Australian food packaging not shelf friendly

More than 70 packaging technologists, engineers and designers came together across three states in one week to look at ways to improve Shelf Friendly Packaging (SFP).

Supported by Woolworths, the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) and retail anylists IGD, the in-store training aimed to understand what is currently working on supermarket shelves and how improvements can be made to improve design, functionality, accessibility and appearance on shelves.

James Tupper, ECR Learning & Change Manager, IGD, travelled from the United Kingdom to run the 2012 AIP/IGD hands-on training which was designed to focus on the last 50 metres of the SFP supply chain.

It provided packaging technologists, SFP designers and manufacturers the opportunity to work hands-on in-store and understand the complexities and difficulties that poor SFP design causes for store fillers and staff.

The training allowed the attendees the opportunity to participate in three practical exercises in-store that showed what SFP works, which doesn’t and why.

Attendees soon realised that tape over perforations, poor gluing of boxes, perforations that don’t open, no finger holes, poor design and identification of front edges and poor quality corrugate are just some of the reasons why SFP is not used in-store.

“At the end of the day much of the Shelf Friendly Packaging in Australia is not fit-for-purpose and needs to be redesigned,” one attendee said.

How do you think packaging in Australia needs to be changed to make it shelf friendly?

New invention gets sauces out of bottles as quick as water

A clever scientist in the US has come up with a way to make the process of getting sauces out of their bottles easier and most importantly, quicker.

Everyone has experienced the frustration of watching their favourite hot food go cold while they wait for the sauce to make its way out of the bottle.

Heinz, for example, says the ketchup in their iconic glass bottle moves its way out at the painfully slow speed of 0.028 miles (0.045 kilometres) per hour.

But when you’re standing on the sidelines of the junior rugby with a sausage sanga or cheering from the stands during the Origin series, that is just not good enough.

Luckily, MIT PhD candidate Dave Smith has identified a solution for the speed issue, which is cause by friction inside the bottle.

Along with a team of mechanical engineers and nano-technologists, he has developed LiquiGlide, a revolutionary product, which when applied inside the bottle during manufacture, allows sauces or other food products to slide out easily.

The product is made from materials approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and makes everything from tomato sauce to mayonnaise slide out of the bottle with ease, leaving little residue.

Smith describes the product, which recently came in second at the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, as a “kind of a structured liquid – it’s rigid like a solid, but it’s lubricated like a liquid.”

It could be awhile before the product, which Smith says would be worth $17 billion, is readily available, and he has warded against potential copycats and “patented the hell out of it.”

Watch LiquidGlide work its magic in the videos below.

 

 

Smart label remembers the use-by date you forget

A revolutionary “smart food label” developed by European scientists, which would take the guess work out of use-by labels, could be mass produced by the end of this year, if it gets enough support.

The UWI Label, which can be used on a range of foods, contains a chemical-based indicator strip that tells you exactly how long that product has been opened.

Developed by Pete Higgins, in conjunction with scientists from Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the inventors say the system could save countless food poisoning cases and significantly eliminate food wastage.

“The label on the back might have small print that says something like “once opened, use within 4 weeks” (or whatever the period might be) but, how do you remember when you first opened the jar?” the creators ask.

You don’t, that say, you forget and you then either take a risk or throw it away. Sound familiar?

“The label reacts as a soon as a food jar or packaging is opened, then gives a visual warning when the product is no longer safe to consume,” Higgins said.

The UWI Label knows when you opened the jar for the first time  shows you how long it has been opened tells you when it has reached its “use within” period and when it may no longer safe to use or consume.

Indicator panels in the label progressively turn green to show the elapsed time from the opening of a product and a red panel alerts consumers when the “use within” period has expired.

UWI Label time ranges can be set as hours, days, weeks, months up to a six month and is pre-set during manufacturing of the product.

The inventors have made it to the final of the Barclays Take One Small Step competition, which helps entrepreneurs in Great Britain to turn their ideas into reality, with £50,000 funding, exposure and support.

The public voting starts 30 May and concludes 27 June, and the inventors say they “will be working tirelessly throughout this four week period to get as many supporters as possible.”

They say while the label would be extremely beneficial for food products, it could offer significant improvements to various industries.

 “Beyond the obvious application for food production, the technology is also suitable in other sectors where products have a critical shelf life once opened – including industrial glues and sealants, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, blood transfusion services and veterinary,” Higgins said.

 

50 per cent sold with 51 weeks to go before AUSPACK PLUS 2013

AUSPACK PLUS organisers are continuing to surpass their KPI’s for the 2013 exhibition with over 3200 square metres of space already sold and there is still 51 weeks until the show opens.

According to Luke Kasprzak, Event Manager, exhibitors that have signed include packaging and processing machinery companies, plastics manufacturers, processing equipment suppliers and leading labelling and coding agencies in Australasia.

“Companies that have already booked stands include ERC Packaging, Australis Engineering, FlexLink Systems, Festo, JMP Australia, HMPS, ABB Australia, A&D, Accuweigh, Laser Resources, Result Packaging, ITW Zip-Pak, Rhima Australia, Plastral and many more,” Kasprzak said.

As Mike Phillips, Managing Director, ERC Packaging said ‘they are pleased to once again be taking part in AUSPACK PLUS and are looking forward to introducing just some of their many products to the Sydney market.’ 

“We are looking forward to participating in the Sydney event and promoting not only our expansive range of bag sealing machinery, induction sealers and shrink labelling machines and labels but we will also be demonstrating our expanded range of container sealers including the Modified Atmosphere (MAP) range,” Phillips said. 

