Australia and there have been suggestions we should adopt a "fat tax" or "sugar tax" to improve current obesity rates.

Do you think Australia needs a similar initiative to the one Wal-Mart is implementing? Could it help improve the nation’s health?

Buying local food most important to Aussies, research finds

Australians are more likely to buy locally grown foods than any other products, new research has shown.

Research conducted by the Australian Made Australian Grown campaign has shown that while more than 50 per cent of Aussies will buy cheap imported clothes, hardware, furniture and household appliances, 9 in 10 prefer buying food grown and manufactured here.

The Roy Morgan research commissioned by Australian Made Australian Grown found that for many products, consumers don’t care about buying local or imported.

Australian Made Australian Grown Campaign chief executive Ian Harrison said that while the findings were "extremely worrying" and warned more jobs would be lost unless consumers change their attitude across the downward trending sectors, it was good to see that buying local food and drink is at the forefront of Australian’s minds.

He said confidence in the safety and quality of local produce grown in Australia is one of the main reasons the majority of the 1200 adults surveyed buy local produce.

The AMAG campaign is working to educate consumers about the use of the Australian Made logo, and the definitions of Australian made products.

Only one in three surveyed knew that the products had to be substantially produced or manufactured in Australia to be able to use the logo, and four in 10 consumers surveyed said they find it difficult to identify whether a product is Australian made.

Harrison told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit in August that the organisation wants the definitions and legal parameters of using the label to be stricter, as more companies are able to find loopholes to promote their products as Australian, when in fact they are made primarily from foreign ingredients.

“Tighten up the definitions of substantial transformation, I think one of the problems we find in the industry and one the consumers don’t like is ‘maybe’ particularly in the area of food,” he said.

“You have to substantially transform the product in Australia, and you have to have more than 50 per cent value add in Australia.

“Substantial transformation, we believe, offers a very important way forward for the government to put a bit of strength and predictability into food labelling.

“We think you can actually make some fundamental changes to what constitutes substantial transformation.”

The iconic image was an initiative of the federal government in 1986, and is a certification trademark, as Harrison explained at the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit.

It is a “very legal instrument, which has a set of rules behind it and those rules can’t be changed without agreement between us and the government,” he said.

For 10 years up to 1996, the symbol and its use was run by the Advanced Australia Foundation, before a change in government saw the funding that was set up for the logo removed.

“We’re non- for profit, we’re a public company limited by guarantee,” he said.

“In 2007, the federal government introduced Australian Grown.

“We rewrote our rules at that time and we changed the name of the symbol from the Australian Made logo to the Australian Made Australian Grown logo.

“It gets a bit more complicated for us because last year we introduced Australian seafood driven by the seafood industry, and internationally we introduced Australian to be used offshore.

“I’m happy t o say has grown significantly in the last five or six years.

“We’ve got about 1,700 companies using it just over, and on about 10, 000 products, so there’s a very, very wide usage across all sectors, and of these companies, 44 % of them export.”

Earlier this month consumer advocacy group CHOICE released the results of their survey into the country of origin of product ingredients, comparing home-branded products from Coles and Woolworth’s private labels with leading supplier brands, which found  just 55 per cent of Coles’ products and 38 per cent of Woolworths’ products were grown or manufactured locally, compared with 92% of market leader groceries.

More than 100 000 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector in the last five years, an industry task force released last month revealed, and the rapid increase in private label products on Australian supermarket shelves is reducing the amount of choice consumers have, while also significantly impacting farmers.

A study earlier this year found that one in four products sold in Australian supermarkets is now private label, and of those, one in two is imported.

What  products do you make sure you buy Australian Made? 
 

Consumers misled over serving sizes: Choice calls for reform

Consumer watchdog Choice is calling for an overhaul to current labelling standards, after research revealed some manufacturers are misleading consumers over portion sizes to make their products seem healthier.

The Choice study found that some manufacturers using the thumbnail percentage guides on the front of packaging to portray their products as the healthier option are deceiving consumers by using distorted serving sizes.

Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just told Food Magazine the practise has been going on for some time.

“We’re not surprised [by the findings], we know manufacturers are manipulating serving sizes to make products seem healthier than they are,” she said.

“Those manufacturers who use thumbnail percentage [daily intake] labels on the front of packs often look to that serving size because it brings some of those percentages down.

“So for consumers who may use that to compare products, they are getting an unrealistic reading, as the serving sizes may not be the same.”

In Australia, manufacturers are responsible for deciding on appropriate serving sizes, and as such, they often vary between different sized of the same product.

A Mars Bar serving, for example, is stated as 18, 36 or 53 grams, depending on the pack size

Comparatively, the US serving sizes are regulated by government body the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Just said the industry needs to be regulated so that manufacturers can’t select serving sizes that will paint them in a more positive light than reality.

“The daily intake thumbnails are confusing, consumers find them difficult to understand, and we’re saying there needs to be one consistent comparison, using 100 grams or 100 millilitres, so that across products, regardless of serving size, they can find healthy options.”

Just said the design and display of front-of-pack labelling is crucial to its success, as consumers don’t allow much time to make their decisions.

“We think any front-of-pack labelling should be one that allows consumers to find healthy options at a glance, so colours or symbols should be used to make that obvious, because consumers take two to five seconds to chose products, so they have to be able to easily compare.

“It needs to be based not on serving sizes.”

The research found manufacturers are putting up to three servings into packaging portrayed to be a single serving size, leading consumers to consume more than intended.

With the mandatory front-of-pack nutritional labelling due to be rolled out by the government this year, Just said Choice will be assisting agencies to find the best variation.

“We look forward to working with all stakeholders to make sure it is easy to understand, is based on a standard measure and is easily comparable,” she told Food Magazine.

Successfully overhauling the system would result in a healthier industry, according to Just.

“What we know is that a front-of-pack, easy to understand system would highlight those products that are worse, and that’s why some manufacturers wouldn’t support it.

“Having said that, it would encourage regulation, which would see, in turn, more healthier products on shelves, and that is good for consumers and everyone.”

The Choice report refers to the latest food and nutrition publication from the government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that found that our current overweight and obesity rates – 23% of children and 61% of adults – are some of the highest in the world.

“Food portion sizes are increasing,” the report states.

“In the US in the 1950s, McDonald’s offered just one size of soft drink – 7oz (about 210mL).

“It now has 12, 16, 21 and 32oz (950mL) offerings.

“And French fries and hamburgers are now two to five times larger than those originally offered.

“Portion distortion has even occurred in the home, where the sizes of our bowls and glasses have steadily increased and the surface area of the average dinner plate has increased 36 per cent since 1960.

“Why does this matter?

“Put simply, the bigger the portion, the more you eat and the more kilojoules (energy) you consume.

“Between 1983/85 and 1995, energy intake increased significantly for both adults and children in Australia.

"Without an equivalent increase in energy expenditure, increases in energy intake can result in significant weight gain over time.”

Increasing plate sizes has also led Australians to consume more, as natural instinct leads most to fill a plate or bowl, regardless of its size.

Even nutritionists aren’t immune to the behaviour, with one study asking 85 nutrition experts to serve themselves a bowl of ice cream.

A variety of bowl and scoop sizes were handed out, and it was found that those with larger bowls served themselves 31 per cent more ice cream without being aware of it, while a bigger spoon made them dish out almost 15 per cent more.

What do you make of these findings? Does there need to be one standard across the board, or should manufacturers be entitled to make the call on serving sizes themselves?

Image: Choice

Imafe

Govt not amused by big tobacco’s plain packaging “sick joke”

The federal health minister has slammed big tobacco’s “sick joke,” which has seen the first two companies rolling out the plain packaging for cigarettes in ways that do not comply with the new standards.

Imperial Tobacco has unveiled new packaging which shows the traditional Peter Stuyvesant logos and colours being torn away to reveal the new drab green colouring, which will become mandatory from next month.

It’s new packaging, which is essentially a new marketing campaign, aims to show consumers that while the appearance is changing, "it's what's on the inside that counts''.

"Soon no one will see Peter Stuyvesant on the outside but we don't care,” the company says in a leaflet advertising its packaging change to retailers.

“We're going plain early, because we know Peter Stuyvesant will continue to live on inside.”

But Health Minister Tanya Plibersek is not amused by the company’s ballsy move, or that of fellow tobacco giant Philip Morris, labelling them "the ultimate sick joke from Big Tobacco''.

“Diseased lungs, hearts and arteries are the reality of what is happening on the inside to a smoker,'' she said.

The government has also written to Philip Morris, warning that that the new plain packaging of its Bond Street cigarettes “heavily resembles the plain packaging requirements,’ but still needs improvement to comply with the new legislation.

"We note that if these products are sold, offered for sale or otherwise supplied after 1 December 2012 the packaging would not be compliant with the Act,” the health department stated.

''The breach of the act could possibly expose the company to massive fines of up to $1.1 million.

“The department takes issues with the use of the word `cigarettes' in small type on the side of the packet, it says the outer surfaces of the packet must have a "matt finish'' and warns the pack may not be the correct colour – Pantone 448C.”

The department has also referred the health warnings displayed on the packaging to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to determine whether they comply with regulations.

From 1 October, companies will be required to start including graphic health warnings across 75 per cent of the packaging, which will be required to be the specific drab green colour set out by the government.

As of 1 December, all cigarettes sold in Australia must be encased in plain packaging, or retailers risk hefty fines.

Major retailers are expecting to receive deliveries of the controversial new packs of Peter Stuyvesant and Bond Street cigarettes this week, and Plibersek has warned that the department will "be closely watching the new packages to ensure that they comply with the regulations because we know that Big Tobacco will use every trick in the book to try and get around the new requirements''.

"Where we identify any examples of possible non-compliance before the implementation dates we will be letting the companies know so they can rectify any issues,'' she said.

What’s your thoughts on the moves by the two companies? Do you agree with Plibersek that it’s a “sick joke,” or are these companies entitled to market their brands?

Global packaging market expected to reach $329 billion in 2012

New research indicates that the global food and drink packaging market will have a value of $329 billion in 2012, according to a new report from Visiongain.

The main driving forces behind this growth are increasing environmental awareness amongst consumers, gentrifying societies and consumer’s busy lifestyles.

One of the areas for growth are emerging markets, where higher incomes per capita and increasing urbanization are giving people in these markets access to a greater range of packaged foods and drinks than ever before.

This is contrasted with developed markets which are unlikely to experience strong growth due to economic uncertainty in many countries and a saturation of these markets.

In addition, many developed markets are seeing a consumer backlash against excessive, environmentally-unfriendly packaging as movements promoting more natural, sustainable food habits continue to gain momentum.

Read more about the report at Visiongain

Edible packaging encases food in skin-like substance

Cambridge-based company Wikicell Designs have created a nutritious, edible, skin-like packaging that encases and protects food in the same way that a grape is protected by its skin.