Peter Gustafson, Managing Director, Australis Engineering, added that they are exhibiting at AUSPACK PLUS 2103 because it brings together the decision makers across the FMCG sector.

“AUSPACK PLUS has rapidly become the preeminent tradeshow in Australia and therefore an un-missable event. By exhibiting at AUSPACK PLUS 2013 Australis Engineering benefits from exposure to the right industries and most importantly the decision makers in those industries and will use the event to showpiece our Mini Linear Palletisers and Multi-Axis Conveying solutions,” Gustafson said.

Peter Hutchings, Managing Director of FlexLink Systems said he booked his 2013 exhibition space due to the highly successful exhibition stand they had in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

“At AUSPACK PLUS 2103, FlexLink Systems looks forward to showcasing a comprehensive range of conveyor systems including our new WL wide conveyors, stainless steel solutions, software, line control and pallet systems,” Hutchings said.

“FlexLink Systems sees this exhibition as a fantastic way to communicate and demonstrate our company’s products and capability to our broad range of customers and potential clients.”

AUSPACK PLUS 2013 is a ‘must-attend’ exhibition on the Australian Packaging and Processing calendar and will be held at the Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney Olympic Park from the 7th to the 10th of May 2013.

AUSPACK PLUS is owned and presented by the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA), Australia’s only national packaging and processing machinery organisation.

To receive a prospectus on exhibiting at AUSPACK PLUS 2013, contact Luke Kasprzak, Event Manager, 02 9556 7972 or LKasprzak@etf.com.au

Undeclared “meat glue” used in countless American products

First it was “pink slime” horrifying consumers in the US, now it’s emerged that millions of Americans are also consuming “meat glue” each week.

The additive is used to produce not only meats found in fast food outlets, but also supermarkets, local delis and restaurants.

Even vegetarian foods have been found to contain “meat glue.”

The two main types of "meat glue"

The “meat glue” is made up two major types, the first transglutaminase Activa, a white powder form of a natural coagulant-like enzyme called transglutaminase.

The other type is Fibrimex, which is made of enzymes extracted from pig or beef blood by a process developed in the Netherlands.

According to the companies who make the “meat glue” they were designed to bond pieces of protein or irregularly shaped meat so it can be cut and cooked evenly by the food-service industry.

Food scientists told Scripps News Network the two cold-binding agents are used to reduce the use of sodium phosphate, sodium alginate, carrageenan, sodium caseinate and other chemicals that had been used for decades to form and mold meat.

Despite US laws requiring labelling to disclose the inclusion of the two brands of protein adhesive are apparently being ignored, according to an investigation by Scripps Howard News Service, which found almost none of the companies tested declared the additive.

Over five months, Scripps examined over 130 meats and deli products in Seattle, Milwaukee, Omaha and Denver which food scientists found contained the adhesive mixtures, but only four of them had the word “enzymes” on the ingredients list.

No companies would discuss the use of the additive, but it is estimated by food scientists that it is found in up to 35 per cent of all sliced ham, beef, chicken, fish, pizza toppings and other deli meats.

Cold cut processors and fast food outlets including McDonald’s and Arby’s were contacted by Scripps to discuss the use of the additive, but all declined to comment, on whether they use transglutaminase or blood-extract products,  raising concerns over the use of processing products.

While the government regulates that the use of the product should be included on a product’s ingredient list, producers can use a loophole which defines binders as a “processing aid.”

Is this the next "pink slime?"

Similarly to the “pink slime,” which is used as a cheap ground-beef filler, meat glue is not considered a health risk by federal food watchdogs, but consumers are disgusted and frightened by the inclusion of such additives.

After much publicity in 2011 and 2012, the use of pink slime has fallen in the US, although there are reports it is still being used in school lunches.

Experts say the US food industry needs to be accountable for it’s actions and be more transparent with consumers.

“For decades, the meat industry has conveniently operated in the dark, not sharing the dirty details of their practices with the public, while the federal government looked the other way,” Michele Simon, a policy consultant for the Center for Food Safety, told Scripps.

“But now, consumers are demanding to know the truth about what they are.

"We need more transparency in a food system that puts profits before people.”

The impact on religion and diet

The undeclared use of Activa and Fibrimex can cause issues for people with beliefs or dietary restrictions.

Jewish or Muslim consumers could be eating pork products chicken or fish pieces without being aware and vegetarians could be unknowingly consuming meat in their apparently “meat-free” products.

“There may be economic adulteration going on here, and the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) or the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) needs to look at whether laws are being violated,” Tony Corbo, legislative representative for the national consumer group Food & Water Watch said.

“We are especially appalled that certain consumers’ religious beliefs may be unknowingly violated because food manufacturers are hiding what goes into the production of these binding agents.”

The Australian standards

A spokesperson from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) told Food Magazine in a statement that the use of the enzyme, transglutaminase, as a processing aid is permitted under the Processing Aids of the food standards Code.

“Like all processing aids, the safety and function of this enzyme was thoroughly assessed before it was permitted to be included in the Code,” the spokesperson said.

Clause 6 of the Meat and Meat Products of the Code states that “Where raw meat has been formed or joined in the semblance of a cut of meat using a binding system without the application of heat, whether coated or not, a declaration that the meat is either formed or joined, in conjunction with cooking instructions indicating how the microbiological safety of the product can be achieved must be included on the label; or if the food is not required to be labelled, must be provided to the purchaser."

“This mandatory information requirement applies to all raw meat that has been formed or joined and is available for retail sale,” the spokesperson told Food Magazine.

“Where there may be compliance concerns, for example raw meat that is joined or formed being sold without the required labelling, consumers can approach the relevant enforcement agencies with their concerns.

“In addition, where the physical form of the formed or joined meat is labelled in a manner that implies the meat is a whole cut (for example, raw formed or joined meat labelled as ‘steak’), such representations could be considered deceptive or misleading to consumers and would fall under  Australian Consumer Law.

“This legislation is administered and enforced jointly by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the state and territory consumer protection agencies.”

What do you think of these kinds of additives? Are they necessary? Should there be more stringent labelling rules?

Visy accused of using Hell’s Angels for debt collections

Packaging company Visy has labelled reports that it uses Hells Angels bikie gang members as debt collectors as “nonsense.”

According to Victorian newspaper The Herald Sun, a whistle-blower has revealed a connection between the bikie gang and the packaging company.

Visy allegedly pays the Hells Angels a retainer to ensure bikies are available for the company to use as “problem solvers” when required.

The Herald Sun reports that the senior police sources detected the connection in police intelligence files and detectives are now investigating the ties.

Superintended Gerry Ryan, head of bikie gang Taskforce Echo wouldn’t comment on specific reports, but did say police are aware of some questionable activity since debt collector regulations in Victoria changed last year.

"We are monitoring this closely," he told The Herald Sun.

"Taskforce Echo has received recent intelligence of instances where members of outlaw motorcycle gangs have been used to collect debts from individuals and businesses.

"We are monitoring these activities closely and will act swiftly if offences are being committed, including the use of physical force, harassment and intimidation tactics."

Last year the Victorian government changes the regulations for debt collectors so that they don’t have to be officially registered to undertake the role.

The move has been widely criticised, with opponents saying that without monitoring or registration, individuals or companies could pose a significant threat to those in debt.

According to a former senior employee at Visy, the connection with Hell’s Angels has been in place for years and was personally approved by founder Richard Pratt, who died in 2009.

These links first emerged in the County Court in 2007.

The former employee alleges that Visy was owed significant sums of money by criminals connected to the fruit and vegetable industry, and when they refused to pay up, the packaging company decided it had to meet muscle with muscle.

"So Visy kind of had to find someone of equal status to the market heavies to collect what was owed by the sort of people who just ignore requests from traditional debt collectors," the whistleblower said.

"A senior Visy employee knew a couple of Hells Angels through a former job.

“He approached them and that's how the relationship started, with Richard Pratt's knowledge and approval."

Image: News Ltd.

Coles and Woollies not entirely to blame for supermarket wars, Dick Smith tells Inquiry

Dick Smith has warned against forcing the break-up of Coles and Woolworths, saying it would only further damage the food sector.

Speaking at the Senate Inquiry into the Australian food processing sector this morning, the entrepreneur also said government protection of the food industry, by enforcing a quota of Australian products, would be a positive move.

Industry protection funds, similar to those in the car industry, could be another viable option, he said.

In his submission to the Inquiry, Smith blamed the current supermarket climate, which is pushing Australian companies and farmers out of work, on rich foreign companies, namely ALDI.

He said dividing up Coles and Woolworths will not improve the situation “because I think they will just become uncompetitive when they become small with the internationals we allow them to compete with.”

Smith voiced his concern that the current “extreme capitalism” environment will lead to WalMart and Costco being the only supermarket companies in the world.

He told the Inquiry he does not believe the infamous milk price wars, which saw Coles drop the price of private-label milk to $1 a litre and Woolworths quickly follow suit, was either of their faults, but rather the blame is squarely at the feet of foreign-owned cheap food retailers.

''I think Coles and Woolworths were reacting to the situation that Aldi and Costco have come here,'' Smith said.

He also wants penalty rates in Australia looked at, and says a reduction in the rates would improve our competitiveness.

''Do we value our country towns?” he asked

“Which I do, do we want to go to these country towns and find them boarded up?

“Because our farmers are paying $20 an hour for labour, (and) will never be able to compete with people paying $5 an hour.

''But don't blame Coles and Woolworths for it, I think we are getting off the track…I think it is the fact consumers want the cheapest prices.''

Smith maintains Australians would readily pay slightly higher food prices if it ensured the future of the food industry.

Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that while most Australians say they would like to buy Australian produced and processed food, the main contributing factor is low price.

Similar rules to those in television broadcasting which impose a certain quota of locally-made content, would be effective in the supermarket sector, he said.

''One idea that I heard a number of days ago which could have potential is that we require Australian supermarkets to have a certain percentage of their sales, say 25 per cent, to be from Australian-owned processors and made and grown in Australia,'' Smith said.

''The advantage in doing that is it will create a level playing field.''

Last month Smith, along with Greg Cooper, chairman of Australia’s largest beer brewer started calling for a dedicated “Australian made” aisle in supermarkets to allow shoppers to easily understand which products are locally made and produced, and therefore keep local industries alive.

The current packaging and import regulations leave most consumers confused, they said.

Smith predicts that ALDI’S share in the supermarket sector, currently sitting at 8 per cent, will increase gradually over coming years.

 

AFGC releases Packaging White Paper

In a bid to ensure a more strategic and proactive packaging sustainability sector, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has released a White Paper on the ‘Future of Packaging.’

The white paper has been developed in consultation with retailers, government, recycling companies, retailers and consumers.

It aims to provide more strategic and realistic action for packaging sustainability.

The AFGC and its stakeholders have committed to going ‘beyond compliance’ with the APC, addressing broader waste and sustainability issues and identifying opportunities that will increase sustainable packaging.

The AFGC says that while significant progress has been made towards sustainability, with higher recycling rates and more lightweight packaging, more needs to be done to ensure a sustainable future for the packaging industry.