As consumers become more aware of the total environmental impact of their food choices, particularly excessive amounts of non-biodegradable packaging, many companies are making a sincere effort to show consumers that they are also conscious of the problem, such as the Texas grocery store that has gone completely packaging free.

Wikicells go one step further, taking cues from natural products such as grapes and oranges, encasing food and beverages in a protective skin that also provides additional nutrients.

The soft skins are made up of mostly food particles, such as chocolate, seeds or fruit, which are held together by healthy bonding ions such as calcium, according to CEO and co-founder Robert Connelly.

For those who are a bit wary of the skin-like substance, the packaging can be removed and is completely biodegrable.

So far they have encased ice cream in a fudge Wikicell, yoghurt within strawberry skins and orange ones filled with orange juice.

The company has just closed US $10 million in Series A financing and will begin public testing early next year.

Photo by Mark Garfinkel

Plain tobacco packaging in India: a giant leap for global public health

The world is watching Australia progress toward tobacco plain packaging. A number of developed countries have said they will follow suit. But as tobacco companies lose their grip in developed countries, it’s likely they’ll increasingly target emerging markets with their poison.

If the world is watching Australia (with its mere 22 million people) move towards plain packaging, imagine how people might sit up and listen if India, the second-largest producer and consumer of tobacco products in the world, developed a similar policy!

So, when the Australia-India Institute tobacco control taskforce held a high-level launch of its policy document on plain packaging at the Constitution Club of India in New Delhi, we all waited intently for a response from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

We were more than encouraged by the response.

Support from the India representative of the World Health Organization and a number of politicians was expected. But we were very pleased that the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Welfare said the ministry would deliberate on this position as a possible policy measure in consultation with other important stakeholders within government and civil society.

Steps in the right direction

Just as in Australia, Indian tobacco control law largely prohibits advertisement and promotion of tobacco products. But this currently excludes packaging and point-of-sale displays so the industry increasingly relies on packaging for promotion.

We’re sure the support of the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was not missed by the big tobacco companies. After all, this is a policy that would affect a fifth of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s tobacco users.

Given the multiple vested interests and a powerful tobacco lobby, we’re aware that introducing such a policy in India will be challenging. It will take a few years and require significant, persistent advocacy and research.

 

A mock-up of what plain packaging of tobacco products could look like in India. Australia-India Institute Taskforce on Tobacco Control

At the launch of the policy document, the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Welfare also said the ministry was closely watching the progress in Australia, and we can only assume that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was encouraged by the High Court ruling last week. We believe that India can learn from this and other Australian experiences in moving toward plain packaging.

A helping hand

Australia is giving India technical assistance in research and advocacy through the Australia-India Institute taskforce, which was convened with the idea of sharing experiences and utilising its significant expertise and experience on plain packaging.

This taskforce has been fuelled by considerable enthusiasm from the international tobacco control community and, encouragingly, from the taskforce members within India. Indeed, the keenness of the Indian partners has prompted us to go beyond our original mandate and undertake research on the acceptability of plain packaging as well as producing an advocacy pack.

We have also developed a useful toolkit to further disseminate our work.

Local knowledge

We released the preliminary findings from market research by the taskforce through the Public Health Foundation of India on the acceptability of plain packaging and attitudes toward packaging, brands and package colouring at the launch.

It showed that children’s interest in tobacco is significantly influenced by pack colours and branding. And, it demonstrated the importance of India-specific research before adopting such initiatives. We found, for instance, that Indians see dark grey as the least attractive colour whereas in Australia, the chosen colour is olive-green.

The research also revealed that the context in India is complex, with multiple forms of non-smoked and smoking tobacco, and various forms of the latter. All of these forms of tobacco must be included in any legislation because tobacco companies will find loopholes and substitute one product for another.

In India, 5500 children try tobacco for the first time every day. Attractive packaging is designed to make sure it will not be the last time. This policy initiative, if implemented along with other proven interventions in tobacco control, will save thousands of lives and prevent thousands of young people from becoming addicted to a substance that kills more people worldwide than any other.

We are confident that our taskforce can assist Indian organisations such as the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and Public Health Foundation of India to work towards plain packaging. But we need collaboration between health and tobacco control organisations, government departments and the community if we are to see plain packaging become a reality on the sub-continent.

This article has been amended by request of the author. The changes were minor and have not affected the substance of the article.

Nathan Grills works for the Nossal Institute, the PHFI and the CHGN Uttarkhand Cluster all of whom receive support to undertake tobacco control activities. We receive funding from AusAID and the Australia India Institute for work on plain packaging in India.

Amitabh Mattoo does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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

Progress on health claims standards in Australia not without critics

There has long been contention regarding the regulation of health claims that are applied to food, but the proposed introduction of a Health Claims standard into the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code has also raised concerns.

Consumer advocates claim that as consumers become more health conscious they are more easily swayed by claims that appear on packaging, but these purchasing decisions are being made due to   claims that are not backed by solid evidence.

One of the key requirements of the new standards would be that claims are substantatied by a comprehensive scientific dossier.

The proposed new Health Claims Standard was discussed at the recent FoodLegal- sponsored symposium, where FSANZ’s General Manager Mr Dean Stockwell emphasised that the Ministers’ meeting in June 2012 had continued to support key elements of the existing draft with regard to nutrition content claims, high level health claims, and the application of the nutrient profiling scoring criteria applying to general level health claims.

FoodLegal’s managing principal Joe Lederman expressed concerns during the presentation that FSANZ’s new definition of ‘health claim’ draws an artificial distinction with therapeutic claims, one issue which continues to be contentious.