They want the focus on waste and litter to be expanded on and an improvement to the poor level of understanding about the important role that packaging plays in delivering products to consumers and the implications of this for sustainability.

In December 2011 the Packaging Impacts Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) was released for comment, aiming to identify new measures with potential to increase packaging resource recovery rates and decrease packaging litter.

The government is now considering new packaging policies to address not only recycling and sustainability, but also to provide a simple front-of-pack nutritional labelling system to curb obesity rates.

Dick Smith fronts Senate Inquiry into food industry

Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith will front the Senate Inquiry into the food processing industry and supermarket dominance today.

The Inquiry has come up against problems getting people and companies to participate in the process, as the supermarkets bully them into silence through their market control.

Smith is one of the few who is openly critical about not only the anti-competitive practises of the supermarkets, but also the government policy that is ruining the entire Australian food industry.

The case against ALDI

He  has taken a slightly different angle in his submission to the Inquiry, effectively blaming foreign-owned supermarket ALDI for most of the problems in the supermarket sector.

“ALDI’s lower prices primarily come from having lower labour costs, that is, they employ less Australians,” Smith writes in his submission. 

“When Coles and Woolworths follow this particular trend, (as they will be forced to) where in a large supermarket you might only have one or two Australians employed our food prices may be slightly cheaper but in the long term our taxes will  very likely go up to pay for the social services of people who no longer have jobs.

“When ALDI stocked a limited range of products there was hope that the Australian owned retailers could survive because they could sell the other necessities that were required, place a higher price on those and obtain an extra margin to cover their extra staffing overheads. 

“The alternative was to go broke.

“That’s  now  all changed.  

“ALDI have announced that they are going to increase their product range so a typical Australian family can buy all of their products in an ALDI store. 

“This will result in Coles and Woolworths either following ALDI further on this lower cost, 90% private label, “lack of choice” model or losing substantial market share and eventually failing.”

Woolworths and Coles are already increasing their private-label products at a rapid pace, pushing Australian companies out of business and placing unfair demands on producers and transporters.

Supermarkets killing drivers

Yesterday the Transport Workers Union (TWU) accused the major supermarkets of causing road deaths by forcing truck drivers to drive for unsafe lengths of time and meet unrealistic deadlines.

"The union is saying very clearly to Coles and the other retailers that [their] practices have to change, that they are literally killing people on our roads because of the economic pressure," TWU federal president Tony Sheldon told ABC News.

"What happens with Coles and other major retailers with dominating the market at 32 per cent of road transport tasks, is that they say to manufacturers, they say to farmers and they say to transport operators that you've got to do this work the cheapest and the fastest way you possibly can.

"They're price takers, which means the trucking industry either makes the decision to do the work or they don't have a job."

Collapse of Australia's beetroot industry

Smith points towards the beetroot industry as a prime example of the damaging impact the ridiculously low prices have on Australia.

“As an example, for many decades, a simple can of Australian grown beetroot has sold for about $1.50 in our supermarkets and this has allowed a viable farming and  processing industry to exist,” he said in his submission to the Inquiry.

“The cost price of such a can is about 90 cents, the remainder being the supermarket overheads and profit margin. 

"Not at any time in the past few decades have I  heard of consumers complaining about the price of a can of beetroot. 

“In fact, it’s about half the price of a cup of coffee and I find it truly amazing that it could be so cheap, considering that Australian award wages and conditions are included in the price.

“Notwithstanding the lack of pressure on price, ALDI started to sell beetroot at 75 cents a can.   Immediately, Coles and Woolworths matched the price, as they had to.  

“ALDI proudly claimed that the beetroot they were selling was from Australia however they did not state that this would basically sound the death knell to our beetroot growing and processing industry.

“Within a short period of time, Heinz announced the closure of its beetroot processing plants in Australia, sacking hundreds of workers and Australian farmers were ploughing their beetroot crops back in the ground. 

“Heinz announced that their beetroot from now on will be grown and processed overseas.

“At the present time, there are still stocks of Australian beetroot at 75 cents a can, but it’s obvious that once these go, if the price is to remain the same, all beetroot in future will come from overseas. 

“We will have lost a complete industry, but this didn’t happen  because of pressure from consumers. 

"This is an important point. 

“It happened because one of the most astute examples of modern “extreme” capitalism, fully foreign owned ALDI, decided to flex its power.”

Smith said another differentiating factor between ALDI versus Coles and Woolworths is that the latter two are publically-listed companies, dependant on and accountable to shareholders, whereas ALDI is privately owned by a German company.

The “highly secretive” ALDI is therefore creating an uneven playing field, he said in his submission.

"Intentionally vague" labelling

He also takes aim at the labelling laws for country of origin, claiming they are deliberately misleading.

 “The current food labelling laws in Australia are intentionally vague so the requirements are accepted by the large multinational companies who  have political clout,” he said. 

“Although there have been campaigns such as the “Australian Made” mark, this was in reality an indication that the majority of the cost of production of a product was made up with Australian content. 

“For example, if the cost of a jar, a lid, label and an ingredient such as sugar represented greater than 50% of the total cost, but the primary ingredient (say, the strawberries in strawberry jam), was imported, the label could  still  state  “Australian Made”.

“In more recent times many labels bear the words “Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients”.  In this case, the local content may be very small.”

Smith’s own company, which produces food ‘as Australian as you can get” has felt the impact of the obsession with cheap, often imported food, and is personally watching his products getting pushed out of the market.

“Turnover peaked at $80 million per year in 2002 and has now dropped to $8million per annum as most Australians move to lower prices,” he said of his company, Dick Smith Foods.