According to Mr Lederman, the current said the current Transitional Health Claims Standard banned any therapeutic claim for food within the definition of a health claim, citing the example of products which contain antioxidant properties, or probiotics.

The meeting also confirmed a new working group to be established under the umbrella of the Food Regulatory Standing Committee, with key bureaucrats representing the Australian States and Territories.

An affront to the rule of law: international tribunals to decide on plain packaging

<p>
The Australian High Court has found that the Gillard Government&rsquo;s <a href=”https://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2011A00148″>Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011</a> does not breach that section of the constitution that prohibits federal legislation acquiring property except on just terms. But the authority of the High Court may be challenged by international trade and investment processes that contest the rule of law not only in this country, but globally.</p>
<p>
The federal plain packaging legislation was enacted in compliance with obligations under international law embodied in the World Health Organization&rsquo;s (WHO) <a href=”https://www.who.int/fctc/about/en/index.html”><em>Framework Convention on Tobacco Control</em></a>. In reaching its <a href=”https://www.hcourt.gov.au/assets/publications/judgment-summaries/2012/hca30-2012-08-15.pdf”>decision</a>, the High Court was fulfilling the constitutional role allocated to it under a social contract entered into by the Australian people in 1901.</p>
<p>
This compact has since been reinforced by acceptance and implementation of such decisions and the process behind them for over a century by Australian federal and state politicians, judges and the general populace. A central part of the contract is that Australia will be governed by a rule of law, with its implicit predictability and certainty.</p>
<p>
Australian taxpayers (through their governments) have invested an enormous amount of time and resources in creating a system of governance predicated on the capacity of a non-corrupt judiciary to decide on disputes by fairly interpreting laws promulgated in advance in public.</p>
<p>
&nbsp;</p>
<figure class=”align-centre”>
<img src=”https://c479107.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/14567/width668/zt5wvrc4-1345698709.jpg” /><figcaption><span class=”source”>jerik0ne/Flickr</span></figcaption></figure>
<p>
Foreign corporations operating in Australia benefit from such an equitable governance structure. Indeed, it is one of the primary reasons they invest here. Australia regularly ranks very highly in rule of law rankings of nations around the world. And as legal scholar Brian Tamanaha reminds us in one of the seminal works on the subject, &ldquo;No other single political ideal has ever achieved global endorsement.&rdquo;</p>
<p>
Yet Australia is about to confront, for the first time, the possibility that a decision of the highest court in our land will in effect be overturned by off-shore tribunals with only a tenuous connection to Australian legal traditions. Such off-shore investment tribunals are not accountable to the Australian populace and have extremely limited capacity to refer to governance arrangements directly endorsed by Australian citizens.</p>
<h2>
Unaccountable tribunals</h2>
<p>
On 13 March 2012, Ukraine requested consultations in the <a href=”https://www.wto.org/index.htm”>World Trade Organisation (WTO)</a> with Australia concerning Australia&rsquo;s <a href=”https://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2011L02644″><em>Tobacco Plain Packaging Act</em> 2011 and its implementation</a>.</p>
<p>
<a href=”https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news12_e/ds434rfc_13mar12_e.htm”>Ukraine&rsquo;s argument</a> is that Australia&rsquo;s plain packaging legislation breaches various provision of the WTO <a href=”https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/27-trips_01_e.htm”><em>Trade Related Intellectual Property</em> (TRIPS) Agreement</a>; the <a href=”https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/17-tbt_e.htm”><em>Technical Barriers to Trade</em> (TBT) Agreement</a>; and the <a href=”https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/26-gats_01_e.htm”><em>General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade</em>(GATT) 1994</a>. Interestingly, there&rsquo;s no mention of the WTO being required to take the WHO and its <a href=”https://www.who.int/fctc/text_download/en/”><em>Framework Convention on Tobacco Control</em></a> into account in this consultation.</p>
<p>
&nbsp;</p>
<figure class=”align-right”>
<img src=”https://c479107.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/14551/width237/hvydp4sr-1345687217.jpg” /><figcaption>The World Health Organisation (WHO) has not been offered a voice in the debate. <span class=”source”>US Mission Geneva/Flickr.</span></figcaption></figure>
<p>
In another potential challenge, the multinational tobacco company <a href=”https://www.pmi.com/eng/pages/homepage.aspx”>Phillip Morris</a> has re-badged itself for this purpose as an Asian company based in Hong Kong and lodged an investor-state complaint against the Australia under the <a href=”https://theconversation.edu.au/why-bilateral-investment-treaties-are-the-last-refuge-of-big-tobacco-8880″><em>Hong Kong-Australia Bilateral Investment Treaty</em> (BIT)</a>.</p>
<p>
Unlike the WTO dispute, this will not involve a standing body but will allow an <em>ad hoc</em> gathering of three trade arbitrators to rule (without the requirement of exhausting local remedies and without prospect of appeal) on whether Australia has to pay damages to this tobacco company for passing legislation found to be constitutional and a fulfilment of Australia&rsquo;s international legal obligations under a WHO treaty.</p>
<p>
Such disputes may only be the beginning of a new off-shore phase of jurisprudence with the potential to undermine the authority of the High Court and the rule of law in Australia.</p>
<h2>
Unaccountable arbitrators</h2>
<p>
<a href=”https://www.pmi.com/eng/pages/homepage.aspx”>Philip Morris International</a> has lobbied the <a href=”https://www.ustr.gov/”>US Trade Representative (USTR)</a> to include investor state dispute settlement in the <a href=”https://theconversation.edu.au/a-mercurial-treaty-the-trans-pacific-partnership-and-the-united-states-7471″>Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement</a> (TPPA). On 12 June 2012, <a href=”https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html”>a leaked copy</a> of the investment chapter for the TPPA confirmed its provisions would allow foreign firms to skirt Australian domestic courts and laws to directly sue our government in the <a href=”https://icsid.worldbank.org/ICSID/Index.jsp”>International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)</a>.</p>
<p>
Arbitrators would be paid by the hour (often over several years of proceedings), could act as a legal representative in one case and an arbitrator in another, and would have vested financial interests in verdicts for corporations. Governments cannot initiate suits before this tribunal.</p>
<p>
They would not be required to take the constitutional, legislative or international human rights context (including standard legal due process procedures) into account, or maintain a public record of their decisions. All of this undermines their capacity to claim they are part of the rule of law.</p>
<p>
&nbsp;</p>
<figure class=”align-centre”>
<img src=”https://c479107.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/14550/width668/zm555vwq-1345686911.jpg” /><figcaption>The Australian High Court could have its role usurped. <span class=”source”>John O'Neill/Wikimedia Commons.</span></figcaption></figure>
<h2>
Defending the rule of law</h2>
<p>
The capacity of these three types of tribunals to potentially have the final say on such an important public health issue (as well as those likely to face future generations of Australians in areas such as environmental sustainability and financial sector stability) is a direct affront to the rule of law, not only in this country but globally.</p>
<p>
The leaked TPPA text would even provide investors with a right to demand compensation for &ldquo;indirect&rdquo; expropriation <a href=”https://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/tppinvestment.pdf”>(Article 12.12)</a> and allow foreign investors to claim government actions (such as the plain packaging laws) require technically unlimited financial compensation because of a slightly higher burden in complying with the law <a href=”https://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/tppinvestment.pdf”>(Article 12.4 and 12.5)</a>. Such proposals give foreign investors (such as tobacco multinationals) greater rights than domestic investors.</p>
<p>
In its April 2011 trade policy statement, the Australian Government vowed to no longer include provisions on &ldquo;investor-state dispute settlement&rdquo; in bilateral and regional trade agreements that it signs. Australia deserves high praise for refusing to agree to a TPPA investor state provision. But it&rsquo;s surprising that the various Australian law councils haven&rsquo;t taken up the issue and supported the federal government&rsquo;s stance in favour of preserving from such threats the rule of law in this country.</p>
<p>
<em>Thomas Faunce receives funding from Australian Research Council (ARC) under a Future Fellowship focused on Nanotechnology and Global Public Health. He is also a chief investigator on ARC grants involved with encouraging Australian legislation based on the model of the US False Claims Act (with Dr Gregor Urbas) and on military uses of Nanotechnology (With Dr Hitoshi Nasu).</em></p>
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This article was originally published at <a href=”https://theconversation.edu.au”>The Conversation</a>. Read the <a href=”https://theconversation.edu.au/an-affront-to-the-rule-of-law-international-tribunals-to-decide-on-plain-packaging-8968″>original article</a>.</p>

EU overhauls food labelling requirements

Consumers around the world are demanding greater transparency when it comes to food labels and it seems the EU is one government that is listening, having just announced that new food labelling laws will come into effect by the end of 2012.

Products sold on the European market will be required to display eco-labelling, informing consumers of the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted during the manufacture, packaging, transport, and overall lifecycle of consumer products, allowing shoppers to have a direct influence on whether products with a high-environmental impact survive in the marketplace.

By providing consumers with the data they need to make an informed choice, the EU hopes that demand will increase for items that are produced in more sustainable ways.

The EU has a pretty solid record when it comes to keeping consumers informed, with requirements in place around GMO labelling and increased efforts in the last few years to address obesity through labelling and other government initiatives.

This is in stark contrast to the US where a very public war is being waged between Big Ag and consumer & environmental interest groups as to the merits of compulsory GMO labelling. 

Biotech giant Monsanto has spent US$4.2 million so far opposing California’s Proposition 37 which would require mandatory labelling for products containing GMO ingredients.

This once again highlights where the power lies when it comes to food policy in Europe vs the US, where food policy is determined by Washington wrangling and deal-making between politicians and lobbyists, who decry governmental intervention as an infringement on American freedoms.

As more countries, including Quebec and Japan, introduce these measures (France is coming towards the end of a year-long trial of mandatory eco-labelling) it remains to be seen how long Big Business in the US can fight consumer demands to be informed.

Packaging-free grocery store opens in Austin, Texas

With excessive packaging increasingly coming under fire, is it any wonder that one ingenious store decided to do away with it altogether?

While recycling certainly plays a part in reducing packaging waste, a vast amount of potentially recyclable material still ends up as landfill, and newer sustainable and bio-degradable packaging options are not an immediate solution, still requiring significant energy to produce.

In the US, up to 40% of the cost of food can be attributed to the packaging alone and whilst previous generations often cleaned their purchased containers and re-used them (remember your grandmother’s cupboard of old vegemite and jam jars?) most modern packaging is intended to be single-use and disposable.

These concerns have led many eco-minded consumers to embrace stores that allow for bulk-bin buying options of staples such as grains, nuts, fruit etc, though these are still often accompanied by rolls of plastic bags.  Some stores have recognised this as an issue and have adopted strict paper-bag only policies.