“It’s interesting to note that the prime reason Coles have refused to stock our products is that  they are about 30 cents more expensive, and they believe Australian consumers will not  support this extra cost.”

A statement from Senator Richard Colbeck, the Liberal Senator for Tasmania who called for the Select Committee last year, said he is pleased that the Inquiry has secured both Coles and Woolworths to appear as witnesses at a subsequent meeting in Canberra next week.

The committee is due to release the findings of the Inquiry by 30 June.

Rate of animals slaughtered without stunning rising faster that Muslim population in UK

An animal welfare expert in the UK has accused the local meat industry of increasing the number of animals slaughtered without stunning, claiming it is for religious purposes, when it is actually a financial decision.

Professor Bill Reilly, former chairman of the UK Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food, said the increase in the number of animals not being stunned prior to slaughter was “unacceptable.”

He is currently a consultant on veterinary public health and believes the practise of slaughtering animals without stunning should be reduced or banned entirely.

He said reports by the Farm Animal Welfare Council and EU-funded Dialrel Project, combined with publically-available footage on YouTube "clearly demonstrate the pain and distress of obviously still sentient animals after non-stun slaughter".

Legislation in the UK and EU allows the slitting of animals’ throats without stunning, in accordance with Muslim and Jewish food requirements, but the number of animals slaughtered without stunning is increasing faster than the rates of people who require animals to be killed in such a way for their religious beliefs.

The production of halal meat in particular has been growing at a rapid pace, Reilly said, and now significantly exceeds the proportion of Muslims in the UK population.

The halal share of the UK meat market increased almost 15 per cent in the last 11 years he said, while the Muslim population is estimated at 4.6 per cent.

“Why has there been this growth in demand for halal meat and the proportion that is from non-stunned animals?” Professor Reilly wrote in the Veterinary Record.

“There may be operational advantages for an abattoir if stunning is not carried out.

“Other commercial drivers include the convenience of not offering a Halal processing line."

Reilly stressed that he is not targeting the right to religious freedom, but rather attempting to ensure as many animals as possible are slaughtered in a humane way.

"The challenge to society is to enable religious slaughter without compromising animal suffering," he said.
He wants to reduce the minimum number of animals killed without pre-stunning in the UK/

But Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy general-secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said there is a "lot of confusion" over Halal meat.

He said animals can be stunned before slaughter and still be labelled Halal.

"Over 90 per cent of Halal meat is stunned before slaughter," he said.

In October, Australian agriculture ministers failed to resolve discussions over ritual slaughters, meaning exemptions that allow some Australian abattoirs to conduct slaughter without prior stunning will continue.

There are 12 abattoirs in Australia that are exempt from the regulations that say animals for consumption must be stunned before they are slaughtered.

The exemptions are on religious or cultural grounds, but animal welfare groups want to practice stopped altogether.

The council released a statement following the meeting, saying ministers have reviewed the results of a two-year consultation process with stakeholders and have considered the science involved and the views of religious groups, but could not reach a conclusion.

Up to 250,000 animals are killed without prior stunning in Australia every year under the religious slaughter exemptions and the RSPCA has rejected claims that stunning is not allowed on religious grounds, saying stunning is accepted by the Islamic community and Jewish community and no reason existed for un-stunned slaughter to continue.

Image: The Guardian
 

What do you think about the slaughter of animals without prior stunning?

Airplane food tastes strange … and here’s why

Many people find being high up an unpleasant experience. This is not just mountain sickness or acrophobia – it turns out our taste buds too have no head for heights.

Taste is not just determined by the gustatory qualities of the food. It is also substantially influenced by the state of your mouth. Transient changes in our sense of taste are quite common.

This can occur with gum and dental disease and mouth problems such as thrush and mucositis associated with a cold/flu or chemotherapy. Some medications can also alter taste sensation including some anti-hypertensive drugs, antibiotics and antihistamines.

Contaminated pine nuts may also trigger a persistent unpleasant taste, known as pine mouth.

Low zinc levels can also alter our sense of taste. Most Australians don’t receive their recommended daily intake (RDI) of zinc. This can be a particular problem as, unlike iron and other trace metals we need for health, we don’t store zinc in our bodies, so we need a daily fix to maintain healthy levels.

The best dietary sources of zinc are crustaceans, meat and poultry. Many cereals and other products are now fortified with zinc. Zinc is also present in many nutritional supplements and multivitamins.

Strict vegetarians are at increased risk of low zinc levels, partly as they avoid zinc-rich meat and partly as fibre in plants reduces zinc absorption. Alcoholics and those with digestive diseases are also more likely to become zinc-deficient.

Changing tastes

So what about the food served on a plane? Actually, there may really be a reason why meals doesn’t taste any good at altitude (beyond the fact you are flying cattle class).

As most commercial flights go up, the atmospheric pressure is slowly reduced, on average, to the equivalent of standing on the summit of Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 metres or 7,310 feet above sea level).

That’s why ear-popping occurs on take-off, as air within the middle ear expands, builds up pressure and eventually pops out through the Eustachian tubes into the nose.

Newer aircraft, such as the Airbus A380, keep a lower cabin pressure (1,500 metres), equivalent to standing at Falls Creek, Victoria, at about 1,780 metres.

It is well known that reduced atmospheric pressure and lower oxygen levels dull the appetite. But even the modest changes in altitude associated with plane travel may be sufficient to change sensitivity for some tastes.

One small study showed that the threshold for tasting sweet or salty tasting substances increased when you go from sea level to 3,500 metres, while thresholds for sour and bitter went down. In other words, really sweet things didn’t taste so bad, but slightly acidic or bitter things, such as a sauvignon blanc or coffee, tasted a whole lot worse.