But now a grocery store in Austin, Texas has gone one step further and removed any kind of packaging from their entire range of products.

in.gredients aims to promote sustainability on all levels by providing pure food that is packaging-free.

The store is made up mostly of bulk bins containing staples such as rice, beans, flour, cereals, spices, nuts, coffee, tea and the like, whilst bulk vats dispense honey, maple syrup, oil, tamari and even dishwashing liquid.  Other options like meat, eggs and fruit are kept refrigerated and are all local and organic.

Store manager Brian Nunnery calls in.gredients a “grocery store in scope, but a convenience store in scale”.

"We have everything, but only one brand of most things, not 50 brands of each item like a conventional store."

Shoppers are required to bring their own containers, ensuring that the message of sustainability is carried into customers everyday lives and they become aware of what can be re-used.

Looks like grandma’s old jam jars could start coming in handy if this trend catches on.

Photo by John Anderson

First ‘bio-based’ tie layer aims to make packaging more green

The one aspect of food production that probably faces more criticism than others for its environmental impact is packaging.

Not only does excessive packaging contribute significantly to our overflowing landfill, but many are made using unsustainable materials and production methods. 

Whilst many ‘greener’ packaging alternatives are available, they are often criticised for being more expensive, less sturdy and less durable than their unsustainable counterparts.  

Many food producers and manufacturers find it hard to justify the extra cost and perceived lower quality of green packaging, particularly in this tough economy when many are surviving on razor thin margins as it is.

Now a Holland-based company, Yparex, is claiming to be the first supplier to provide the packaging industry with a commercially available bio-based adhesive polymer that is both sustainably sourced and fully recyclable.

One of the main challengers for packaging manuyfacturers is trying to find a solution that bonds all the different kinds of packaging together, regardless of whether the application is in fresh food or industrial supplies.

The resins used to create flexible-barrier packaging – the kind used to prevent oxygen reaching meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables and preserve the odours and flavours inside – has traditionally been one of the harder materials to bond together.

These resins were traditionally bonded together using petroleum-based polymers, though this practice has come under criticism due to the damaging environmental effects of the substance, the unsustainable materials used in production and growing concerns that these substances can negatively affect health.

This led Yparex to try and find an alternative solution that was both sustainable and also as effective as petroleum-based options.

Yparex’s General Manager, Wouter van den Berg stated that there was “a lot of disagreement about how best to make the packaging industry more sustainable”, commenting:

“Some argue for glass, since it’s inert and recyclable. Others say paper is better, as it’s made of material that grows back. Still others say lightweight plastics are greenest because they save significant transportation costs and energy, while increasing safety (since they’re unbreakable), and extending shelf life (reducing waste).

Produced from 95% plant-based materials, yet offering the same performance specifications as previous polymers, this alternative allows manufacturers to not only further embrace sustainability, but protect themselves from future price spikes related to the cost of oil and natural gas.

World’s Most Expensive Paper Lunch Bag

Look at any list of money-saving tips and there will inevitably be the suggestion to start packing your own lunch for work instead of paying for your daily sustenance.  Being that organised requires a bit more effort, but would you feel more inclined to make the time if your lunch bag cost $290?

Designer Jil Sander has released the ‘Vasari’ bag, described on the website as featuring "a long rectangular silhouette" and being "crafted from coated paper."

It looks like a regular brown lunch bag but evidently it is so much more, and on closer inspection the creation is revealed to be accented with some stitching, gold-coloured eyelets and the designer’s name subtly printed on the bottom.

The good folks over at Gawker have this to say about the creation:

“While Vasari's minimalist design is attractive — and in line with Jil Sander's style — you're still paying a lot of money for a bag made out of paper. For $290, you could buy all the brown paper bags you need, and you'd still have enough left over for metal eyelets (sold separately) and a pen to write "Jil Sander" at the bottom.”

And if you need further proof that the world is going a little bit mad, the fancy lunch bags are already sold out.

Heineken Cube Concept Looks like Milk Carton for Grown Ups

We tend to be a little wary of drinks in boxes – cask wine suffers an enduringly poor reputation, breakfast shakes another sign of the spare time we don’t have and juice boxes are the stuff of kid’s playgrounds.

So when word got out that Heineken has developed a concept called the Heineken Cube, accompanied by pictures that show a man drinking from what could be a green-glass milk carton, people were understandably a bit confused.

The Cube, which is still in concept phase, is designed to be more efficient and economical than regular bottles.  The idea is that the cube shape is easier to stack, pack and more practical for travelling, both from distributer to store and in the consumers own home.

Interestingly, the design – created by French industrial designer Petit Roman – isn’t all that new and is inspired by an earlier rectangular-shaped Heineken bottle developed by the Dutch brand in 1963, which was intended to be recycled and used in construction, ‘the house that Heineken built’.

Quest for Better Beer Results in Revolutionary ‘Gizmo’ Bottle cap

All Don Park wanted was an easier way to get fresh lime juice into a cold beer.

But after much brainstorming and experimentation he realised the potential his new ‘gizmo’ had beyond beer.

The patented “Gizmo Closure and Delivery” system is an innovative, pressurized bottle cap design that infuses a drink with fresh, preservative-free ingredients upon opening.

The device has been utilised for the first time in Tea of a Kind, an iced-tea style convenience beverage that is currently only available online but will be distributed to Whole Foods stores across the United States later this year.

Whilst a similar design has been utilised in other products, such as the Berocca Twist-and-Go, the Gizmo design uses a pressurized nitrogen chamber cap to store fresh ingredients without preservatives.