High and dry

The dry atmosphere inside a plane’s cabin also dries out the mouth. Typically relative humidity is very low at less than 10%. The only place on the ground that gets this low is in Death Valley, California. By comparison, average humidity in the Sahara Desert is about 25%.

Although most people notice dry, sore eyes and dry, itchy skin after long flights, progressive drying of the nose and mouth also occurs, producing an unpleasant “pastie” sensation (much like cotton in the mouth).

In particular, saliva reduces its water content to become more concentrated and more viscous. This can leave a salty taste in the mouth and affect the level at which salt can be tasted in food. An increased concentration of glutamate (which naturally occurs in saliva) can also produce an unpleasant taste.

More importantly, taste in food is a function of its solubility in saliva. Taste molecules must dissolve in the salivary fluid layer to reach and stimulate taste receptors.

Again, a dry mouth makes this more difficult for some tastes, especially sweet and salty. At the same time the buffering capacity of saliva falls, increasing the intensity of sour tastes in food and drink.

When you are dry, almost any cold drink tastes good, even those that would be distasteful when you are well hydrated. This fact, in combination with aforementioned changes in taste sensitivity, may partly explain recently publicised reports by Lufthansa scientists that tomato juice is more popular on flights, while few people touch the stuff on the ground.

A rational response would be to serve more sweet and spicy food on planes and less astringent wine, to be as appetising as food tastes on the ground.

But because of the noise, the vibration, the cramped conditions, and re-heated mass-produced food, eating on planes won’t ever make for a pleasurable dining experience – so just keep coming round with the cold water, thanks!

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

Merlin Thomas is a Professor of Preventative Medicine at Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute.

Local manufacturers call for dedicated Australian-made aisles in supermarkets

Australian food manufacturers are calling for a dedicated “Australian made” aisle in supermarkets to make it easier for consumers to choose locally made products and keep local businesses afloat.

Glenn Cooper, chairman of Australia’s largest beer brewer and entrepreneur Dick Smith are just two of the high profile names calling on the industry to take action.

Cooper believes laws which force supermarkets to set aside a minimum quota of floor space for locally-made food would be one way to slow the flood of cheap imports and prevent some manufacturers from tricking consumers into buying products they think are made in Australia, but are in fact made primarily from imported products.

"It’s not realistic for busy shoppers to read every label to see its country of origin before you put it in your trolley," Cooper told Channel 7’s Out Of The Blue program.

"So I think they [supermarkets] should be forced to have a certain amount of locally grown content and that it should appear in a clearly defined area designated for Australian-made products only.

"That may mean two milk areas, two butter areas but at least customers, when they choose something from that designated area, know they are buying Australian-made products," he said.

Coopers became Australia’s largest brewer following Foster’s controversial sale to London-based SABMiller in September last year, and has always pledged to remain proudly Australian made and owned.

“Being the largest Australian-owned brewer is a badge of honour we will wear with pride,” managing director Tim Cooper said at he time.

“This represents the reward for 150 years of hard work in brewing by the Cooper family."

Along with being the chairman to one of Australia’s most successful beverage companies, Cooper is also the deputy chairman of the Australian Made, Australian Grown campaign group, which aims to encourage more Aussies to buy local products and make the Australian Made definitions simpler.

He does not believe the Australian-made aisle would be a big cost or time implication for the supermarkets, which already have a number of local products, but are difficult to find amongst all the other imports.

"Say, for example, it was 30-odd per cent [of floor space set aside]," he said.

"Well, supermarkets may already have that level of Australian content of food as part of their normal stock but it’s just not clearly defined as an area."

"Hopefully, enough people will get behind it to give some sort of leg up to our farmers who are, in many areas, being clobbered by imports.

"I’ve been told about a Mallee onion grower getting four cents a kilo for his crop.

"These guys are continually under pressure to match cheaper import prices."

And while most food and beverage companies are reluctant to speak up against the anti-competitive and bullying behaviours of the major supermarkets for fear of the repercussions, Cooper said he is not going to be afraid of speaking up for local industries.

"What is wrong with protecting our own industry to a certain degree?" he said.

"I don’t see anything wrong with that and most people would support it too, but our politicians, for some reason, don’t want to."

Consumer watchdog CHOICE is also behind the plan to make it easier for shoppers to buy Australian made.

"Consumers would like, where possible, to choose Australian products to support local growers," spokesperson Ingrid Just said.

"Consumers are certainly keen to understand where their food is from and it is important for that to be clearly on the label."

Contrary to the opinion of many shoppers, Cooper maintains that increasing the number of Australian made products in a shopping trip would not drive costs up.

Dick Smith has been vocal about Coles’ rejection of his Australian made and packaged fruit spreads, which it says will not sell enough to make a profit.

“Woolworths is taking the five new products, but Coles won’t, mainly on price!" he told workers at Penrith’s O-I Glass factory in February.

“Coles are letting Australians down, in this particular case.

“I couldn’t believe it.

“[It’s a] beautiful Australian product, but the minute they found out it was 20 cents dearer, their belief was ‘no.’

“If you go into Coles, and Coles have previously been good supporters of Australia, you’ll find that in their fruit spread range, from what I could see, everything is imported!

“Whereas Coles used to say when you were selling something to them ‘you’ve got to make some money, just as we’ve got to make some money,’ now they actually say ‘we don’t actually care if you go broke, we’re just going to sell the cheapest.’

Smith told Channel 7’s Sunrise program this morning that while the idea of an Australian-made aisle in supermarkets is good, he is unsure if it would work in reality.