All natural-flavours, real brewed tea and antioxidants are protected against UV light, oxidisation, and other damaging conditions that degrade nutrients in most pre-mixed beverages.

Their choice to partner with Tea of a Kind stems from the serious illnesses that Park and his co-founder Walter Apodaca suffered as a result of diets heavy in fast food and sugary soft drinks.

They made a commitment to healthy choices, dietary mindfulness and the elimination of processed chemically processed foods, and were able to get their health back on track.

They continued this commitment by ensuring that Tea of a Kind is all natural, and all future licensing applications for the Gizmo must be in line with Gizmo Beverages “moral compass”.

"The commitment comes from a desire to enrich the next generation, not poison them blindly!" laughs Park. "I know I can give this drink to my kids and feel good about it. That is what keeps me excited," he continues. "It's good for you and it's good for me. That's the goal."

Tea of a Kind can be purchased online at https://gizmo-tea-of-a-kind.myshopify.com/

Tastiness All in the Eye of the Biscuit-Holder

A new study from the UK has found that biscuits seem tastier when they come in fancy packaging.

UK consumer group Which? asked two groups of tasters to sample and rate chocolate-chip biscuits from the premium, standard and budget range at supermarket chains Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. 

Researchers gave one group cookies in their original packaging while the other group tasted the biscuits blind before being asked to rate the taste and quality of each kind of cookie.

The biscuits that were given with their packaging scored significantly higher overall, and were perceived to taste better than their wrapper-less counterparts.

Eating with our eyes

The experiment clearly showed that our perception of how food should taste is influenced by the way food is packed and the glossy, flawless images adoring wrappers.

According to a panel of experts who were asked to analyse the design of some popular UK supermarket brand ranges, it’s all part of a carefully considered strategy.

The packaging design of some budget ranges seemed like they were designed to put customers off looking obviously ‘cheap’, which could tempt consumers into upgrading to a more premium –and pricier – alternative.

However, with many household budgets stretched thin, supermarkets are putting more effort into making their home brand lines look more alluring.

Here in Australia we’ve seen this happen with the design of many supermarket lines sharing an eerie similarity to their name-brand counterparts.

Unsurprisingly, this has only served to further anger manufacturers who already feel that they are being squeezed out of premium shelf space as supermarkets aggressively promote their own lines as a comparable, yet more economical, alternative.

Man killed at Perth packaging factory

A man was killed at a packaging factory in Perth when he got caught in a robotoc pallet loader.

The incident, which occurred at the Richgro Garden Products factory in Jandakot, in Perth’s south on Saturday, is being investigated by WorkSafe.

No further information on the incident or the deceased is currently available.

Finding a unique path for Australia’s manufacturing future

As the manufacturing landscape shifts in response to new economic and social pressures, Australia is looking for an answer to the question: What does the future look like for Australian manufacturing?

By virtue of my role as the Director of the Future Manufacturing National Research Flagship at CSIRO, I am often confronted by this question. Many commentators and peers expect a simple answer, but that would be underestimating the complexity and diversity of manufacturing, both in terms of challenges and opportunities.

The recent work undertaken by the Prime Minister’s Manufacturing Task Force and other commentary is beginning to create a picture of what the future could (or ought) to look like for manufacturing in this country.

Irrespective of the wide-ranging views on what alternate futures for manufacturing might look like, Australian manufacturers need to be competitive in global markets and be highly productive and sustainable in their business operations. Manufacturing firms also need to capture the opportunities offered by Australia’s comparative advantage in natural resources in minerals and agriculture, as well as emerging markets for products and services that support more sustainable living in transport, construction, energy, health and well-being.

As part of its contribution to the Task Force, CSIRO has done an analysis of global mega-trends and identified a number of drivers that are already shaping the future of manufacturing in Australia. They include the rise of a new digitally-driven infrastructure, a move towards mass customisation, an emphasis on sustainability and the need to produce more from less.

Over the next decade, success factors that will influence the competitiveness of Australian manufacturing firms will include the need for faster discovery and development to respond more quickly to dynamic markets, advanced design to create much more competitive and sustainable products, improved collaboration across our innovation system to maximise the exchange and transfer of knowledge, an increase in our ability to leverage our national broadband infrastructure, and encouraging a better understanding of supply chains.

Another key success factor will be our ability to develop, adapt, adopt and integrate the right enabling technologies that provide a competitive advantage for Australian manufacturing firms.

There are number of potential game changers in terms of enabling technologies and advanced capabilities. This includes additive manufacturing, assistive automation, advanced design and smart information systems.

Globally we have seen a major shift towards technology-led manufacturing focused on large scale industrial automation. In countries such as Germany, production lines are increasingly dominated by automated processes and robotics. More recently, China has embarked on a large-scale industrial automation program. However, we need to think about how such technological leaps work for Australia. We have our own unique manufacturing DNA, made up of tens of thousands of SMEs. This is very different to some other industrialised countries, where there are many more large scale manufacturing enterprises. Australian SMEs often find it difficult to embrace industrial automation because of cost and the risk of disruption to their production.

However, there may be other paths to large scale industrial automation. Simple repetitive tasks have largely been addressed by automation (robotics) in manufacturing environments. However, there are many complex tasks that still require human involvement; it may be these technologies that “assist” (rather than replace) human processes that may become more prominent in Australia. The emerging field of assistive automation may play an important role in the future of Australian manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing is a method of fabrication by layers that translates digital design information into prototype or production parts. Currently used mainly in prototyping, additive techniques are increasingly seen as effective for manufacturing highly complex parts and devices that are costly to make by conventional means. Manufacturers can potentially deliver more niche, high value, customised products and be competitive even by producing low volumes. This is important as Australian manufacturers operate in a relatively high-cost environment, and generally cannot compete by generating economies of scale. In the Australian context, the availability of high-speed broadband will also greatly assist the adoption of this digitally-enabled technology. However, much still needs to be done to adapt these relatively new additive processes to make them robust and cost-effective for mainstream manufacturing.