Qantas snack supplier apologises over in-flight maggot contamination

The manufacturer of the Qantas snack which was contaminated with maggots has issued an apology for the “utterly regrettable” incident, which it says was restricted to that particular packet.

The Sydney Biscuit Company issued a media statement over the incident, explaining that the individual portion of Trail Mix which was found to have maggots inside was not part of a larger batch carrying the same problem.

“This product is supplied to our customers throughout Australia who then store it themselves or with third party suppliers until it is required for use or transport it for use within Australia or Internationally, The Sydney Biscuit Company’s chief executive, Harvey Crabtree said.

Crabtree explained that a root-cause analysis and investigation are in progress with the customer and a third party responsible for logistics and storage, as no contamination had been detected in the manufacture or packaging processes.

“Since this format of product first appeared on this particular service and route some four years ago we have distributed in excess of five million savoury snacks – a figure and products we are very proud of, many passengers send us in e-mails and stories relating to their travels and experiences,” Crabtree said.

“All products leave our site in A1 condition.

“We also retain samples from each and every batch of product produced and packed.

“Our retained samples relevant to the batch which left the business in November 2011 are showing no indications of integrity issues.

He said the company has HACCP and FSANZ accreditation and works to the high level of quality control and assurance set by the organisations.

Eucalyptus oil distributor fined over false ‘Made in Australia’ claims

The consumer watchdog has found the distributor of Double D eucalyptus oil falsely labelled its product as ‘Made in Australia,’ and have ordered they pay a $6 600 fine.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACC) found the product was made from imported oil, which the company tried to pass off as Australian so they could increase costs.

"Consumers should be able to rely on the accuracy of labels, especially when they are prepared to pay a premium for products made in Australia," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

The consumer watchdog issued a notice stating it had reasonable grounds to believe that Club Trading & Distribution lied about the oil in its 100ml bottle when it said it came from Australia.

In reality, the oil was actually imported from China and Southern Africa.

"Australian grown eucalyptus oil is readily available to distributors and primary producers are harmed when imported oil is falsely labelled as being made in Australia," Sims said.

"Traders making made in Australia claims need to ensure that their labels are kept up to date to reflect changes in sources of supply.

"Failure to do so may lead to a contravention of the Competition and Consumer Act, infringement notices or court action.”

Steggles defends “free to roam” claims still on products

Steggles chickens are still being advertised as “free to roam” despite the consumer watchdog labelling such claims by the company as misleading and deceptive last year.

In September the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it was taking a number of chicken suppliers to the Federal Court, claiming they wrongly advertised chickens as free range.

According to the ACCC, national Steggles suppliers Baiada Poultry and Barttner Enterprises, La Iconica suppliers, Turi Foods and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation were misleading or deceptive in the promotion and supply of chicken products.

The ACCC said the impression that Steggles chickens are raised in barns with plenty of room to roam freely used in the advertisement and promotion greatly influence consumers, and in reality, most of the animals have a space no larger than an A4 sheet of paper.

Despite La Ionica’s decision to stop using the “free to roam” claim and pay the $100 000 penalty as a result of the court case, Steggles and Baiada are refusing to bow to pressure and are instead arguing against the ACCC’s claims.

John Camilleri, the managing director of Steggles’ owner Baiada Poultry yesterday told the Federal Court in Melbourne that he ordered the slogan ”free to roam in large barns” be removed from chicken packaging in August last year.

He said the differing rates at which products are stored and sold makes it impossible to eradicate any reference to “free to roam” claims overnight, and his objective is to have “hardly any” chicken with the slogan for sale by the end of April this year.

”What we don’t have control of is any stock that’s in obscure locations,” he said.

”Some of these products have a shelf life of 18 months.”

He said Baiada limits the density of chickens in its sheds to 36 kilograms per square metre, although the limit set by national poultry rearing regulations is 40 kilograms per square metre.

During the case, Camilleri vocalised what many in the industry already know about the storage and distribution protocol of the major supermarkets.

The ACCC’s counsel, Colin Golvan, SC, asked him to explain why a frozen chicken bought by a representative of the regulator last month in the Melbourne CBS still had “free to roam” on the packaging.

Camilleri explained that the product had old packaging, because ”God knows how long Coles have been storing that or where it’s been stored.”

The trial is continuing.

Third of Auspack Plus floorspace already snapped up

The packaging and processing industry is alive and well, with the news that a third of the floor space for the largest biennial exhibition in Australia has already been sold, even though it won’t be held until 2013.

Auspack Plus organisers opened up entry for exhibitors only three months ago, and already 1900 square metres of available space as been snapped up.

Event manager Luke Kasprzak said the exhibition will allow those in the sector to stay on top of new developments and technology.

“Auspack Plus is the largest biennial packaging and processing machinery and materials exhibition in Australia and is a recognised vehicle to showcase ‘What’s NEW’ in manufacturing and packaging technology,” he said.

“We have already had a significant sign up for stands from companies that include HMPS, JL Lennard, ABB Australia, Accuweigh, insignia, ERC Packaging, Heat & Control, Fibre King, KHS Pacific, Kiel Industries, Linco Food Systems, Propac Industrial, Nordson Australia, Walls Machinery, Matthews Intelligent Solutions, TNA Australia, Fallsdell Machinery, Contract Packaging Systems and RML Engineering,“

Auspack Plus 2013 will be held at the Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney Olympic Park from 7-10 May 2013.

To attend Auspack Plus, or to exhibit there, contact Luke Kasprzak.

Regulate “low fat,” “high calcium” food claims: FSANZ calls for submissions on standard

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) wants tougher regulation on food company’s abilities to use claims including "low fat," "good source of calcium" or "low salt" in their advertising.

The food regulator is calling for submissions on its draft nutrition, health and related claims standard, which FSANZ chief executive Steve McCutcheon said would regulate the voluntary use of health and nutrition claims.

“There are two principal types of claims; nutrition content claims such as ‘low in fat’ or ‘source of calcium’, and health claims, which refer to a relationship between a food and health, such as calcium and bone health,” he said.

FSANZ also wants comments on the part of the proposal considering regulation of ‘fat free’ and ‘percentage fat free’ claims.

The changes are part of the federal government’s promise to overhaul the food packaging industry by introducing a simple front-of-pack nutrition panel and get tougher on health claims on foods, following calls from consumer watchdog CHOICE and other health groups for a compulsory traffic light nutritional system to solve the obesity crisis.

Last year CHOICE pledged to "name and shame" food companies who made dodgy health claims and in October it revealed the unhealthiest ready-to-eat desserts labelled as‘fat-free’ and ‘reduced fat’, showing that they are not always a healthy option.

The previous FSANZ draft standard was subject to public consultation in 2009.

FSANZ has considered issues which arose from the Review of the draft legislation by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation and acknowledges that a diverse range in stakeholder opinions about this complex proposal are present.

It believes the draft standard strikes a balance between disparate views.

“FSANZ welcomes comments from government agencies, public health professionals, industry and the community on this draft of the proposed new standard,” McCutcheon said.

Submissions close on 16 March 2012.

Dick Smith making moves to stop “foreign invasion” of cheap food products

Dick Smith is doing his bit to ensure the survival of Australian food businesses, opening a store exclusively stocking local products.

The entrepreneur’s General Store in Belrose, on Sydney’s northern beaches will is showcasing quality food products from small regional markets from around the country, Manly Daily reports.

The recently opened store also launched online ordering last week.

Smith says the store aims to stop the “foreign invasion,” of cheap food products putting Australian operations out of business and restart the industry that was once valued at $80 million.

Shoppers will be able to purchase items sources directly from the producers, including cordials from Queensland, toffees from South Australia, honey from Tasmania and salts from Victoria.

Smith said he is optimistic about the future for the industry, and believes the major supermarkets may not have their strategies right.

“It was an absolute feeding frenzy from customers hungry to do their bit to support battling Australian farmers and food producers,” he said.

“The major supermarkets keep telling me that all Australian consumers want is the cheapest.

“However, in the space of an hour almost all our stock of magnificent Australian gourmet products had sold out and our website had crashed.”

Numerous Australian food manufacturers have closed their doors or sent their operations offshore, as the cost of doing business here rises and companies can’t compete with cheaper private-label brands.

HJ Heinz has been one of the more vocal of the disappointed and angry industry, with the company’s chief financial officer and executive vice president, Arthur Winkleback telling US analysts in August that the demise of many Australian companies can be attributed to the supermarket war and said they have created an “inhospitable environment” for manufacturers.

In November executive chairman, chief executive and president William Johnston told investors the company has had to overhaul its business strategy in Australia to deal with the supermarket dominance of Coles and Woolworths.

Johnson labelled Australia the “worst market” in June, saying Australian consumers would be the “biggest losers” from the decision to strip branded products.

Woolworths and Coles have announced plans to increase the presence of private-label products available on shelves, despite a report finding that if the current supermarket environment continues, 130 000 of employees from the food and grocery sector alone will be out of work by 2013.

They’ve also been accused of deliberately copying well-known packaging to confuse consumers.

Image: Dick Smith Foods

Less snoozing, more excess kilos: in today’s busy world, how do we sleep more?

New research shows more evidence that our busy lifestyles are contributing to our expanding waistlines.

Research by Sweden’s Uppsala University researchers published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, uncovered a specific brain region that contributes to a person’s appetite and is more active when sleep deprived.

Researchers Christian Benedict, Samantha Brooks, Helgi Schiöth and Elna-Marie Larsson from Uppsala University and researchers from other European universities were able to systematically examine which regions in the brain that control appetite suppression are influenced by sleep loss.

And it’s not just extreme sleep loss that can impact the brain’s functions, a person only needs to be acutely sleep deprived to suffer the consequences.

In the story, 12 average-weight males were shown images of food, and the researchers assessed their brain function using magnetic imaging.

The study was performed when the subjects had experienced a normal night’s sleep and then compared to those when they had a sleepless night.

“After a night of total sleep loss, these males showed a high level of activation in an area of the brain that is involved in a desire to eat,” Christian Benedict said.

“Bearing in mind that insufficient sleep is a growing problem in modern society, our results may explain why poor sleep habits can affect people’s risk to gain weight in the long run.”

One in three Australians are overweight and one in four is obese, so finding the reasons behind the obesity epidemic have become a massive national focus.

Crash diets, sedentary lifestyles and an overwhelming availability of processed foods have been blamed for the health epidemic that could see the current generation of children being the first to not outlive their parents and earned it the title of "the new smoking."

The health impacts of obesity and related conditions have become more well known throughout the country, and in a bid to further educate society, kilojoule information on fast food menus will become mandatory in July this year, while the federal government will develop a simple, front of pack nutritional labelling system for all packaged foods sold in Australia within a year.

This week is also Healthy Weight Week, an initiative launched by the Dieticians Association of Australia aiming to encourage everyone to be aware of their healthy weight range and implement lifestyle changes to achieve it.

With the cost of living continuing to sky-rocket, nobody could possibly afford to simply walk away from a career to catch up on sleep, so what is the solution for busy Australians losing sleep and gaining kilos?