Design will become increasingly important part of the manufacturing value chain. Better design can lead to products with superior functionality and sustainability. For manufacturing firms, making the transition from pure production to being more service based, design thinking could also play an increasingly important role in innovation.

There is emerging evidence, particularly in northern European countries, that the adoption of design-led innovation is directly linked to increasing firm competitiveness. A number of European and Asian countries are looking to (or have already incorporated) discrete design-focused settings into their broader economic policies. In Australia, awareness of the potential application of design-based innovation is still in its infancy and will require both coordination and investment.

The application of Smart Information Systems has the potential to lift productivity, competitiveness and safety. For example, Smart Information Systems that provide a high degree of situational awareness can provide a much higher degree of automation for the remote control of equipment used to handle complex and potentially hazardous tasks. Smart Information Systems that are highly scalable and interoperable across various media also provide the platform for intelligent collaboration networks that can assist in helping firms and research organisations innovate through more effective sharing of information.

There is no doubt that Australian manufacturing will need to take its own path to innovation and maintaining its competitiveness. Global influences will play their part, but Australia’s unique manufacturing DNA, natural resource endowment and increasingly strong communication infrastructure will help shape a uniquely Australian manufacturing future.

Swee Mak does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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

High Court rejects tobacco industry’s plain packaging appeal

The tobacco industry’s appeal against mandatory plain packaging was dismissed by the High Court this morning and the legislation will take effect from October.

The majority of justices rejected the argument from Australian cigarette manufacturers that the laws were unconstitutional, but the reasons for the decision have not been published by the court.

The tobacco industry’s stance was that the government had not acquired their trademarks on “just terms” and they were therefore owed billions of dollars in compensation.

Chief Justice Robert French said the majority of justices found that the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill was not in contravention of Section 51 of the Australian constitution and the tobacco companies have been ordered to pay the Commonwealth's legal costs.

From October, cigarettes made in Australia will be required by law to be packaged in ‘drab brown’ boxes.

Only standard fonts will be allowed, with a ban on all logos, slogans colours and other branding and larger graphic health warnings will be mandatory.

From December all tobacco products on Australian shelves will be in plain packaging.

Tobacco companies still have a legal challenge against plain packaging through international trade laws pending, but it is expected these will take several years to conclude.

Director of the anti-smoking group McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, Jonathan Liberman, welcomed the decision, saying it would set the standard around the world.

"It shows to everybody that the only way to deal with tobacco industry claims, sabre rattling and legal threats is to stare them down in court," he said.

“It would be great if the tobacco industry would just say ‘We understand our products are addictive, they kill up to half of long term users and we will cop on the chin whatever the Government decides needs to be done to reduce their harm’.”

British American Tobacco Australia spokesman Scott McIntyre said plain packaging will benefit black market cigarette products.

“Although the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act passed the constitutional test it’s still a bad law that will only benefit organised crime groups which sell illegal tobacco on our streets,” he said.

“The illegal cigarette black market will grow further when all packs look the same and are easier to copy.

“Plain packaging will also put pressure on the industry to reduce legal tobacco prices.”

Health groups are heralding the decision as a major victory for public health.

"Today’s High Court decision that tobacco plain packaging can proceed is a massive win for public health and also the global tobacco industry’s worst defeat yet.” Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Mike Daube, who chaired the Federal Government committee said.

"The global tobacco companies have opposed plain packaging more ferociously than any other measure because they know that plain packaging will have a major impact on smoking here and other countries will follow.”

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Ian Olver said it was a significant for public health over commercial interests.

What do you think plain packaging will do for Australia's health? Will it be beneficial or create more problems?

Coke’s glass bottles to receive a boost

Coca-Cola Amatil will increase the size of it’s 250mL glass bottles to 330mL and added a resealable lid, in a move the global beverage giant says will add convenience and portability.

The new bigger bottle, which will feature a twist-top resealable cap in place of the current crown seal cap will enter the market next month.

The changes will be across the Coca-Cola, Coke Zero, Diet Coke, Sprite, Lift and Fanta varieties, but each flavour will retain its individual design.

Following extensive consumer research, which found most Australians believe 330mL is the ideal individual packaging size, and that a resealable cap is beneficial in today’s busy lifestyle, the company made the decision to implement the changes.

“By increasing the volume size of the Coca-Cola premium glass bottle range and adding a resealable cap, we are giving our on-premise consumers the size they want of their favourite soft drink, with the extra convenience of portability,” Trent Lilienthal, Coca-Cola Licensed, Customer and Commercial Manager said.

“The unique Coca-Cola design was invented in 1915 and is an integral component of one of the most recognised icons of our time, distinct on the basis of feel alone.

“These packaging changes are part of an ongoing evolution of a classic.”

More food and beverage manufacturers than ever before are embracing the demand for convenient and resealable packaging, and late last week, Taylors Winery’s announced it has developed a screw-top seal that could withstand the pressure of gassed sparkling wine and has releaseda line with the new lid.

What do you think of Coca-Cola Amatil’s decision? Is 330mL a better size, and does everything need a resalable lid these days?